Knowledge on how to shape a great surfboard and surfboard designs are prized and kept mostly secret. In the past a shapers designs could be considered magic, were protected as such and still are. Ability to earn a living, attract and keep surfers on their shapes and an earnest desire to build a better surfboard have contributed to the cloak and dagger secretiveness of shaping Gurus. Professional surfers, hard-core enthusiasts and surfers around the world have benefited from shapers dedicated to excellence, hardwork, and service. Surfer’s owe thanks to the spirit of the surfboard shaper.
In the beginning just to break into the shaping field one might have to apprenticeship repairing dings, sweeping up and cleaning the shaping room for at least five years before finally getting a chance to shape a board under the watchful eye of a tutor. The whole process of shaping a surfboard remained as mystical as the waves they were meant to ride. That is until computers and programmers and big business got into the act.
Modern times have eliminated much of the hand shapers as they struggle to survive against the machine and mass-produced surfboards. To help preserve the art of shaping surfboards WBsurfing offers fundamental information on how to shape a surfboard.
Shaping goes Global
Creative breakthroughs in surfboard design and function come from those willing to push the limits and experiment with new and fresh ideas and designs. Dedicated surfboard shapers from around the world have helped make surfing what it is today. Australians like Wayne Lynch, Cheyne Horan, and Bob McTavish have seen the future and sparked a full design revolution. Independent thinking Californians like Duncan and Malcolm Camble, Carl Eckstrom, Mike Hynson, Rusty Presendorfor, Al Merrick all helped define the modern surfboard. Hawaiian shapers like Ben Aipa, Dick Brewer, Gerry Lopez, Glen Minani, Eric Arakawa, George Downing, Harold Iggy, Pat Rawson are just a few of the great shapers to shape the rockets that propelled surfboard performance to the outer limits. Great shapers also come from Japan, Brazil Europe and other places from around the world.
Becoming a master Foamsmith
The combination of 3 dimensional curves and proportions that make up a surfboard are literally endless. Ultimately be it a long board, short board, concave or vee bottom or a new design you wish to try, you will need to know how to take what you see in your mind and transfer it to your hands to shape your dream surfboard.
For optimum shaping conditions, surfboards are shaped in rooms specifically designed for shaping. Shaping rooms a.k.a. shaping bays are usually narrow, painted dark and with no windows, and designed to be sound proof. Surfboard shaping roomShaping racks are especially designed so the blank can be seen and worked on from different angles. They should be centered and adjusted to a comfortable height, usually around waist level. Eight-foot long fluorescent lights are installed slightly higher shaping rack height, parole with the floor. A shelf over the light projects the right amount of light back to the shape and also shields the shapers eyes from glare. Shapers use the contrast of the dark walls and light along with shadows on the blank to “seeEthat the shape stays true.
Some surfboard factories will rent out a shaping room and provide all the necessary tools and templates. If this isn’t available never fear, the late Ricky Rassmussen, United States surfing champion would shape a surfboard with no electricity and only with hand tools in exotic locations like Mexico and the jungles of Indonesia. Florida’s Greg Loehr would shape boards in a tent with just a light bulb in the early E0’s on the north shore in Hawaii. Their shapes came out great.
While some tools used for shaping are specifically designed most are standard carpentry tools. Hand saw, surfoarm, electric planner, (Hitachi or skill 100 are the most popular), hand block plane, sanding block and a soft foam pad.Surfboard shaping tools Also needed: a level, t-square, tape measure and calipers (to measure thickness), a pencil, sandpaper in 40, 80, and 100 grit, and a sheet of 80 grit sanding screen. Don’t forget a shaping particle dust mask and protective eyewear and earwear.
Shaping a good surfboard is not guess work. With a good plan based on accurate expert knowledge your very first shape can be great. Know before you shape what it is you would like your finished shape to look like. Use a surfboard you already like as a model. Study the rails especially the bottom curve of the rail. Use a level to see if the bottom shape is flat, concave or has vee. Notice how some outlines are more pleasing to the eye than others and how the curves flow together.
Start by choosing the blank best suited for the shape and as close to the finished height and thickness as possible.
Mowing the foam “planning”
With the electric planner take a thin cut to remove the “crustE Planner cuts should be done slowly so the foam doesn’t rip or tear. Planning a blank is called “mowing foamEbecause the cuts are even and overlapping like mowing a lawn. Make the first cut around the outline of the board and then follow that line. Go from one side of the blank until one final cut down the wood stringer and overlapping onto the opposite side the width of a planner blade. Now start on the outside of the other side, working toward the center. Cuts should be level and smooth. Remember you can always take away foam but you cannot put it back, so take your time and shape with sensitivity and awareness. Enjoy the process. Rushing and not checking measurements twice will slow you down and produce mediocre results.
Template: Starting your outline
Once the bottom has been “skinnedEit is time to draw on the template or outline. Shapers universally measure with a t-square using the stringer as the centerline. Nose width is measured a foot back from the tip of the blank, tail width is measured one foot up from the tail block. Wide point is usually close to the center. Measure surfboards you like to find out Surfboard shaping templatesmeasurements that will work best for you. Once you have plotted out your outline measurements it is time to draw on the template.
Many shapers rely on others curves and take templates off others shapes to duplicate the curves they like. Master shapers with much practice can use a baton to produce desired outline curve creating original outlines. Take time to appreciate the many different types of outlines surfers use to ride waves. Some prefer wide shapes while others like narrow thin boards. Different size and types of waves require different shapes.
Before cutting out the template and after, stand the board up and really look at the outline curve. Are there flat spots? Straight spots in the curve? How about bumbs or dips? When cutting out the outline its very important to keep the saw straight at a 90 degree angle. Cut about a 1/16Eaway from the line allowing a little room to come back and true up the outline. Usually bumps or dips are the result of a sloppy cut out. If this happens you maySurfboard shaper have to re-template and carefully true up the outline. Try and use the entire length of the surfoarm or sanding block.
Truing up the outline. Turn the board on itsEside to sight down the outline, looking for high and low spots. One side at a time run the surform slowly and smoothly around the outline taking the excess foam down to the pencil line of the outline. Now walk the outline end to end with sandpaper and a flat sanding block until the outline is perfect.
Rocker: Bottom curve
Now is the time to shape in the bottom design and put in the rocker. Rocker is the overall curve from the tip of the nose to the tail. Most surfboards have a gentle rocker for release in the tail and a smooth entry rocker for catching waves and taking steep drops. Too much tail or nose rocker will make a board paddle slow and push water. It is important to select a blank that is close to the finished rocker as possible. . Most surfboard bottom designs use a combination of flat or concave in the center with slight roll towards the rails. Using the measurements of a surfboard you know works can be very helpful. After the bottom design and rocker have been shaped it is time to skin the deck of the surfboard bringing the board to the desired thickness in the nose, middle and tail. Most surfboards have the thickest part at the wide point.
Turning the rails
Now that the thickness foil, rocker and bottom contour have been shaped in, it is time to turn the rails. Thickness of the rail determines a surfboards sensitivity and floatation. Again before shaping your own board look at many surfboard and see how the rails blend into the deck and bottom. Generally the bottom edge is very hard in the tail for water release. In the middle rails are softer with some roundness so they won’t catch or dig into the wave. Personal taste and experience will help you find the rail volume that best suits your surfing. Rail templates can be used if desired.Shaping the surfboards rails
Taking a flexible wire and bending it around the shape of yourfavorite rail will make rail templates.
Working the top of the square rail or deck line down will determine how thick and low the rails end up. Keep that square and work the line down, blending or doming it into the deck. Once the deck or top line of the rail is as desired, hold off on putting on the bottom rail.
Sand out the bottom of the board with rough grit sandpaper and a sanding block. Be sure and keep the stringer level with the blank by constantly going over it with the hand block plane.Now repeat the process smoothing the deck and rails. Repeat the process using finer grit sand paper.
It’s now time to add the bottom rail. Begin by taking long smooth surform cuts on the bottomHand surfboard shapingedge of the square. Take care not to go to far into the bottom of the surfboard or to high toward the deck.Once the bottom rail is just how you want it, break out the sanding screen and begin the transition of blending the top and bottom rails together. Pay close attention to the bottom edge. High performance surfboards have hard rails in the tail with some roll in the middle and nose.
Go back and check your measurements in the nose middle and tail to make sure they are still accurate. Check nose tip and tail for symmetry. Nose tip and tail shapes are the signature of a shaper and add a style or look to a shape. Go over your bottom and make sure it is even on both sides. Your shape is now ready to mark the fins and send to the glasser