There are so many reasons why you would think of being a surfboard shaper, apart from it being a common item on the typical surfer's bucket list.
You may have not been able to find a board that appeals to you or the custom shaper you hired didn't give you exactly what you ordered. Maybe you just want to fashion a board of your own as a special rite of passage—the way the early surfers did.
It could sound like a fun idea to produce your own board for surfing, but there are many things to consider. Is it difficult to build one or is it going to be worth the effort, time, and resources required? Read this guide to get those questions answered and also know what you'll need to create a board of your own. After that, you'll be able to decide whether to settle for a surfboard purchase instead or not.
Is It Hard to Shape a Surfboard on Your Own?
The thought of constructing a surfboard is a challenging process even for experienced builders, especially in the area of making high-performance boards. Although it may seem like it involves a straightforward plan. The typical procedure entails the following:
- Template drawing
- Foam blank carving
- Fiberglass lamination
- Fin installation
The possible duration to cover all the steps for a simple plan is 20-30 hours, while complex designs (e.g. high-performance products) could take as long as 80 hours and above. You have to research the possible complications or drawbacks that a shaper may face in the course of developing a board and weigh it with the potential benefits. Then you'll know if your desired surfboard is achievable.
Do you still want to move forward with planning after getting a mental picture of how difficult shaping a surfboard can be? If so, maybe you could look for ways that will make the process easier or shorter. However, be careful not to take shortcuts that can compromise the quality of your creation or lead to waste.
Benefits of Making a Surfboard for Yourself
Building your own board will allow you to try unique board designs. And if you'll be producing many boards, then you could discover great templates that are marketable. Experimenting with various designs will help you realize what works for your surfing abilities or improves them.
You could create boards that are compatible with different surfing spots. For example; products that can handle the heavy waves or perfect barrels at Pipeline. See the pros and cons of a board-shaping project below.
- Opportunity to express creativity
- Personalization of designs
- Feeling of accomplishment
- Controllable expenses
- Results limited by skill level
- Time-consuming process
- Many requirements
Planning to Shape a Board: Factors to Consider
Here, you'll see the factors that will determine your final decision to begin shaping a surfboard or not.
1. Consider Your Shaping Skill Level
It would be great if you're skilled in DIY precision work or building things like furniture. Your experience in woodwork and/or metalwork will definitely be a plus. You shouldn't have reservations about getting your hands dirty if you're going to be a shaper.
Learn under the guidance of an expert or follow the DIY tips on YouTube videos diligently. Information on surfing blog posts will also help. Becoming a learner requires serious dedication that your schedule may not allow.
You can start with smaller sizes and gather some experience with them before moving on to the bigger or longer surfboards. Based on your design, it may be easier for you to construct a board of smaller size. It may also be better to go for a simple design on your first try.
2. Your Surf Skill Level
Keep in mind that it's recommended that surfers at the beginner level should start with longboards. On the other hand, athletes at the advanced skill level are advised to ride the waves with shortboards. So you'll know which size to go for based on the level you're on.
3. Cost of Work Area, Tools, and Materials
Find out what would be the cost of setting up the work area as well as getting the materials and tools ready. It's advisable to have a space where there’ll be a stand to do all the work. This space is called the shaping bay. It needs adequate room for movement and storage (equipment). The lists below will show most of what you're expected to obtain.
Materials for Shaping
- Steel square
- Dust mask
- Spokeshave (Material removal from a stringer)
- Sanding block
- Sandpaper (various sizes and grits)
- Foam blank
- Weight (To hold the blank down as it's being shaped)
Materials for Glassing
- Disposable squeegees
- Disposable latex gloves
- Resin and hardener
- Fiberglass cloth
- Fiberglass rope (for glass-on fins only)
- Respirator and vapor cartridge
- Mixing containers
- Mixing sticks
- Fin boxes and fins
- Wax paper
- Duct tape and masking tape
- Paper towels and rags (white)
- Razor blades and cheap scissors
- Cheap natural bristle or foam brushes
- Clean-up solvents
- Nylon leash rope
Do more research on the equipment you need because the above lists are not detailed or exhaustive. Expect to spend at least $200 to finish the project and possibly over $300. Although high-tech equipment may also come into play such as software, 3D scanners, 3D printers, and so on to increases the expenses.
Note: The cost of buying a board as an alternative is between $150 and $1,200; depending on if it's a shortboard, soft top or foamie board, or longboard.
Apart from being a fun idea, it would be exciting to ride the waves on a surfboard that you made with your own hands. Also, imagine being able to pull off producing a board that can surf at Pipeline. You'd definitely earn yourself some bragging rights for doing that. And maybe you can even push the idea further for it to become a business venture!
Does the possible cost outweigh the rewards that you could gain from fashioning the board you want? Is it more expensive than buying a surfboard? If yes to those two questions, then it may be best to abandon the project and buy a board instead.