Archive for March, 2010

What makes a shaper?

March 28, 2010

I was reading a recent interview with shaper Matt Biolos and he had some good things to say. Among them was a comment about using computers to shape surfboards in which he pointed out that just because someone was good at using a CAD program, doesn’t mean he’d be any good at producing a good surfboard. I couldn’t agree more; however there is absolutely no reason a shaper would ever have to hand shape any surfboard to learn his craft, and even become the best shaper. He would, however, have to know the basics of surfboard design before he became any good as a shaper.

The tools that a shaper uses do not shape the surfboard; even a computer controlled shaping machine does not shape a surfboard. In every case a shaper tells the tools what to do. If hand tools are used, the shaper guides those tools with his hands; yes it is a skill and maybe even an art. If a computer is used, the shaper has to tell that computer exactly what to do. There is no difference in the degree of understanding of surfboard design needed in either case.

So how does a person learn to shape? #1 you have to want to learn it; then you just start doing it! Naturally I suggest you read my book “The Basics of Surfboard Design” but that won’t make a shaper out of you. It will orient you to the elements that make up a surfboard shape and how those elements dictate the way a board rides. You will however have to shape surfboards and ride them and see how that ride compares to the basics I wrote. If you do that and gain your own understanding, you will be able to master shaping. Do not take anyone’s word for it, no matter how stellar the shaper (no don’t take my word for it either). You have to come to your own understanding of surfboard design; reading what others say can help, providing you find out for yourself if it is true or not true for you. Hop over to: There’s more info there.


Say what??

March 19, 2010

Recently, I read a couple of on-line surf mag articles about surfboard design. Once again I was dismayed at how confused the writer seemed to be about his subject. This is easy to see by the complexity of the article, the confusion generated by the use of terms that are not explained or are not clearly explained, the use of terms that can’t even be found in a large dictionary (with no explanation) and generally a complex explanation of simple concepts.

My surf buddy tells me that Albert Einstein said.” If you can’t describe it to someone, in simple terms, that they can understand, you don’t understand it yourself.” Good words that I think we should pay attention to when we read or write something. So if the article seems overly complex, the terms undecipherable, and it gets you confused, first ensure you understand all the words being used and then start to suspect that you may have encountered a “PHD” (piled higher and deeper).

I hate to have to say this but often the “experts” try to snow us with BS. There are a couple of reasons they would do this: one is that they simply don’t know their subject well and are confused and trying to hide their own ignorance; the other is that they are trying to prove a superiority to us by making the subject seem too difficult for us mere mortals to understand. On the other hand, I have read or talked to people that really knew their subject; they were always a pleasure to read or talk to and did not make the subject confusing.

Surfboard design is not a difficult or complex subject to understand, but some of our “experts” make it appear that way. A surfboard is a simple device; its function can be understood by looking at each part separately and then at how those parts interrelate. Learn more at: