Rory Russell, that name probably doesn’t ring a bell and why would it!? This man was getting deeper than anyone else at Pipe years before we were born, at least most of us readers. Rory and his good mate Gerry Lopez were ruling the Banzai easy and the umbilical cord linking those living surf legends with us today is simple, a brand name, a pillar of surfing history, a Lightening Bolt emerging from spitting Pipeline. “It is a symbol that everyone can relate or identify to. It is simple and efficient”, reckons Rory in his unusual shaping outfit for this time of the year, a Lightening Bolt tee and boardshort from their new collection. “We started the brand with Gerry and Jack Shipley and it was just about shaping the best boards at that time.”
Rory, all smiles in JP Stark shaping bay, is starting to work on a bulk blank, “Those pre-shapes are no good, there is always something wrong with them. I like to put my heart and soul in those things, it is like working with a piece of clay, with a bulk blank you can really put your personality into it! You never come out with the same board”, and Rory loves more than every else shaping pipeline boards… “They’re now collector’s boards in a way, I don’t shape a lot but let me tell you, back in the days, those smaller, narrower shapes were doing the job just fine. We worked for years on finding the right rocker and now, they’re still good for modern riding, that’s what Garrett McNamara told me the other day”.
And they worked fine for Rory during two decades of complete domination on the North Shore. “I was the first pro surfer to live on the North Shore permanently, everyone else was in Honolulu and they were missing out a lot!” Rory was crowned twice pipeline master during those years. ” I could have made it four but I got penalized for dropping in”, he adds with a laugh.
And asked to compare the scene back in the days to today, Rory’s answer is straight forward: “The crowds man, Pipe is too dangerous for big crowds…”
But Rory isn’t just a spectator now, he still shapes and gives surfing lessons. He’s got that in his blood, surfing, you can tell by the way he walks, talks and breaths and even his doctor told him two years ago when he nearly died that the best medication for him, would be to go back in the water as soon as possible…
Before leaving him to his pipe boards templates, we shook hands and Rory handed his business card to us: “Next time you come to Hawaii, call me, we’ll go for splash…”
For more info on the relaunch of Lightning Bolt, visit: