Shape Your Own Surfboard

Prices for the cheapest surfboards range from $300 to $500, and the number accelerates fast with higher quality and brand names. Surfboard blanks cost only about 10 percent of that of a ready-made surfboard. If you are tempted by the idea of shaping your own surfboard, there are likely more than costs that attract you. Riding a self-made board takes surfing to a whole new level. Before you dig in, however, read the advice that follows to avoid beginner's mistakes.

DO: Choose a good surfboard blank

There are two main types of surfboard blanks you can order. First are square blocks, usually made from polystyrene block foam. These will require a lot more time and physical labor than the second type. The second type is polyurethane, or polystyrene blanks. The latter are close-to-shape, which means they are much thinner. You will have less strenuous work with this type, but you will have to be more precise. Consider the following when deciding on which type to buy: the amount of time you can set aside for shaping, your experience (or lack of) working with tools and shaping, and what you want to achieve (proving something to yourself, or just having fun).

DO: Practice first

Before getting your hands on a surfboard blank, it is a good idea to practice on scrap foam. You might want to put special emphasis on shaping the rails, as this is a delicate part of surfboard shaping. You can also practice whatever you feel will cause you the most problems.

DO: Film your Pprogress

Having a personal shaping notebook with photos/videos can prove to be very useful over time. In it, you trace your progress and mark the areas where you need to improve. Photos of all the steps of the shaping process can also serve as a manual for your future projects.

DO: Use methods and tools according to your level of expertise

There are many video tutorials online offering surfboard shaping advice and step-by-step guides. Be selective when deciding which one you are going to follow. Many videos show how professionals build surfboards, and the advice given there is likely not applicable to you as a beginner. Be reasonable and choose a guide suited for the tools you own and the skills you have.

DON'T: Expect a perfect surfboard

If you are shaping your first surfboard, you can forget perfection. That is the true even if it's your 10th surfboard. Surfboard shaping is a difficult job and it requires a lot of skill and experience to achieve the desired result. An experienced surfboard-shaping teacher once said that only after about 100 surfboards will you get some real control over the finished product.

DON'T: Apply too many tools

As illogical as it sounds, excessive labor and usage of tools on the surfboard blank leads to less perfection on the end product. That's because with every touch of the blank with a sanding block or planer, you remove foam. Sanding, planing, and shaving the foam often make a less accurate surfboard.

DON'T: Belittle the power planer

While still learning to shape, you will probably use a variety of shapers to achieve the result. However, as you progress you will learn that many of the tools are used mainly for cleaning up the surfboard and to prepare it for glossing. As you become more skillful and precise, try using only the power planer and you will see that you can actually shape a surfboard with it.

DON'T: Do it alone

If you decide to pursue surfboard shaping, try to take advantage of an experienced shaper who will answer your questions or might even be willing to mentor you. Feedback from a shaper with experience can be priceless. Try also to observe others while they shape, as often as you can.

Shaping your own surfboard is a very rewarding experience. No matter how your first board comes out, you will always look back on it with fond memories. While working on your first project, you might even discover your hidden passion for surfboard shaping and decide to seriously pursue it. No matter what the case, the advice above will give you a good start.

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