Designing A Custom Surfboard: Part 1

Shaper Supply Board Builders – 12808 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90066

Over the years there have been many boards in my life. They all served their purpose well during their time, but some have more vibrant memories. I’ll never forget the blue 1980’s relic with barely any rocker that gave me my first ride on a shortboard. This thing had glass so thick you could have used it to hammer a nail into a stud. Then came the Basic Element swallow tail with a more modern fun shape. Most duct tape I’ve ever used on a surfboard. I borrowed/lifted it from Dan Mumford when I realized it was fodder for his backyard pool horseplay. As boards go, it met its end in Allenhurst, NJ on a stormy day wave that pitched harder, faster, and heavier than I gave it credit for.

Now, on a different coast with more wave options and decades more experience, the time has come to put my own dimensions together. For anyone who is sick of combing the used board-racks at their local shop – you can follow along on my journey and see if shaping your own board is an experience you’ll want to take part in.

Let’s begin.

I’m shaping my board at:

Shaper Supply located at 12808 Venice Blvd, Venice, California 90066

The Storefront on Venice Blvd.

I picked them because they’re local, they have great Yelp reviews and they offer a hand-held shaping experience for anyone who wants to shape their own board. Options for the shaping itself are hand-shaped or CNC machine cut. Options for glass are traditional fiberglass or epoxy resin. Since I’ve never shaped a board before, I’m going with a CNC machine cut – to provide the least amount of human error possible. And I’m going to use a standard fiberglass glazing, because epoxy resin requires more care (heat causes foam to expand and contract) and I’m used to the weight of a traditional board. Epoxy is much lighter and more buoyant, so shaping is more of a challenge if you haven’t used epoxy boards in the past.

Single Fin Collection

The process starts off with a sit-down between me and Florian, the shopkeeper and shaper. He’s a taller guy, early to mid-thirties, whose welcoming spirit (and sun-kissed tattoos) gives you the impression that he tour managed the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a spell and has ridden countless waves up and down the coast. But maybe these days his adrenaline seeking gene has tapered off a bit – probably due to fatherhood.

He’s patient, friendly and has good answers for all my questions. I’ve done my homework on shaping, but my grasp is slippery at best. I ordered ‘The Surfboard Book: How Design Affect Performance‘ on Amazon and read it through. It’s stashed in the bathroom for quick and easy reference access. If you surf, I recommend reading it, just so you at least know what is going on with your board. Everyone seems to pretend that they know why boards are shaped they way they are, but after 20 years of surfing, I feel pretty confident that very few people actually know what they’re talking about. Florian is one of the very few.

For about 45 minutes we sat and he gave me a crash-course in Shape 3D ( It’s a tool that lets you build the CAD of your future board. I’ve just begun to mess with it, but so far I’d describe it as Illustrator meets Windows 95. I’ve downloaded a couple template to start with, near to the shape I’m leaning towards and I’ll tweak them to my exact specifications. Once I’m done, I’ll send Florian the file for his blessing and it’s off to the CNC machine…


Check back for Part 2: The Shape and the Cut


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