Our surfing life, and the surfing experience, is always evolving. This is what makes it so great. With time we learn to almost taste and smell a change in wind, or what a rising swell sounds like from your tent on the beach. It took me years to learn what offshore wind is, or what it means to be “caught inside”. Before these were just buzz words and noise, merely the backdrop to my emerging life as a “surfer guy”. Invariably we start to look at our surfboards through different eyes. With years of fine tuning and many,many boards you will start to get a grasp of the why/when/what of surfboard design, but there’s a quicker way. Make your own.
Spending a bit of time on the swaylocks forums will educate you of the possibilities. Making your own board will get you closer to the ocean. It will make you wanna bring your shaper a box of beers. It will get you onto different equipment and drawing different lines. After making your own surfboard you will have a heightened respect for your local shaper and the board building profession, you will understand you own surfing ability and local conditions, and most importantly, you’ll be able to match a board accordingly, whether made by you or not, enriching your wave riding experience.
Bear in mind this is a sea of concepts and ideas, and even among the top ranking surfboard artisans there are conflicts of opinion. Simply, when we are surfing a wave, there are too many variables. Is my board skidding out off the bottom because my fins are too small, or am I not laying enough rail? Is it rocker, or how twitchy my legs are feeling that day? Is is me, the board, or the conditions? Does my bum look big in this?
The growing number of Chinese, Thai and now Indonesian factory made boards should raise questions about the direction we want surfboard production to be taking. These are often sold to newcomers as the right board for them, when usually these recommendations come from surf shop owners who have profit margins to think about. A need for a hand shaped, usually more expensive board doesn’t make sense when the two boards look the same to untrained eyes.
Most shapers agree that fibreglass and foam have many downsides, mainly ecological. Wood is a material beautifully suited to many of the characteristics needed to make a lively surfboard, but lacks the consistency of a synthetic material. 3d printed surfboards made at home from green plastic are not inconceivable. The types of construction we take for granted began in the backyard and new construction and design ideas will always come to life here, so long as there are people with the desire and talent to give it a go.