The Finest Line. Photo: Tony Perez
Last Thursday, before the pomp and circumstance of the WSL Big Wave Awards, an intimate gathering of surfers and media gathered at Interval Gallery in San Clemente to celebrate Rusty Long’s new book, The Finest Line. Hands were shook. Drinks were drunk. And the 231-page coffee table book, which offers an insider’s look at the last 15 years of big-wave surfing, were sold and signed. Everyone from Jamie Mitchell to Garrett McNamara to Kolohe Andino showed up to buy their copy. As the event died down and Rusty had a chance to shake out his signing hand and digest all the (deserved) “best book ever” accolades, the crew went across the street to celebrate with some karaoke. The next morning, with Rusty’s rendition of “Smooth Operator” still ringing in the head, we sat down with the surfer-turned-author to discuss his masterpiece. —Taylor Paul
This is book is no joke. How did you go from professional surfer to author so fast?
This book was an idea I’d had for a couple of years before I began making it. There had been so many historic waves ridden since the turn of the millennium, and so many incredible discoveries as the big-wave world expanded every season, that I thought it’d be awesome to get as many of those pivotal moments together in one place. As fortune would have it, a good friend, Dustin Jones, who is a very keen surfer with a taste for heavy water, was working at the publishing company, Insight Editions, as an editor. He hit me up and said the company was thinking about making something surfing related, and did I have any ideas? I said, well, I’ve got a sleeping giant of an idea of a book that really needs to get made. I wrote an outline for it and next thing you know we had the green light.
What were you hoping to accomplish when you started this book?
I wanted to create a time capsule of this incredible period of big-wave surfing so that anybody who picked it up could get a good idea of what went down. I aimed to do that by getting as many of the pinnacle moments in there visually, and by telling the general story of each location from initial history into the evolution of this last era, highlighting a specific significant event at each location. Given the space of each chapter, I think I accomplished that with a good balance of text and photos.
You are a decorated big-wave surfer and deserve to be celebrated as much as everyone in this book. Was it weird going from ‘talent’ to ‘content producer’?
Well, thank you. Nah it wasn’t weird. I was communicating with so many of the guys in the book and really getting a lot of input so I actually tried to just be a conduit figure to all these guys, and let them tell their stories, and also really absorb their stories into what I wrote. One of my favorite things in the book is some of the extend captions of the guys recounts of their waves. The content in there really spoke for itself too. It was pretty obvious what needed to be in the book. And basically it needed to be the gnarliest of the gnarly, the groundbreaking or the super beautiful.
What did you enjoy most about making TFL?
I got to relive and think about so many things by going through all these photos and stories. There was a lot of satisfaction anytime a story or interview got completed and the finish line got closer. Once all the writing and photo gathering was complete the layout process really was satisfying too, seeing all these word documents and high res images become a book.
What did you least enjoy?
I overwrote nearly every chapter in the book by quite a bit, telling the stories in way more detail. The revision process of having to go back and trim down the words by quite a bit, cut stuff out, but still feel like the story was fully told, was a bit challenging and an added workload.
How much of what you wrote was research and how much was from the memory banks?
There was a lot in the memory bank from either being there for events that went down or hearing the stories from the guys afterwards or along the way at some point. There hasn’t been much of significance that has gone down I haven’t heard the break down of over this past decade. So I had the nucleus of much of the book but there were lots of details added by speaking with guys and some doing some research when needed.
What do you hope people will take away from TFL?
I want people to get swept away in the book and simply have a pleasurable time going through it. But I also hope they get a solid understanding of this pursuit and get inspired by the incredible force of nature big-wave surfers immerse themselves in and the dedication it takes for this rare breed of humans to pursue this kind of life.
Anything else you want to add?
A big thanks you to all that made this a reality. This book wouldn’t have been possible without the epic cooperation of the many photographers, surfers, the publishing company and the editor, Dustin Jones.
You can, and should, buy a copy of The Finest Line here or at your local surf shop.