How specialized hand shapers stay relevant in the era of digital design
While the big labels still depend on a wide array of specialists at every level of production, today’s most renowned custom board builders have become masters of it all: concept, design, shaping, coloring, laminating, hot-coating, fin design, even sanding and polishing. And these craftsmen refuse to be bound by convention, which is why a wider variety of alternative designs (i.e. finless, asymmetric, cutoffs) than ever before are available today.
Shaper Thomas Scott works with resources from his own backyard in Rio
"I loved the idea of shaping a board from something other than polyurethane or EPS. The first photos of Agave boards I saw were Jim Philip’s and Gary Linden's. I was willing to give it a go. I was very interested in the fact that it was a natural material; the process of making one was a bit of a mystery to me."
Ryan Burch and the art of shaping your own dream board
"I’m in a position where I’m so lucky to not have to shape full-time, and that gives me a creative freedom that means the world to me. I only do it out of my own desire to create something—I don’t have to do it for anybody that I don’t want to. I can go in there and do whatever the heck I want and there’s no obligation."
Five things to keep in mind when ordering your next board
We’re always looking for our next magic board, but let’s face it, experimenting isn’t cheap. To increase the odds of picking up a stick that you’ll actually love, we reached out to several board manufacturers for their advice on finding the unique combination elements that will suit your surfing.
Sharks' textured skin allows them to move faster through the water. Can the same concept be applied to surfboards?
“It’s all based on the idea of reducing drag in the water. Sharks are perfect examples. If you were to touch a shark’s skin, you would notice that it’s really smooth in one direction and very rough on the other. On the surface of their skin are these small divots that create an effect that allows them to cut through the water faster. Instead of the water simply sliding down their bodies, it bounces off of the divots in their skin, creating small vortexes that they’re able to glide on. I wanted to take this idea and relate it to surfboards.”
How new technology is shaping the designer
As the tools of a craft evolve, so too do the craftsmen. The late ’90s saw the first glimpses of computer-aided design (CAD) being applied to surfboard manufacturing. Since, the programs and processes have improved, allowing an art once left solely in the hands of traditional shapers to be accessible to those with little or no hands-on shaping experience. And, consequently, with this shift from handsaw and planer to keyboard and mouse comes a simultaneous shift in the profile of the surfboard shaper.