The Rusty

“The Dazzler” Takes The Rusty
“Anything But Three Challenge”

Journeyman pro Dean Randazzo and his shaper Matt Biolos claimed the top prize at the Rusty “Anything But Three Challenge” in bumpy but macking four- to eight-foot A-frame peaks at Blacks Beach in San Diego, California on February 10 to 13. A respected power surfer among his peers with limited success on the ASP Tour, “The Dazzler” prevailed over finalists C.J. Hobgood (shaper Bill Johnson), Saxon Boucher (Stu Kenson), and Donovan Frankenreiter (Cordell Miller), and a field that included such pro hotties as Rob Machado, Taylor Knox, Tim Curran, Shea Lopez, Ross Williams, and Joel Tudor.

Randazzo and Biolos both were personally handed $10,000-dollar-dazzler checks by Rusty Preisendorfer in keeping with the contest’s theme of not only rewarding progressive moves judged by a unique scoring system, but also rewarding shapers for creative surfboard designs incorporating “anything but three fins.” The AB3 criteria focused heavily on the risk factor: airs, tailslides, tube rides, and other extreme maneuvers took precedence over length of ride.

In each round, surfers competed against the entire field rather than the other surfers in each heat, to obtain the most points in an effort to make the “cut” similar to a golf tournament. Scores for the surfers’ highest point ride were doubled with the second best ride counted into the total. Conceivably, all four surfers in a heat could advance.

But the contest’s main goal was to encourage progressive surfboard design, a follow-up to Rusty’s C-5 Challenge held at Lower Trestles last year requiring contestants to ride boards similar to Rusty’s five-fin model. Rusty said he opened up the contest to anything but three fins because some designers felt the first contest was a thinly veiled commercial for the C-5 design.

“I wanted to encourage experimentation and not necessarily force people to embrace the C-5 thing,” said Rusty. “Give people the chance to embrace something else¿twin fins, four fins, bonzers, whatever.”

Overall, the contest vibe was positive, thanks in part to a world-class beachbreak geographically isolated by 600-foot cliffs and limited access that weeded out the trailer trash and provided a hardcore expression session attitude. Virtually every competitor was stoked on the contest format. Said Mike Parsons: “It’s an awesome concept. The judging criteria is different, the boards are different, it’s fun to see a different format. You have to think outside of the box if you’re a traditional contest surfer, which is my background. If they had this format with any kind of surfboard, I think the creative side of surfers comes out, especially when your best score is doubled. It forces you to look for a huge score, instead of four medium scores. It really encourages the guys to go for it.”

Some surfers and shapers expressed misgivings about the contest’s goal of providing a venue for expanded surfboard design consciousness. A few competitors were seen gluing tiny fins on their standard thrusters to qualify for the event and a shot at the ten grand

“I was hoping it would be like Puerto Rico in 1968, with everybody checking out each other’s boards,” said Joel Tudor, recalling the landmark world contest in the Caribbean and whose clean moves in the preliminary rounds on a single-fin he designed with shaper Stu Kenson was reminiscent of Wayne Lynch.

“There wasn’t much innovation going on.”

Taylor Knox got into the spirit of the event by riding a five-fin bonzer shaped by Malcolm Campbell and reached the semis.

“It’s a great format, but some of the boards are pretty unoriginal. That’s not what the contest is about, they should get disqualified. I think Rusty wanted the shapers to think of something new, but a lot of guys are down here just to win the money.”Said bonzer guru Campbell, “It’s easy for me to be cynical because this is the seventeenth year we’ve been working with a five-fin design. Baasically, everybody is just retrofitting existing things. The most different board here is the board Al Merrick made for Rob Machado, a four-fin quad with a trail-fin option and an asymmetrical tail.”

On the beach, Campbell and Knox checked out another contestant’s board. “Look at that, he glued a popsicle stick on his board!” said Knox.

“He took his best thruster and glued on something he doesn’t feel in the water,” added Campbell. “Where’s the innovation in that?”

To many, the AB3 Challenge’s biggest value was a contest format that didn’t do much for innovative board design, but could contribute something equally if not more important¿more exciting surf contests.¿Gary Taylor