You have decided that you want a custom shaped surfboard, one that will be shaped to your specifications, one that will have your name next to shaped for under the lamination. Yey! Custom made surfboards are considered to be expensive but it is not always so. Many times local shapers will make a cheaper custom surfboard than a machine shaped major brand model will cost you at the store. And you will support local surf community, talk with a shaper and learn a few things, smoke some weed, and enjoy that special feeling that a surfboard was shaped especially for you.
The benefit and problem when it comes to custom boards is the same – when you are ordering it you can express any wish you want… I want this tail, this length, width, thickness, volume, shape, rocker, bottom, fin setup…everything. Now if you are an experienced and educated surfer you can tell your shaper exactly what you want. But I guess in this case you wouldn’t be reading this. If you are not, if you are a beginner or an intermediate surfer looking for you first custom board, then here are a few pointers, that will help you avoid ordering something that barely even floats.
This is the first step. At least the basics, so you will know and understand what your shaper is telling you without looking at him like he just stepped out of star ship Enterprise and is talking Klingon. There are four articles I want you to read or at least skim through. First one is about different surfboard types and models. What kind of different surfboards are out there, who can ride them and in what conditions. Next one is about surfboard construction and will tell you how a surfboard is made. If you are ordering a custom one read at least the first part. Then comes the most important one – how the design and the shape of different parts of a surfboard influences the way it rides. And finally when it comes to art on your board here is a how to guide with lots of different ideas for painting your stick.
Things you need to tell your shaper
It is highly likely that your shaper knows more about surfboards than you do. It is highly likely that he has shaped at least 5-10.000+ surfboards and you have shaped none. So if you are not a pro surfer/surfboard test driver/have a Ph.D. in Physics and Hydrodynamics I advise you to respect his input and let him decide how to combine all the subtle elements and curves that make a finished surfboard. What you do need to tell him is the following:
1. What kind of surfboard do you want?
A shaper will help you with dimensions, rockers and other curves, bottom contours, fin setups and everything else. But he can’t decide for you what kind of a surfboard do you actually want. Are you a beginner that wants his first shortboard, do you want a fish, an egg, a step up or a longboard?
2. What is your surfing ability
Beginner, intermediate, expert? Tell him what you can do and how good can you surf, how often do you surf. Be brutally honest here. He doesn’t care. He makes boards for everybody, even for people who suck. You can even show him photos or even better a video of you surfing.
3. Weight, height, age…
A bigger and heavier person will need a longer board with more volume. Your age and fitness level is also important. Unlimited paddle power allows smaller boards, weak arms and back will thank you when you get a board that is easier to paddle.
4. What is your current surfboard and how do you like it?
What are your past boards, what are you riding at the moment, and how you like it tells A LOT about what kind of board you need. Also tell him if you are looking something to replace your everyday board or are you expanding your quiver and looking for something for those smaller days, bigger days, or something for a trip to some exotic location etc… Actually the best thing you can do is to bring your current board with you to the shapers bay.
5. Where do you usually surf and how are the conditions?
Again, this is time for honesty. Yeah, you really like riding barrels but if your everyday surf looks like 3ft windblown mush, don’t get a barrel board. That is unless you already have a mushburger stick and want to order a board for your next surf trip to Hawaii. If you are going somewhere – tell him where and even which surf spot.
6. Specific input
If you are not a shaper don’t try to control and map out in detail every single aspect of your surfboard. It won’t work. What you can do is give some additional input about certain aspects of the board. Like if you borrowed your friends quad and you really liked it – maybe you want your next board to have a quad fin setup option. Maybe it is a certain tail shape that you really like. Etc…
I am looking for a step up surfboard. I am 35 yr old, I am 5’11” (181cm) and weight 154pounds (70kg) and I am quite fit, I have around 60-70 surf days a year. I would describe myself as an intermediate surfer. I am comfortable in all sorts of conditions and can do bottom turns, top turns, cutbacks…but I am still working on the execution and consistency of these maneuvers. I still have some problems with accelerating on my backside and sometimes with getting up the face of the wave (also on my backside). Right now I am riding a 5’10” shortboard (19″1/2 x 2″3/8) with a quad fin setup and I really like it. I usually surf beachbreaks (France, Portugal) and my board works great there. What I want is a little bit longer board for those days when the surf gets bigger and more powerful. I like the speed and the hold of a quad, does it also work on a step up and in bigger surf?
I am looking for a board for those really small summer days, something short but with lots of volume and a flat rocker for speed.
I am traveling to Indo and will be surfing Uluwatu and other spots around Bukit and hopefully get barreled. I need something that will hold the line and will work in all sorts of conditions as this will be the only board I am taking with me.
This will be my first real shortboard. Until now I have been riding a 7’3″ mini malibu and I am looking for something that will make this transition to shortboards easier.
Things to expect from your shaper
He should also be asking you questions and explaining you things. If he is not, then he probably just wants to get rid of an already shaped board and doesn’t want you to be too specific. Also be careful if he is pushing one model, again maybe he already shaped it and wants to get rid of it. That doesn’t mean that that board won’t work, but it won’t be a custom.
Give the shaper some feedback after your board is finished and you have surfed it a few times.
That’s it, good luck.