Why Rasta Rides a Flax Surfboard by Shaper Gary McNeill

Jesse Faen

by on

Updated 67d ago

Some of the most beautiful surfing you’re going to see this year is thanks to Dave Rastovich. His awesome speed lines and stylish carves, in dreamy waves around the world, finds itself center stage in two highly anticipated new films – Proximity, and Church of the Open Sky.

The surfboard under his feet in both projects is unique, and recently caught our attention at the Boardroom Show in Del Mar, California. Shaper Gary McNeill was on-site; displaying a few of his drool-worthy designs and the incredible artwork generally associated with them, by artists Sharon Blair and Jonathan Quinton. The featured board is more sustainably made than most, thanks to recycled Marko Foam, flax cloth, and bio resin.

We joined McNeill in a Californian shaping bay to better understand his career journey through to the creation of this surfboard. Then thanks to Rasta’s gal Lauren Hill, we connected with Dave in Australia about his new board, the films, and working with Patagonia now….

© 2017 - Filmed and edited by Paul "Ryan" Malixi

MSW: How are things?
Rastovich: All’s well in our world here on the north coast (NSW, Australia). Surfing, gardening, contributing to Patagonia’s great work… Simple life… feels good.

You were riding a variety of boards from Dick Van Straalen for years, so wondering how and why the change to Gary’s boards came about?
I still ride boards from Dick Van, I just also ride Gary’s boards and a whole host of other shapes. Never been exclusionary of other peoples ideas and shapes, seems like lots of good folk have good ideas worth trying out.
 

Rasta exits the gift shop.

Rasta exits the gift shop.

© 2017 - Donnie Hedden

Explain the dynamic between your surfing and feedback for his designs, especially after 10 years working together?
We surf together every now and again, which brings new ideas, though we also just play around with shapes from other areas of life. A long time ago, probably ten years ago actually, I introduced Gazza to the flower of life geometric pattern. I was pretty obsessed with it for a while there, as it consists within it, all the platonic solids and demonstration of both curved and straight-line geometry. We have met quite a few different people who are leaders in the world of sacred geometry, and through chats with them have seen how some shapes could be really applied to boards. For instance the torus shape is like an hourglass or apple type shape, something Gazza puts into the bottom of our boards in the form of a channel. It allows water to feed into the center plane of the board and then get squeezed out through the tail. These are fun shapes to play with. Not rocket science, not gonna cure cancer, not gonna ‘revolutionize the surfing world’ like a lot of marketing spin tends to suggest some boards will do, but certainly a lot of fun.

Some of the typically unique art by Sharon Blair and Jonathan Quinton which you'll often find gracing a Gary McNeill creation.

Some of the typically unique art by Sharon Blair and Jonathan Quinton which you'll often find gracing a Gary McNeill creation.

Gary mentioned how few boards you’ve broken over the years, and the priority to keep them stronger lasting, and ultimately out of landfills. How has this process evolved?
I reckon I’ve only broken three, or maybe four boards in the last 10 years. They just don’t seem to pop. Experimenting with glass layouts and variations in materials has been fun. Carbon, hemp, recycled PET, timber veneers, and now flax. Been a while now and the flax ones are yet to break.
 
How did flax come into the equation?
Gazza is great at keeping an eye out for new materials surfacing, and I also have the radar on for that, so between the two of us new options tend to pop up pretty often. The flax has come and proved itself to be quite strong, though there is always room for improvement. The flex feels perfect for me, not too rigid like timber or carbon, not soft and spongey like popouts from nasty mass production lines, and I have had a couple now for over a year, maybe two, and they don’t seem to lose their twang and twitchy feel. 

Overall impression?
At this stage, their strength seems superior and flex doesn’t seem to age. I am yet to fully see an audit on how much gentler on the Earth flax fiber is than standard fiberglass, so I couldn’t honestly say it has a smaller footprint. I think this is a crucial aspect of where our industry is at with the use of so-called ‘green’ or ‘eco’ products. Sure you might sell more boards that have a fancy slogan saying ‘eco’ on them, but it still doesn’t feel totally transparent and honest in terms of how clean some products are.

Before and after with shaper Gary McNeill.

Before and after with shaper Gary McNeill.

© 2017 - Paul "Ryan" Malixi

What comes next?
We have a toxic industry, with very old practices, any steps forward that can clean up our act should be shared openly so we can all move forward together with better practices. Honesty and transparency should be central in this, because there is a lot of bullshit that is mostly aimed to sell more products. An example that creates distrust in our industry, which cracks me up, is some board manufacturers printing fake carbon fiber tissue paper to be laminated onto the tail edges of a board, instead of actual carbon. It’s not honest.
 
The footage in Taylor Steele’s Proximity, and from Nathan Oldfield, is the first we’ve seen you on this board. What are your thoughts on these new films, and being able to expose the flax board in them?
Fun, fun, fun play. Proximity was just a couple sessions at one point, whereas Nathan's film, Church Of The Open Sky, was shot in OZ and in Sri Lanka over a period of time much longer, so the boards get more of a run in his film. I think people will see that the flax fish in his film has no problem being surfed at high speed in waves of consequence, etc.

A still from Church Of The Open Sky in which his flax fish danced in waves of consequence.

A still from Church Of The Open Sky in which his flax fish danced in waves of consequence.

© 2017 - Nathan Oldfield

How about your transition to Patagonia, and focus these days?
Patagonia makes such good stuff, with such integrity and authenticity that they don’t have to rely on sugar coated, highly strategic marketing spin to convince people to buy stuff. What they make does the talking itself. Which leaves the rest of the company to work on things that matter like cleaning up industry practices, supporting environmental groups and grassroots organizations. I am so fucken lucky to be working with them and contributing in my own way. I love their no bullshit approach to what they do. I love that they have a social and ecological conscience that is listened to. The work I have been doing for them lately is about speaking out against the anti-protest laws that are creeping into Australian law! That’s what I get to focus on for them! It’s amazing to be doing that while still living a life revolving around the ocean.

Cover image: Rasta flying by Ryan Kenny


Jesse Faen

USA Brand Manager @jessefaen