FACES OF SURF
A young surfer’s classic longboard style launches him out of Santa Cruz and onto the worldwide stage
By Neil Pearlberg
Saltwater first ran through Reilly Stone’s veins at the age of 3, when his father pushed him into his first wave on a gentle Waikiki day. The Stones new there and then that the only time their son would ever look back would be to catch his next wave.
“Overjoyed!” is the one word the quiet-natured young surfer, now 17 years old, uses to describe how he felt after he received his first surfboard, a Source 9’8” nose rider, on his 11th birthday. That night, he asked his father, John Stone, if he could sleep with it tucked under his arm. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the board would be the first step on a path to an international surfing career.
In the years since, Pleasure Point surfers and residents have had a front-row seat to his rise, watching as the skinny, curly-haired grom developed a ballet-like artistry in the water. There’s an effortless flow as he cross-steps to and from the nose of his board, occasionally dipping his head into the breaking wave and soul arching his back as he hangs 10 toes over the nose. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the line-up marvel at how easy he makes it all look.“Reilly has one of the smoothest approaches to longboard surfing that I have ever seen,” says his mentor, CJ Nelson, the 2006 World Nose Riding champion renowned for his unique blend of old and new log riding since its rebirth in the 1980s. “I am proud to say that the next generation of Northern Californian longboarders is looking good, and Reilly is the cream of the crop.”
Stone’s fervent passion and dedication has paid off with a string of accomplishments, the most recent of which was his first international surf contest in Japan last October. At the Trump-Hiyuga Pro, one of the world’s premiere longboarding events, Stone competed in the Single Fin and Glide Classic against the world’s top “sliders,” including Taylor Jensen, Bonga Perkins, and current world champion Piccolo Clemente. The Santa Cruz surfer was unfazed by competing against such lofty talents and finished fifth out of a total of 24 competitors.
Stone’s first big break came the previous year, at the 2014 Malibu Surfing Association Classic Invitational, when he caught the eye of WSL Longboard North American Champion Tyler Jensen.
Jensen was scouting for Japanese-based Trump Wetsuits, which was looking to sponsor a young up-and-coming California single-fin, retro longboarding talent. Soon, Stone was linked to his first major sponsor.
He was officially a professional surfer.
His burgeoning career got its next boost that October while on vacation with his father in Saludita, Mexico, where the long left break is heaven for a goofy-footer like Stone. There, he was spotted by Margaret Calvani, the general manager of Bing Surfboards, which has become one of the world’s top longboard manufacturers since its inception in 1959.
“He was such a pleasure to watch surf because with every wave, he captured the style and essence of ‘60s surfing with such modern precision, which is exactly what we try to build into every design at Bing Surfboards,” Calvani says.
Being a team rider for Bing was a lofty responsibility for their newest “test pilot.” Stone’s duties now included reporting to their headquarters in Encinitas, Calif., informing them how each board rides and where to tweak them for a better performance, (the “and” goes in both places b/c “how each board rides” and “where to tweak …” are both linked to the “informing them” set up, and are one clause; “and preaching …” is a separate clause and the final clause in the list and thus has another “and” leading in) and preaching their product, as well as maintaining a positive attitude as a role model and keeping his grades high at school.
Shortly after, his Bing and Trump Wetsuits sponsorships were joined by deals with Australian surf apparel company The Critical Slide Society and Santa Cruz’s own Rainbow Fin Company—arrangements that Stone says kicked his game up a notch.
“I love it,” he says with a smile. “Surfing first class equipment has helped take my surfing to the next level.”
The companies are just as pleased with the relationship as Stone is. This year, Santa Cruz Rainbow Fins, the one local surf company that has approached Stone to become a team rider, will be launching the “Reilly Stone Signature Line” of single fins for all longboard aficionados.
“Once we met Reilly it was a no-brainer to get him on board with Rainbow Fins. His personality and energy is contagious—you will always find him surfing with a smile, and stoked on every single wave,” says owner Sarah Broome. “The young man stands out, and is at a whole different level than most.”
But Stone’s life isn’t just about riding new Bing boards, donning the latest Trump wetsuits, or sporting The Critical Slide Society surf attire. Many hours are spent studying video of the world’s top longboarders, with the goal of becoming the best.
“I watch footage of the three surfers that I most admire: Joel Tudor, CJ Nelson, and David Nuuhiwa,” says Stone. “I like to think I have my own style, interjected with what I have studied from watching my peers.”
To the young surfers who look up to him, he offers the following advice: “Surf every day, push yourself, surf where you have never surfed, attempt tricks that you have never done, and watch the greats.” As for him, he’ll continue pushing his own boundaries, both figurative and literal, in 2016, hitting Mexico, Japan, Australia, and Japan again all before June.
Famed Santa Cruz longboarder and shaper Michel Junod first noticed Stone’s surfing chops three years ago and is looking forward to following the surfer’s promising trajectory.
“His surfing has continued to improve, but one must look closely to really appreciate his art form because he is so smooth and makes it look so easy,” says Junod. “Anyone who knows him in or out of the water knows he has a bright future. If only all the surfers in the water could be so pleasant to surf with, we’d all be better off, and more thankful for the waves we get to ride.”