One of the great things about surfing is the accessibility of the true icons of the sport. Computer geeks ain’t getting close to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. But we surf geeks can walk right into Stewart Surfboards and chat up Bill Stewart on any given day. In case you don’t know, Bill has more than likely been a big part in developing some aspect of your quiver, whether it is the fin set-up, the airbrush technique or the actual shape of the board itself.
Born in Bowling Green Kentucky in 1951, Bill Stewart moved to California and worked various jobs in the surfing industry before opening Stewart Surfboards in 1978. For over four decades Bill has been creating one of a kind custom surfboards. Bill was the second person to ever airbrush on a surfboard and was voted best airbrusher by Surfer Magazine in 1980. In 1984, he developed the Hydro Hull, a double concave design. A major positive influence on the modern longboard scene , Bill is the inventor of the 2+1 fin configuration, as well as co-inventor of the Futures Fins system box. Surf any of the numerous breaks up and down the California coast and you will undoubtedly see someone riding equipment with the classic Stewart logo.
Stewart Surfboards has grown to become a worldwide recognized and respected brand. The company eventually moved to a bigger shop in San Clemente where they still reside today, just minutes from the world famous Trestles surf break and San Onofre. I couldn’t wait to drop in and find out what new toys are coming down the pipe.
The first thing you notice when walking into Stewart Surfboards is that the staff is really nice. No, not fake nice. Real nice. Friendly, but not over-bearing. You are welcomed in to browse or ask questions, but not bothered and no hard sell. No attitude here. They have a used board section upstairs that rivals Craigslist pricing (plus you don’t have to go to some stranger’s house only to find some dinged up piece of you-know-what). Downstairs is an impressive array of longboards, shortboards, old school fish designs and anything else you might need.
I was asking one of the employees about a product in the store when Bill Stewart came up and introduced himself to me as the guy who designed all this stuff. I expected some old curmudgeon who had ingested way too much fiberglass dust and had a chip on his shoulder about the way the industry had lost it’s soul. but instead I got a warm, friendly surfer who was just as passionate and excited to tell me about the history of Stewart Surfboards as he was to talk about his 1,250 square foot Man Cave and his new-found love for playing blues harp.
Bill shared the long history of success for his longboards, ranging from the CMP that won four longboard world titles to the all-time best selling Hydro Hull. Lately Stewart’s has had a lot of success with the shortboards. The five fin S-winger has everyone buzzing. It comes stock with the Futures Scimitar fins and is meant to be ridden as a five fin rather than a convertible thruster/quad. The word I kept hearing on the S-winger was “speed.” Also sticking out from the crowd was the Fartknocker. A short fat wide tailed quad that just looks like fun. Bill suggests this one for smaller surf, although I heard rumblings of some fun sessions in overhead surf. Each Fartknocker has it’s own custom airbrush design so you get a board that is uniquely yours. For around $400 I couldn’t resist and picked one up for my quiver.
But the board that really has Bill’s heart pumpin’ is the Redline 11. Described as the love child of the CMP and the Hydro Hull, the Redline 11 only comes as a nine footer, so the trick is to move the foam around to complement the surfer. Perfect, now you don’t have to decide between a good paddler, an high performance board and a nose rider. It’s a dependable pick-up truck in the front and a Porsche in the back. According to Bill Stewart, this one turns like an 8’6″, paddles like a 9’6″ and noserides like a 10’0″. Why is it called the Redline 11? Because this one goes to eleven (thanks for referencing an awesome Spinal Tap quote).
How have the hardcore longboarders received the Redline 11? Well, it’s already become the shop’s best seller at two to five orders a day, and recently won the Oceanside longboard nose-riding championship. Don’t look for a rack of Redline 11’s. They can’t keep them in stock, so you’re lucky if one or two are laying around waiting to for their owners to pick them up. Don’t worry, they are making more. Stewart Surfboards is even partnering up with Global Surf Industries to make the most popular models more available worldwide. Expect to see Fartknockers, S-wingers, Hydro-hulls, CMP’s, and of course, Redline 11’s.
If that’s not enough to make you want to add a Stewart to your quiver, consider the fact that (According to Bill) no one has ever been bitten by a shark on a Stewart surfboard. So buy one and you’ve got that going for you!
For more info on Bill Stewart and Stewart Surfboards, please visit www.stewartsurfboards.com.