The DIY Surfboard

Bobby Hundreds

It says something about the popularity of surfing today that aspiring waveriders can pop down to their local Costco and pick up a board on the way to the beach. Granted, it’s a mass-produced, pop-out surfboard created by machines in China, but the sentiment remains. If that sort of unromantic purchase isn’t quite the experience you’re hoping for, though, there is another option. You could make your own board. The feeling of sculpting a surfboard out of a raw block of foam with our two hands, and then riding it for the first time, was one of the most fulfilling surf experiences we’ve ever had. Now, thanks to Florian Saylor and his Venice Beach-based Shaper’s Supply Company, anyone can learn how to build their own board.

As much art as it is craftsmanship and carpentry, shaping your own surfboard requires a set of specific tools, techniques, and knowledge that usually take years to learn and decades to perfect. Shaper’s Supply Company offers a tantalizing taste of what surely is an addictive pastime. Equal parts hangout, workshop, and retail store located a couple of miles from the beach, the hybrid outfit sells everything you need to shape your own board in the backyard or garage. What’s more, Saylor himself will guide you through the process via all-inclusive surfboard-shaping lessons in the company’s two beautiful shaping bays (read: workshops to build surfboards).

For about the same price as a standard store-bought board ($700 to $1,200, depending on the size you want), Saylor will personally show you the process. From creating a template and cutting the foam blank to sculpting the rails and setting the fins, every step is made easier thanks to Saylor’s helpful tips and hints and demonstrations on using the tools correctly and efficiently. Make no mistake: He won’t shape your board for you, but he does make sure you know what you’re doing by the time you finish.

After our lesson, which took four to five hours, we were left with a brand-new custom-built surfboard. Amazing! It then goes to the glasser, who uses resin and fiberglass to “finish” the board, which is usually ready two to seven days later, depending on scheduling, and includes coloring and any decals or other cosmetics you want. Once the board is glassed, it’s ready to go. We were blown away by how well ours rode, thanks in great part to Saylor, of course – so much so that we were stoked to go back into Shaper’s Supply and make another one, this time all on our own using the skills Saylor had taught us.

Therein lies the real beauty of the Shaper’s Supply Company. For a small hourly rate ($25/hour) or monthly membership fee ($350/month), we can use all of the tools and shaping bays at the Shaper’s Supply Company, so all we’ll have to pay for is materials. Which means anytime we get a burst of inspiration and we have free time, we can head straight to the “shaping shack,” drink a few beers with other fledgling shapers, and let our imagination run wild. Every board gets better than the last, and they’re as fun to shape as they are to surf. While our boards are far from perfect, they’ll be just right after we’ve had a few more welcome decades of practice. []

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