Joyride: The Rusty Blade Surfboard Test
Scratches the old-school power itch but doesn't shy from progression!
“Some guy just dropped off your new board… it looks insane.”
This is the second best text to receive as a surfer, right behind “it’s firing at spot x,” when you’re five minutes from the parking lot.
So when Stab’s creative director, Shinya Dalby—who is both a design freak and surfboard aficionado—sent that message through, I knew I was in for something special with the Rusty Blade.
I received the board upon my arrival in Australia, where I’d been covering the Gold Coast and Bells events. Soaring over the famed pointbreaks of Coolangatta, I could see a short-period east swell in the water, which made my touch-down at OOL that much more enticing.
Thirty minutes later I was deposited at Stab’s Gold Coast HQ, which was a four-bedroom condo right at Snapper’s doorstep.
“Where is it?” I yelled, to nobody in particular, upon entering the premises. There was no time for greetings nor an account of my trans-Pacific voyage. I needed the damn board.
With little help from my housemates, I was left to rifle through coffins until finally discovering The Blade. I felt like King Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone.
Love at first sight?
The Blade is a modernized version of Rusty’s 1984 Occy model, which the Raging Bull rode to the top of the ASP Tour as a brash 17-year-old. He also rode it to OP Pro victories in 1985 and 1986, both times defeating the California king, Tom Curren, in the process.
The current version was designed for former-Rusty surfer Harry Bryant, who to this day, claims that if he was forced to bring a single surfboard around the world, it would be The Blade. Haz's update comprises a flat deck, boxy rails, low rocker, and lovely channels through the tail. It also offers a modern, pulled-in nose shape (Occy’s original version had a beak), refined bottom contours, and an “E-poly” construction, which consists of a polyurethane core and epoxy fiberglass, making the board stronger and lighter than a traditional PU without sacrificing the old-school feel.
If you’ve been following our Joyride series, you might notice that this description is quite similar to the last board we tested, the ...Lost Rad Ripper. But with channels instead of a tail hip and rails that are more square than tucked, The Blade offers significant points of difference, both in aesthetic and performance.
A classic design with modern comforts.
With the Snapper looking like the Mariana Trench and Dbah under siege by the Airborne Ankle-breakers, Shinya and I snuck off to Kirra for some low tide runners. After finding John Florence, Kai Lenny, and Filipe Toledo spread across the lineup, we knew we were in the right spot.
My first wave on The Blade was flat out.
Locked into a one-foot double-up, I flew down the line with the intention to bash every section in my path. Instead, I became addicted to the speed, opting to glide past crumbling lips for the sake of maintaining momentum. As the wave finally cornered off, I adjusted my line and went for a simple lip tap that transformed into a wild fin drift. I felt in control for a moment but ultimately lost my balance, falling backwards and surrendering my board to the beach (in my excitement to surf, I’d forgotten to bring a leash).
Realizing how much that swim sucked, I decided to surf the rest of the session more conservatively, which in my mind meant pushing less hard. Ironically, this had the opposite effect of what I was hoping to achieve, ultimately increasing my amount of slide-outs and falls.
So I swam, a lot.
For the next week, whenever I could find windows of fun waves between work, I attempted to solve the puzzle that my Blade presented. I fiddled with fins, foot placement, turn choice, weight distribution etc., but I couldn’t find the magic elixir to fuse myself with the foam. There were moments, of course—like that day when they didn’t run the event at Dbah, thus gifting us punters a morning of crystal-clear, overhead wedges to play with, where I remember burying the entire rail through a carve then slamming the end section shut—but I never found any sort of consistency. The board was fast, had drive, and offered plenty of maneuverability, but for some reason I couldn’t connect all of those attributes into one collectively stellar feeling.
But after taking a step back, I realized that the secret to the Blade had been right in front of my nose the whole time.
Like scooping out the guts of a ripe cantaloupe.
Of course I had to take a more Occy-like approach! The Blade was designed for the ‘99 Champ then modified to suit the needs of Harry Bryant, whose style and stance are like modern versions of the Raging Bull’s.
