GUN HO!

With Rusty Long

Surfboards are like jeans… It was baggy ones, then skinny ones, then skinny but with poo-poo pants sag… then baggy is coming back again! Likewise, men used to ride long, sleek boards in thicker surf. Then everyone started surfing 6’1"s in 10ft barrels and chortling at a man for having a 6’8". Well guess what? Guns are back! And nobody chortles at Rusty ‘sheriff’s badge’ Long, coz he’s the man. Rusty talked us through his guns.

R U S T Y ‘ S P U E R T O P I N T A I L S

Photo: Al Mackinnon

(L to R)

8’ x 2 ¾" x 19 ½" Sueno Surfboard. Inherited it from my friend Noel Robinson when he passed away. All his friends and brother agreed to keep his quiver going by keeping a board each. Still haven't ridden it though.

8'6" x 2 ¾" x 19 ½"

Timmy Patterson six channel bottom. Timmy made this board during a moment of real inspiration, for big Puerto, or smallish Mavs/Todos. He is one of the masters of the channel bottom and this board goes incredibly fast and is very responsive. Being a channel bottom it much prefers smooth water, which is the norm in Puerto.

8'0" x 2 5/8" x 19 ¼"

Chris Kaysen. My ‘magic carpet’ Kaysen made me this board back in 2001, and I've ridden it every year since then, on a lot of 10 to 12 foot days at Puerto. It has been one of my best boards ever, one that just effortlessly did everything right. Definitely had more big tubes on this than any other one board of mine by far. Didn't break it until 2010, the first time I ever surfed it using a leash, having to straighten out on a heavy 15 footer that decided to close out. Got it put back together but the weight ratio is just slightly off, making it a bit more tail heavy, hence slightly slower, so it's kinda more backup for me these days.

8'2" x 2 ¾" x19 ½"

Chris Kaysen. Made in 2005, I've had some amazing waves on this board too. Broke it getting caught inside of a 20 footer on the best day I've ever seen there in 2009. Biggest set of the day, and we still were not using leashes then, which in hindsight seems crazy. I tried to push the board up and over the lip before I swam though, old school style, but it just didn't make it. The footage is classic, the board just went right with the lip. It's a bit heavier now but it's still in the mix. Keep this one for friends now too, throw ‘em under the bus when they say they don't have a big enough board..ha ha.

9'0" x 19 ¾" x 3"

Chris Kaysen . This board was made more for surfing Todos Santos or Mavs, where I've had one good session on it at each. Have not ridden it at Puerto but it’s there for if it gets really big.

“I probably get around15 new boards per year, and of those I probably break 5 to 8. In total I've got around 30 boards spread around between California, Puerto and Hawaii."

Rusty puts all that length to fine employ at Todos Santos. Photo: Jeff Flindt

Is length coming back in?

Ya in the last few years good surfers have been going a bit shorter in length but fuller in width and thickness, especially for tube riding boards, and that design I find works really well up until six foot plus surf, but above that in the places I frequently mid size guns are always still very much in the mix, 6'6- 6'10 ish for 6 to 8 foot waves. It gets to that point that a small board just can't paddle fast enough.

What does a step-up need?

The ideal features of a step up board is the ability to keep its responsiveness and turn very easily, yet keep a very controlled line. The worst thing is having a board that slides out, along with one thats too stiff... Ideally you can get some meat right at the heart of it under the chest to make it paddle as good as possible.

Do baby swallows do anything (apart from look cool)?

Baby Swallows give a last bit of release to boards when turning, which is why people will ride them on boards from 6'8 to 7'6 generally, where you are surfing waves you want to be able to do big turns on. So ya, there is a purpose, I've used them on lots of mid size boards.

Bend under or over?

In an ideal situation as an experienced surfer, hopefully you have the perfect size board for the conditions and don't have to weigh up an over gunned or under gunned situation. As a general rule though, better to be over gunned because when the best sets of the day come in, you want to be able to ride them, right.

Is paddling the future?

Paddling big waves has had more people dedicated to the pure form in recent years. A lot of people find the sheer challenge, solidarity, simplicity and reward to make for the best surfing experience much of the time, except on those days where the ski is necessary, which are incredible and intense in their own right. I know all my friends know I'm usually keen for a paddle, and enjoy the simplicity of just a board and suit.

Top tips for ordering…

When choosing or ordering a big board just make sure the board is not too thin, but make sure the rails are not too boxy and full. You need an element of edge to cut down the face and turn. There's a perfect balance there with the rails and proper thickness and most good gun shapers know it. Getting boards from guys that have experience in making boards for heavy waves is also a good tip. That, or making sure who ever is making your guns has done some studying of some boards made by the experienced guys.

What fins go best in beef? Who da best shaper?

I recommend the Dave Rastovich Future Quad Fins, it's an epic fin. Check out Christensonsurfboards.com for guns trusted by a huge number of the best surfers in the world.