Shapers: Rusty 4-2

Shapers: Rusty Preisendorfer

Name: Rusty Preisendorfer
Age: 48
Hometown: San Diego, California
Label: Rusty Surfboards
Year First Shaped Board: 1969
Teamriders: C.J. and Damien Hobgood, Flea Virostko, Chris Ward, Mark Healy

Boards Shaped Per Year: During the first twenty years of his career (approximately 1971-91), Rusty was shaping more than 1,000 boards a year, but as the business part of it started to grow, that number started to drop. And contrary to rumors that Rusty doesn’t shape anymore, he still probably does 400 to 500 boards a year: “I get in there the shaping room every day and do at least one board, and I come in on the weekends and get a couple done.”

Tools: “Sharp tools. I still use a Skil planer-a Skil 100. I’ve got an assortment of block planes, some really nice wood ones from Japan, and an array of customized sanding blocks.”

Background: Like everyone, Rusty started shaping in his garage and managed to finish a couple boards while he was still in high school. After graduation, he worked for G&S for a few years, where he got his board numbers up. From 1970 to ’72 Rusty shaped under his own Starlight label before returning to G&S, where he continued to shape until 1974. It was then that he began doing work with Canyon only to start another label called Music, which existed from 1974 to ’77. After that he partnered up on a glass shop called Canyon Glass and began making Canyon surfboards again.With an artistic background, Rusty wasn’t just shaping, but airbrushing the boards and designing logos. In 1985 he went out on his own to create Rusty, Inc. “It’s difficult because you grow and you get more and more people involved,” Rusty comments about the growth of his small company into a major brand. “You start doing more and more things, and it becomes a harder thing to control. You might just say that although the brand is in all of society, my heart and soul is in here in the factory.”

Influences: “I’ve had a lot,” Rusty recalls. “There’re some people who I had direct help from in the beginning like Mike Croteau. He was one of the first guys who put a planer in my hand, along with some of my garage buddies.” Other big influences include the legendary Skip Frye. Rusty’s years at G&S were important to his career because he had access to incredible shapers like Frye, Jim Turner, and Mike Eaton. Others include Dick Brewer and Bill Barnfield, who had a big influence on Rusty in the late 70s. “Even now I still enjoy working with a lot of good shapers out there,” says Rusty. “I have a lot of respect for Eric Arakawa, Pat Rawson, and of course Al Merrick.

Design Philosophy: “Philosophically, the foundation for everything is speed. Speed is the starting point, if you don’t have speed in a board, forget it. There is nothing worse than a slow board. If you have a board that’s fast under your feet out of the gate, you can learn to work with it. There’s nothing more frustrating than a board that always feels like it has the parking brake on-it has all the curves coming together. We used to think a lot of rocker made a board float, but obviously in the last ten years there’re ways to complement a board with a lot of bottom curve by adding concaves or changing the template. All the variables can be adjusted to get the other fields you want. There’s always a give and take. I kind of joke when customers come in and want a board, and they want it fast, loose, light, and strong. You have to give and take a little bit.

What’s neat is that the boards today are incredibly fast and loose-they’ve evolved to that point. We can make them as light as we need to, and still be pretty strong. But speed is the foundation for everything.”

Future Outlook: According to Rusty, the thing people have to keep in mind is that manufacturers have the ability to build very light, indestructible surfboards, but he doesn’t believe that indestructibility is the best thing for surfers: “If you have a board thaat’s indestructible that you’re riding day in, day out, at what point do you become tired of the board? Do you want your surfing to change? At what point do you physically change? I may be getting too philosophical here, but it’s almost like a personal relationship. People are always growing and changing-you grow apart, you grow together. It’s like when you first get on a board, you might not know if you like the board, but you get to know it, and at some point in that board’s life span it just starts to break in, like a pair of shoes. It starts to feel comfortable, it snaps out of turns better. I think the beauty of our industry is that you can still can get something custom-made and hand-built for very reasonable price. I think that’s the foundation of the surfboard industry.”

-Aaron Checkwood