So I started pounding chicken parmies and committed to an intensive squat program—anything to inflate my thighs to Oc and Haz’s tree-trunk status. I also shifted my stance from the front-leaning, cocked-back-foot approach that I learned from Kelly Slater to a more neutral, flat-footed position in an attempt to emanate the two goofy gods. Lastly, I got as low as my stiff legs would allow and attempted to drive through each turn with a distinct swivel of the hips.
It took nearly three weeks, but instantly I felt it—the speed, drive, and maneuverability of the Blade all meshed into one transformative sensation, unlocking levels of fun that surfing often promises but rarely grants.
Taking the board back to Costa Rica for testing, I knew I’d have plenty of opportunity to display this newfound connection. To stay with the Oc and Haz vibe, we even filmed at an Aussie Pipe-esque reef. All I can hope is that the connection I felt underfoot translated well to video. Because this really is a special surfboard.
An even-footed approach made all the difference.
Let’s talk about fins.
I’ve ridden at least five sets of Futures in my Rusty Blade, but I found the AM1 series to have the greatest synergy with its design. The Blade is meant to be ridden shorter than a standard shortboard, which might lead one to believe that it prefers pivot-style maneuvers over carves. While this board does love to get loose in the lip, it also maintains hold on the open face, largely due to the channels through its tail.
For me, the AM1 template, which has the most rake* of the Futures line, provided the right balance of control on rail and release in the pocket. I decided to test two different constructions of this fin design to see if we could pinpoint differences between one and the other.
I started with AM1 in a honeycomb construction, which at a Ride Number of 6.1, could be considered the medium flex option. The AM1 honeycomb has a flat foil** and is considered neutral in terms of “speed generation” vs. “speed control”. All in all, it’s a fin that I find reliable in just about any circumstance. It’s also Italo Ferreira’s go-to.
I’ve always said that the sign of a good set of fins is that you don’t notice them when you’re riding. That was my experience with the honeycomb AM1s. They were solid, consistent, and offered no frills. A success in my book.
Futures' AM1 Honeycomb.
Blackstix is Futures’ most flexible fin construction, which in my mind equated to loose or “squirrelly” surfing.
I despise feeling out of control on a wave. There’s nothing worse than blowing the set of the day because your fins couldn’t hold off the bottom. So, when I saw the Ride Number of 9.8, which promised to be "springy, fluid, and responsive", I feared the AM1 Blackstix would leave me floundering in the flats.
This was not my experience.
Much to my surprise, the Blackstix held off the bottom and the top while providing a relative increase in speed and whip. This came down to two main factors:
Because I was riding solid but not huge waves, the fins flexed enough to provide their intended benefits without obscuring the AM1 template’s ultimate goal of control. In the times when I did catch waves over head-and-a-half (not shown in the video), the Blackstix did feel a little wobbly.
The Blackstix’ concave foil (in contrast to the honeycomb’s flat foil) helped to create lift and speed through flat sections, which allowed for bigger airs and better fin release out of the lip. Contrary to Willian Cardoso's beliefs, fins do need to breathe every once in a while!
I was shocked to discover that in a majority of conditions, I preferred the flexible AM1 Blackstix over the neutral AM1 Honeycombs. But that’s the point of experimentation, right?
Questions? Consult the fin grid. That's the AM1 Blackstix in the top left.
And now to break down the Rusty Blade in five specific performance categories:
With four beautiful channels streaking off the tail, this blunt object carves better than one might expect. It ain't a "high-performance shorty", but it is called The Blade for a reason. Fear not my heavy-footed friends!
I rambled on and on about how The Blade was difficult for me to ride at first, but I think that has more to do with my natural surfing style being a odds with the board than it does with the Blade's ease of use. The flat rocker and thick rails make this board prime for surfers of most abilities, but its performance tweaks add some spice for the talents among us.
The Blade is fast but starts to sink in waves below the waist, so I wouldn't call it a groveler. It also maxes out in head-and-a-half surf, so don't be greedy. To maximize this craft, keep it in the chest to slightly-overhead range.
After seeing Ashton Goggans land his very first air on the Blade last week, I'm convinced anyone can make it fly. Also see: Harry Bryant.
With the right approach and timing, the Blade will vanquish lips and send spray-waves to the stratosphere. Pop in some AM1 Blackstix for extra speed and you'll feel like 17-year-old Occy in no time. Electricity is in the Blade's DNA.