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Local surfers mix business, pleasure

By JADE GRIFFIN

UCSD

As a UCSD student, Rusty Preisendorfer, founder of Rusty Surfboards, spent a great deal of time on his surfboard at Black’s Beach. He went on to build one of the most successful surfboard and apparel companies in the world, yet Preisendorfer recalls a common misconception about surfers and academics: Boards and brains don’t mix.

Perched above the Pacific Ocean, UCSD enjoys a long tradition as a “surfing school,” proving that boards and brains can indeed coexist. Surfline and Transworld Surf have ranked it among the top colleges for surfing, while U.S. News and World Report ranked it the seventh-best public university in the nation.

“The stereotypes from the early days of surfing have slowly been eroded by a lot of bright, high-achieving individuals, many from UCSD,” Preisendorfer said.

Preisendorfer enrolled at UCSD as a visual arts major in 1973. Nearly a decade later, he established Rusty Surfboards.

Today, the surfboard shaper’s trademark “R” logo is one of the best known in the surf world. In 2008, Surfing Magazine recognized Preisendorfer as “Shaper of the Year.” Close to home, Preisendorfer maintains shops in La Jolla and Del Mar.

Fellow alumnus and surfer Jon Sundt concurs that boards and brains do in fact mix: “Most of the people who I grew up with, including doctors, lawyers and a certain surfboard manufacturer, lead successful businesses and still have a passion for Black’s Beach.”

Sundt, a longtime friend of Preisendorfer, is founder and chief executive officer of La Jolla-based Altegris, a hedge fund with more than $2 billion in managed assets. He also plays an important role in maintaining Black’s Beach.

“Jon serves as an unofficial caretaker of Black’s Beach,” says Jack Beresford, a fellow alumnus and assistant vice president of marketing and communications at San Diego State University. “Jon has hosted social gatherings and fundraisers, helping create a greater sense of community among those who share a love for Black’s.”

In 2006, Sundt made a gift to UCSD Recreation, designating a portion to the maintenance of the Sundt Memorial Gate, which is used by students and residents to access Black’s Beach.

According to Sundt, Black’s is a deep-water canyon, offering some of the best surfing in California.

“It’s an amazing, world-class wave,” agreed Preisendorfer, recalling surf sessions at Black’s as a student. “My first year was a disaster from an academic standpoint because all I did was surf.”

After taking a few years off, Preisendorfer returned to his studies in 1975. It was then that Preisendorfer and Sundt met and became close friends.

To this day, Sundt and Preisendorfer surf Black’s together.

“We surfers can turn a switch off from being hard-driving business people, to just enjoying the sun, the sport and the sea,” Sundt commented.