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Farewell to a surf industry legend

April 7, 2022 BY

Graham was known surf Bells Beach in the sirsa-ashana pose, more commonly known as the headstand. Photo: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SURFING MUSEUM

Legendary shaper and Torquay surfer Russell Graham has been remembered as an icon of the surfing industry following his death last month.

Tributes have rolled in for Graham, affectionately known as ‘Rusty’, who was farewelled at a memorial service and paddle out held at Cosy Corner on Monday, April 4.

It was in the early 1970s that Graham arrived in Torquay from Northern NSW in a bus that was part camper van and part mobile surf factory.

He fell in love with the coastal town of Torquay and also a girl name Barb.

Graham worked for both Rip Curl before branching out on his own as Moonlight Laminating, glassing shapes for some of the sport’s top surfers. Photo: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SURFING MUSEUM

 

The couple would eventually marry and have three children – Leigh, Corey and Liza.

Graham teamed up with Doug Warbrick and Brian singer and became the manager of Rip Curl’s surfboard factory, glassing shapes for the likes of Wayne Lynch, Doug Rogers and Maurice Cole, among many other big names of the sport.

He later went out on his own with Moonlight Laminating.

In the book Deep Water, author Brendan McAloon wrote that at its peak, Moonlight Laminating was producing more than 1,000 boards a year.
“Russell has spent the best part of 50 years inhaling resin fumes and consequently he’s a bit of an eccentric,” McAloon wrote of the revered shaper in the book.

“I’ve seen photos of him trimming across the face of six-foot waves at Bells Beach bolt upright in the sirsa-ashana pose, more commonly referred to as a headstand.

“These days he’s taken to wearing a floppy black beret, giving him the appearance of a French intellectual, with his long grey hair tied back in a ponytail and delicately trimmed moustache and goatee.”

McAloon wrote that Graham had more recently spent his time on old-school restorations “rather than churning out bleached white shortboards”.
Outside of surfing, Graham was a keen car enthusiast who won multiple Victorian Hill Climb championship titles.

When it comes to shaping, his son Corey is proudly continuing the family tradition hand shaping and designing boards under the business name of Corey Graham Shapes which is located in Torquay.

In a heartfelt social media post on March 17, Corey said there were no images words he could conjure up to do justice to the man he called Dad.

“I’m privileged to be your son. I’ve built my life off the knowledge you have imparted on me. Thank you; just isn’t a big enough word sometimes. Rest up now Dad.”

A Facebook post by the Australian National Surfing Museum recalled Graham as being “beautiful, funny, charismatic bloke” with a quirky nature and “impish sense of fun”.

Russell ‘Rusty’ Graham was a keen motor enthusiast and won multiple Victorian Hill Climb championship titles. Photo: @COREYGRAHAMSHAPES

 

“Long before collecting surfboards became a thing Russ had an extensive collection of vintage boards, he loved them, and would shove them in the rafters of the factory or stash them at home, realising that each was a piece of the surfing puzzle,” the post said.

It also acknowledged the significant contribution Graham made the formation of the museum.

“He built many of the permanent display elements when the museum was being set up. Stumped up his own cash to help see the museum become a reality, and produced every tribute surfboard in the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame, such a great legacy just within the four walls here.”

Surfing Victoria also posted a tribute on social media to Graham.

“An icon of Victorian surfing, Russ was a mentor for many of the surfboard shapers on the Surf Coast for five decades,” the post said.

“Surfing Victoria sends our love and condolences to his family and friends.”