Archive for May, 2010

The key to board design

May 16, 2010

I recently read an interview with a well known shaper who mentioned that rocker was the starting point for making a surfboard. While I don’t object to anyone holding that view, I approach making a surfboard a bit differently.

The first thing I do, whether someone asks me to make a surfboard or I decide to make myself one is; I establish what that surfboard is supposed to do. This is going to take some extensive communication with the surfer to determine and it’s likely that he doesn’t really know. Sure he’ll tell you what he wants, but there is a good chance that what he says is not actually true.  This doesn’t mean that I think surfers are liars, but rather that very few have a basic understanding of what they really want. We can see the evidence of this when we read that “Joe Hero” rode a “retro” surfboard and now that is a popular revival shape. Why? Is it because surfers have suddenly discovered that that shape suits them better or because they want to be like Joe Hero?

This has gotten to the silly extreme that some have blamed Slater for causing a decade of surfers to ride the wrong surfboard (too thin, narrow, extreme, etc.). I don’t recall that Slater was making surfboards or dictating shapes for anyone. This means that surfers and shapers were not being honest with themselves or with each other. If a surfer is riding the wrong shape (for him) it is his and his shaper’s fault. This means that if a surfer is not on the correct shape, then he and his shaper have failed the first step of identifying what that surfboard is supposed to do.

I am sure that many guy surfers got surfboards just so they could get the girls and likewise some girl surfers so they could get the guys. This is fine with me although it’s unlikely I’d make anyone a surfboard under those conditions. I would suggest they get an “average” surfboard off the rack, but perhaps customize the graphics as needed. There is one situation that I might get interested in making someone a surfboard to “get the girl”; that is if the girl was such a gem that she got my interest. In that case I’d likely see if I could make the surfboard with the idea of stealing the girl.

Once I determine what the surfboard is supposed to do (and that includes wave size range, steepness, power, speed, and more) I would start looking at length, width, rocker, fin placement and the rest of the details. All of the elements interrelate, so if you change one you better look at the others to see if they should also be changed.