Shaping by the numbers

Based on some of the search items that landed people on my blog, some of you should be contacting me or posting a comment; I could be of help with some of those questions. (I didn’t answer all possible questions on this blog yet – I don’t even know what they are.) Note that the following discussion is not just for those that want to shape a surfboard; it’s for anyone that wants to get a better board than what he or she has. Use it to: find a better used board, find a better new board “off the rack”, help to order a custom board, or as a guide if you want to shape it yourself.

One thing that I’ve been noticing is that many of you want numbers. This could include measurements to describe the: rocker, fin placement, fin size, board thickness, etc. It is true that any surfboard could be described by a series of numbers (and of course that is how a computer runs a shaping machine.) However it is not possible for anyone to tell you any meaningful numbers, unless he is working directly with you and works out exactly what you want your surfboard to do.

Here is my advice for a starting point for numbers (you actually don’t need numbers, you need relationships). But you do need a starting point and it can be described with numbers. If you’re a newbie, get some help but your main problem will be catching waves and standing up. You want a board that is easy to paddle and to catch waves with (longer, wider and thicker helps) once you build your paddling strength and are getting rides easily, it’s time to decide if you want a different board. At this point you have the starting numbers; they are the measurements that make up the shape of the board you are riding. Those of you that have been around (including the experts) your starting point is the board you’re riding (or in some cases recent boards).

The first thing you have to decide is how you want the surfboard to ride; you will be looking for an improvement over what you have. This is a key point and the better you pin this down, the better your chances are for an improved board. Once you establish what the improved ride should be like, you simply figure out what changes should be made to your existing board, add to or subtract from, its measurements, and you have the numbers for your new surfboard. Simple, huh?

Yes, I’m chuckling because I understand what you’re likely thinking. “Great, Bob but what dimensions do I change, by how much, and in what direction?!!” Heh, heh, that’s the “Great Sacred Mystery” of shaping that only the top gurus know, and you have to…. I’m kidding you of course, because there is no mystery, never was really, it’s just a matter of how closely you look at all the elements of the surfboard and of the waves, and come to an understanding of them. I wrote “The Basics of Surfboard Design” so we would have all the important elements in the most straight-forward, understandable, format possible.

Ok, so I got you to where you know the starting point for your next surfboard, now you have to figure out what the new measurements should be. Read my book and examine each line on your surfboard in light of what I say that line controls. Think of how your board rides in terms of each line, for instance rocker: how does your board trim compared to where you are standing on it and under what conditions (faster/slower, larger/smaller wave, more/less powerful wave, etc.) You need to be able to understand each line separately, and then you need to be able to see how those lines interrelate.

From some feedback I’ve gotten, there are some who seem to think that my book is for beginners, but it’s actually for the most advanced shapers. It was written to be understandable by anyone if they have an interest, but the most advanced shapers are only manipulating the lines I discuss and they get the results I describe. I’ve listened and talked to, email chatted with and read articles by some of the top shapers and I suspect that some of them could use a better understanding of surfboard design basics; still, they are all great craftsmen.



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