Rusty Miller is a former USA Surfing Champion and Hawaiian big wave rider. Today, he is one of our favourite Australian guides, showing guests the joys of surfing at Byron Bay.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I am a native Californian who came to Byron Bay in 1970 and have lived and surfed here ever since with a few stints away in other places. My surf sessions are combined with my publishing/writing. In 1973 I started the first alternative newspaper in Byron Shire and and in 1984 began publishing the annual Rusty’s Byron Guide. Because I appreciate where I live I have advocated for the social, physical and cutlural environment in Byron since arriving.
What got you started with surfing and what do you find most interesting about it?
I started surfing when I was ten years old in Southern California. I grew up next to the ocean where I didn’t have to lift my head off my pillow to see the surf. In those days there was no career in it. I surf (and still do) for the love of it. In the 1960s I began to compete and in 1965 was the United States surfing champion. I began teaching surfing informally in the ‘70s in Byron Bay and have taught here ever since. I don’t like the word “school” and “teaching” as they imply something that surfing isn’t about. I say that I offer surf sessions to people. I only teach personalised surfing, not big groups of people who don’t know each other. To me surfing is an art form, not a sport. We dance on the waves. This is what I try to explain to people.
How do you bring surfing to life on your tours?
As I have lived and surfed in Byron Bay/shire since 1970 I bring a 46 year history of the place to my surf sessions and Byron town/hinterland tour. I’ve been here through it’s major changes of being a working-class, primary industry community to a one based on tourism, with surfing being a big part of that. I approach my surfing sessions/cultural tuning on a most personal level relative to how I read what my clients might be inclined towards. First of all for the surfing I endeavour to find out what kind of relationship they have previously had with the ocean, if any, and what their physical activity experiences have been. Relative to our community we often talk of history, politics and travel. My Rusty’s Byron Guide byline is People, Politics and Culture. I say that you get more than a surf session with me. The first thing we do is I take you up to the Byron Bay lighthouse and explain the geography and culture of the place. This gives you the context of where you are.
Why do you think it’s important that people learn about surfing?
Surfing is such a joy. It is infinite and allows you to be completely in the moment. I endeavour to demonstrate that the standard perceptions we obtain from media, advertising and promotional material about surfing do not always represent it’s actual essence. Surfing waves can appear to be relatively simple with the appropriate equipment when conducted in the right place at the right time. However, there is a lifetime of learning the ocean and its ways. And, of course, I want people to understand Byron and its unique place in Australia.
If people wanted to find out more about surfing are there any particular books, documentaries or websites you would recommend?
In Australia there are dozens of books about people who surf and some good ‘how to’ books. Along with my wife, Tricia, we have published two books of my surfing life through my photographs taken between 1968-1973 both here in Byron Bay/Bells Beach and in Hawaii, where I lived for three years from 1967-1970. Our website has a little video filmed by local filmmakers showing how I explain the art of surfing. These same filmakers have made a documentary called Byron, The Meeting Place, which is available as a full length film or a shortened version on-line. It is well worth a look before you get here.
What’s your favourite Australian animal and why?
Dolphins because they are the best wave riders in the world.
What place is Australia’s best-kept secret?
A secret is a secret.
What haven’t you seen / done in Australia that you’d like to and why?
Discover a beach with a good wave I have never surfed before.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that hasn’t been covered by the questions already posed?
The two best learning beaches in the world, The Pass and Wategos Beach, are in the Cape Byron National Park. rustymillersurf has exclusive rights to teach at the main section of these two beaches. On any given day you’ll be surfing with dolphins in clean, blue water. Mornings and sunsets are the best time to be out there as Cape Byron is the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Uniquely in Australia, The Pass Beach faces west so that not only do we enjoy the sunrises but sunsets as well, about the only place in Australia that this happens.
Finally, how can people follow you on social media?