Surf legend Rusty Miller recalls time with WindanSea Surf Club

Rusty Miller signs his new book, ‘Turning Point,’ at Hansen Surfboards in Encinitas. Courtesy Marisa Vallbona

By Pat Sherman

La Jolla native and 1965 U.S. surfing champion Rusty Miller may spend his days giving surf lessons to the likes of Elle Macpherson and other Hollywood A-listers, though he never forgets his days as an inaugural member of the WindanSea Surf Club (WSC).

Now in his 70s, Miller was among the top surfers invited to compete with WSC when they traveled to Malibu in 1963 for their first competition. Miller surfed and performed in a makeshift WSC band on the beach that day, playing drums.

Legendary surfer and WindanSea Surf Club early member, Rusty Miller.

“We just headed up the coast and picked up all the good surfers on the trail,” said Miller, speaking with the

La Jolla Light

May 18 while at Hansen Surfboards in Encinitas to sign copies of his new photography book, “Turning Point.”

“I think we had a couple beers on the way,” Miller confided, with a laugh. “The bus driver must have had his hands full keeping his eyes on the road.”

Miller, who once lived on Coast Boulevard with his family and was baptized at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla, served as WSC’s vice-president during the mid-’60s. A San Diego State University alumni, he recently helped launch the world’s first Center for Surf Research at SDSU.

In 1966, when Miller arrived in Australia aboard a ship as part of the University of the Seven Seas program (today Semester at Sea), about 20 members of the WindanSea Surf Club of Australia were there to welcome the recent surf champ.

Miller said he treasures most WSC’s community involvement, including a day at Tourmaline Canyon Surfing Park in which WSC members taught blind children and adults to surf.

“I think we really were key in making people realize that surfing wasn’t just a sport ... (but) a lifestyle and a culture,” said Miller, who today resides in Byron Bay, Australia. “It’s a belief in natural forces, and I think that’s what makes you very humanitarian.”