Virginia Beach, the East Coast and the entire surfing world has lost a legends legend with the passing of surfer, master shaper / woodworker, Bill “Frier” Frierson who was a decades long industry influencer way before the word “influencer” became a thing in the age of digital communications.

In a word, Bill’s loss to our East Coast surfing community especially is simply incalculable.

Bill in his warehouse where he was a foam distributor along with his many other entrepreneurial endeavors. Photo : Mez

Having known Bill for decades when he first became a co-owner of Wave Riding Vehicles along with the equally legendary partner, Les Shaw I can personally attest to both the quality of his surfboards ( of which I owned and rode longboards he custom shaped for me ) and the warm, kind hearted, generous and thoughtful human being he was.

Bill at far right with hands on hips along with Les Shaw wearing shades circa 1980’s. Courtesy WRV

Bill, an East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer ( ECSHOF ), was early on into ocean preservation and access issues actively promoting sustainability and raising awareness about protecting natural resources and trying to leave the world a better place ecologically for our children and theirs.

Bill surfing Kauai circa 2008. Photo: Patrick McLaughlin

“Frier” as he was known to many was not just a bystander in the Virginia Beach community; he was an active participant, organizing surf competitions, beach clean-ups, and fundraisers for environmental causes. His enthusiasm and leadership brought people together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity among surfers and community members alike.

A master wood worker / carpenter, Bill holding some of his handcrafted fins. Photo: Mez

His passion for his work, business and his love of music and shredding on his guitars always shined through in the many conversations I had with him over the years and he always wanted to know how I was doing with my life and Eastern Surf Magazine and genuinely seemed to care.

Bill could shred on a surfboard and a guitar. Photo: Mez

Another significant part of Bill’s legacy is his role as a mentor and supporter. He believed in empowering others to reach their full potential and make a positive difference in the world. Whether it was teaching someone how to catch their first wave or providing guidance on personal and professional matters, Bill was always willing to lend a helping hand. His mentorship extended beyond surfing, touching the many, many lives of many individuals who were fortunate enough to have his guidance and support.

Bill doing what he did best. Photo: Mez

He and Les were the very first call we made as we were attempting to get the very first issue of ESM off the ground. Without question they immediately booked the inside front cover ( which often became a spread ) that really put the wind in my and Dugan’s sails as it certainly did not hurt that when we called other advertisers and mentioned that WRV, one of the the premier East Coast Surf companies, was in. It gave us instant cred and the pub took off like a rocket and their stoke was empowerment personified and a true key to our success.

Bill’s first logo as designed by long time friend and collaborator at WRV, company art director / designer, John “Hutch” Hutchinson.

In 1998 Bill Frierson decided to strike out on his to begin his own board building company – Frierson Designs – and to grow other business endeavors which he did super successfully to absolutely no ones surprise until his sad, untmely passing the other day.

A WRV ad in ESM. Courtesy ESM

It is safe to say that Bill, Les and WRV completely changed our lives and we will be forever thankful for their belief in what we do which carries on to this very day with

Our condlences to Bill, his family and all those who were touched by this wonderful human being, your legend and legacy is cemented for all time. Below is his biography from the ECSHOF, please give it a read. – Mez –

The hands that meticulously handcrafted the beautiful boards that made thousands of us happy. Photo: Mez

Bill Frierson East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame Bio link here 

Bill Frierson keeps good company these days, after joining the likes of Duke Kahanamoku, Hobie Alter, Gerry Lopez and a number of other notable shapers as a member of the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame. “A lot of heavy cats,” remarked Frierson at the time of his induction in October 2019. “It’s pretty humbling, actually. There’s a lot more to the award than just doing it for so long. The beauty of the whole thing was the journey.”

Gearing up for a paddle out. Photo: Mez

That journey started in 1965 when Frierson was a young surfer coming up in Virginia Beach. He befriended Pete Smith and Bob Holland, who had recently opened the area’s first surf shop. Two years later, Frierson started shaping boards for Bob White at Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV). “I was helping to repair dings back then, and he asked me if I wanted to shape,” he said. “It was pretty much a Cadillac Dream.”

Bill shredding on his backhand in this archival image. He was not only an excellent shaper-board builder but surfer as well.

Frierson surfed for the Hobie team from 1965 through 1967, won the Men’s division of the East Coast Surfing Championship (ECSC) in 1969, and is a member of the ECSC Legends Hall of Fame. In 1970, he moved to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where he shaped boards for WRV. He wintered in Indialantic, Florida, doing piece work for the newly formed Sunshine Surfboards.

The tools of a foam sculptor. Photo: Mez

He teamed up with Les Shaw in 1974 to buy WRV, and together they built the business into what it is today — two showrooms and a factory capable of producing 3,000 boards a year. He sold his half of the business in 1997 to open Frierson Designs, where he shapes every board by hand. Owning a Frierson board is considered a badge of honor in the surfing community.

One more of “Frier” from the day at Hanalie Bay 2008. Photo: Patrick Mc Laughlin.

Frierson says his newfangled status as a hall-of-fame shaper will not impact the price of a Frierson stick. “It’s never been about the money for me,” he said. “I’m a man of the people and I make a good board for an honest price. It’s about the art.”

Bill Frierson, signing off. Photo: Mez