When I first bought my lathe in 2008, the first thing I did was drive down to Cape
Cod Tackle to load up every supply and lure part I could get my hands on. While browsing the overwhelming variety of metal lips, one stuck out to me in particular, the surfster lip. While all others were bent in at varrying angles, the surfster lip heavy and had a distinctive cup. Intrigued, I threw one into my bag of goodies. When I got home, I decided that I would use the surfster lip to build my first plug.
Knowing what I know now, I built my first "surfster" completely wrong. Traditionally, the surfster is an unweighted surface lure, designed to have a tail-wagging action and lots of roll, leaving a distinctive "V" shaped wake in it's path. The surfster excells in calm water, becoming borderline useless in rough surf, strong current, or even if retreived too quickly. Since the plug is unweighted, surftsters will cast even more poorly than the typical metal lip swimmer. Don't let this negativity disuade you however, the "surfster" style lure goes back decades, and has caught countless fish, but for the saltwater fisherman, it is certainly a niche lure, suited best for calm waters.
So how then does one build a "proper" surfster? Traditionally, the plug is unweighted, relying on duel belly hooks to keep the lure on keel. Some builders will weight the surfster, adding a belly weight just forward of the center point of the lure. The heavy cupped lip also lends the lure a surprising amount of weight, causing the plug to swim with it's tail up. The widest part of the lure should be it's middle point, and the top of the front 1/3rd of the lure should be sanded into a slope. Perhaps the best modern rendition of the surfster is the "Troublemaker" surfster, and I would encourage anyone interested in building a traditional version of this plug to study them. It is not uncommon to see surfsters made with a traditional "z style" lip as well. In fact, the current Creek Chub Surfsters (one of the oldest companies to build this lure) being made come with a z style lip. You'll notice that on these plugs, the lip is left open, resulting in the plug remaining on the surface with the iconic surface tail wag and roll.
This is of course what I know now. Back in 2008, when I first experimented with this plug, I knew none of this. I didn't know it at the time, but I learned a valuable lesson that day; there is more than one way to make a cake. That first surfster I built I weighted in the nose of the lure, between the single hook and the lip, and built with the widest part of the lure at roughly a third of the way up along the plug. Interestingly enough, the lure swims almost identically to how a surfster should swim, despite being a seemingly different lure in design and appearance.
I actually still build my own "surfsters" this way. I've found that by leaving the head rounded, without the tradition sanded down slope head, and a small weight in the chin, the lure still swims with the tail wag and roll that is characteristic of the surfster. The added weight improves casting, although not by much, since the large cupped lip creates significant air resistance.
The lesson here isn't just about what makes a surfster a surfster, but also to remain open minded when experimenting and building lures. The fun thing about this hobby is that you can build whatever it is you want, however you want, to best meet the conditions you fish.