PEOPLE OF INTEREST
SAND AND SEA
Charles Williams enjoys the hands-on experience of custom shaping at his Impact Surfboards shop in Fort Pierce. The veteran monster wave rider has been
a driving force in the surfing industry on the Treasure Coast since the 1980s.
BY GREG GARDNER
Between shaping custom surfboards and riding huge
waves on six continents, Charles Williams has had
a profound impact on the Treasure Coast surfing
Williams and his twin brother, George, have manufactured
more than 40,000 Impact surfboards at their Fort Pierce shop
during the past 40 years. Three generations of faithful surfers
have grown up riding custom boards made by Impact.
At age 65, Williams goes daily for a dawn patrol session at
the Fort Pierce Inlet. Except when he was injured, Williams
has been surfing almost every day since the age of 12. After
five years living on the ocean in Ormond Beach while in high
school, Williams knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“My office is the beach,” he says.
He still makes the sojourn annually to the Mexican backdoor
pipeline in Puerto Escondido where he nearly died a
few years ago.
“It was a close call and I thought, this is it,” Williams says.
“I had a late take off and was slammed into the bottom. I
was briefly unconscious and I don’t know how I made it to
With broken ribs and a collapsed lung, he was loaded into
a pickup truck, taken to a hospital and immediately flown to
Miami. Doctors said if he hadn’t arrived when he did (four
hours later) he would have died.
“The backdoor pipeline is the most challenging, biggest
barrel in the world. When you paddle out, there are 250 guys
who can win a tournament and 50 photographers. It is the
arena. Rails are banging, everyone is screaming. It is such
chaos. If you can paddle out there and catch a wave, you
know you are a good surfer.”
Williams was among the first from Florida to ride 40- to
50-foot waves in Puerto Rico towed in by jet ski. “I came to
realize that real men paddle in when I saw these fat goon
asses catching these big waves,” he says. “We trained our
whole lives for this.”
Williams still surfs with a short board, a major feat for anyone
in their 60s, but surfing enormous, bone crushing waves
puts him in a different league.
“You come to a point where your knowledge, experience
The BIG WAVE RIDER