Re: Need help choosing a new 8/9/10 wt rod.
If surf casting is the dominant use it will certainly drive the length issue. My 10wt is a Thomas and Thomas striper rod and it measures 9 1/2 and works great for most situations outside of a surf type trip. For me, having spent way more time on flats or boat fishing in the mangroves a rod beyond 9 1/2 foot would become problematic from a wind resistance issue and actually my preferred length would become 9ft and I would make due if on a surf type trip.
As for brands I would be surfing eBay and see what a Sage RPL, RPLX or RPLXI is going for in a 9ft 9wt. These are great rods and even an early RPL, I would certainly consider this option over an entry level modern rod. My "vintage" Sage rods cast every bit as good as my new ones and in some cases they are nearly as light. For instance my 790 RPL is 3 1/8th oz