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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
A few minutes with Rusty

Contrary to popular opinion, Rusty Preisendorfer doesn't spend all his time locked in the shaping bay.

When someone starts in about their hip replacement and their ball player son, you think "senior discounts and prune juice." But if that speaker is high-functioning surfboard designer Rusty Preisendorfer, you're talking a whole 'nother story. We recently stuck a mic in R-Dot's grill, and asked him for some perspective on the contemporary surfboard landscape.

Rusty, enough about you. What's up with your son, Clint? I was told that he was drafted by the Yankees.
At first, the Florida Marlins wanted to take him straight from high school. Tall left-handed kid. 6'5", never injured, topped out at 91 m.p.h. and had a lot of action. Had a good bat, good glove. He spent a couple of years at Palomar Community College and had some good coaching. The Yankees drafted him, but ended releasing him after a year. We had a talk, and he explained that he didn't have the passion anymore. He was more into surfing.

I've heard Clint can shape. Is he following your path now?
Well, he surfed as a kid when he wasn't playing ball. When he was 17, he finished a couple of boards off the machine. Those are about ninety percent done, so it was just fine-sanding the core. In the last year, he has shown an interest in both hand-shaping and learning the CAD software to design surfboards. Even glassing -- he wants to learn how to build a board from start to finish.

Clint Preisendorfer, a world away from the bullpen.

That brings up an interesting question. Are there shapers today who don't know how to hand-shape a board? Can you just finish out a pre-shape and call yourself a shaper?
Actually, there are two sides to that. There are a lot of good shapers who are skilled with their hands, but they're -- I don't want to say technophobic -- but if they embraced the software it could really help them with doing production boards. On the other hand, if you use the machine and have the feedback of a couple of great surfers, you can really fine tune things and experience a lot of success. So yeah, some shapers have made a name for themselves without having to hand shape thousands of boards.

Despite being most well known for making really tuned boards for professional surfers, you're gaining a reputation for boards for the regular surfer.
Things change. In the mid-'90s, you started seeing alternative surfboards in surf films by guys like the Malloys and Thomas Campbell. It was obvious that guys were having a lot of fun on shorter, wider boards. It was sort of a backlash, admitting that, yeah, the pros surf well beyond us mortals, but ... some of it has been the Internet, too. You didn't see it in the print media, because we know that food chain. It had to come from other places. Now people realize that for average conditions, probably the last thing you want to ride is what the pros ride.

In the end, what makes surfing unique is the surfboard, the custom surfboard. It's such a rare opportunity. You can't, as far as I know, order a set of custom skis. A custom guitar is thousands of dollars. But for a few hundred bucks you can go to a shaper down the street working in his workshop, and come up with something completely unique to you --the surfer.