Shapers’ Advice

Five things to keep in mind when ordering your next board

| posted on August 23, 2012

When you have this many options, advice from craftsmen is a must. Photo: Ellis

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.

Find the right foam and stringer
“The species of wood in a stringer and the layup of the stringer will change the strength and stiffness of your board. There are many options available to shapers to get their desired characteristics to suit the shape and construction.

“The foam type, density, and flexural properties will affect both the feeling under your feet, as well as the compressional strength and how well it supports the load of your laminate. If your foam is soft, it will compress easily and not support the laminate from buckling. Foam that is more rigid will hold up against compressions and support the load of the laminate, but if it is too rigid or dense it will feel hard and dead under your feet, which is the easiest way to tell. Choosing the right foam to work with the construction of your laminate will result in a board that is durable, and feels great when you ride it.”—Hayden Cox, Hayden Shapes

Notice the difference in tail design
“The average surfer probably doesn’t have the experience base to understand surfboards—they just want a board that looks cool or different, or that they think will work well. But what they don’t understand is how the tail can affect the board’s performance. In the end, it’s all relative to the experience level of the surfer. A pro may have several boards in their quiver with the same shape, but all with different tail designs, i.e. round tail, squash tail, diamond tail, with each one designed for slightly different conditions. Less experienced surfers may not feel these subtle differences, but will feel the more exaggerated differences and tend to accept the shape of certain models as they are offered up.

Example: “A short, wide board with a very square tail will ride much differently than the same one with a rounded squash. The average surfer will accept what is offered up in the store as a particular model. A more experienced surfer will say, ‘Please make me one, but let’s reduce the tail area a little and add some curve to the outline through the fin area.’ Hoping it will ride a little better and have smoother transitions through turns without giving up too much of the tail area their looking for.”—Rusty Preisendorfer, Rusty Surfboards

Know the advantages of a longer and thicker board
“We make 14-year-old Kanoa Igarashi a bigger-than-average board for his size each time he goes through a growth spurt. I asked that he ride a longer and slightly thicker board at least once or twice a week to continue developing his rail and power surfing. It’s so easy to get caught up in riding a board that’s shorter and technically suited for the most high-performance surfing that you see kids forgetting to use their rail. We wanted to make sure this never happens to Kanoa or the other kids on our team. Having him ride bigger boards just keeps him focused on developing all aspects of his surfing and doesn’t let him forget the importance of power surfing in a well-rounded repertoire. A prime example is 18-year-old Conner Coffin. Throughout his youth, Conner came into the factory and borrowed Dane Reynolds’ old boards, which at the time were a good half a foot too big as well as too thick for him. He would just ride them on good days at Rincon, and today you can really see the benefits of this in his style.”—Travis Lee, Channel Islands Team Manager

Understand surfboard volume
“Until the CAD programs (Surfboard design software) became well established, it was next to impossible to measure volume on boards. Now that most all CAD programs tell us the numerical volume, we can track it. In fact, the programs have had it as a tool at our disposal for well over a decade, but I didn’t start tracking it until 4 to 5 years ago. Since 2010, we have strived to write the volume as one of our dimensions on every board we make. Once a surfer has a board with the volume written on it, then he can start to learn how much he feels he needs. It almost needs to be universally written on all boards, by all makers, just like width or thickness. However, the tricky thing is now that we have opened the door for this, it causes issues and some confusion. A customer will often request a model for their standard dimensions, as well as the amount of volume they want. The two will often clash, and you must now customize the file.

Example: “Someone orders a 6’0” x 18.50” x 2.25” Driver model, then tosses out the 25.5 liters of volume. I have to open the master file and change the dimensions to what he requests: 26.50 liters…what do I do? The only way to do it without changing the three major dimensions (length, width, and thickness) is to adjust the foil and rail shape. Then I would need to taper the deck and rails and/or possibly narrow the nose-to-tail foil and/or outline—just to shave off a full liter of volume. It’s a big can of worms.”—Matt Biolos, …Lost Surfboards

Know the appropriate dimensions for a certain model
“A common mistake surfers will make is that they’ll order a small-wave board or a smaller, shorter, and wider board and expect it to work in all conditions. Surfboards are a lot like golf clubs. Each board has a place in your quiver, and if you utilize a three or four board quiver then you can effectively surf any type of condition.
By understanding the purpose and the sizing of a board, you’re going to end up with a much better result. If you buy a board and it’s not the right sizing for your ability, or for your weight, you end up not utilizing all the elements of the board and what it’s intended to do.

Example: “You’ll have a guy that has been riding a 6’2” x 18 ¾” x 2 3/8” high-performance shortboard with a narrow nose and a narrow tail, hoping it will last him 10 years. He goes into a shop and says, ‘I want to try one of those White Diamonds (Roberts’ shorter and wider model).’ He then goes to the rack and picks up a 6’2” and says, “Man this thing feels really big! How come it’s so big?” The reason is, because he should have been looking for a 5’8” or a 5’9”, due to his size and what he’s accustomed to riding.”—Robert Weiner, Roberts Surfboards

Find your next magic board in the 2012 Surfboard Buyer’s Guide.

  • RB Kauai

    You can always tell who the kooks are before they hit the water. Not only because they have farmer tans. But by the board they have under their arm. It doesn’t fit the conditions or their weight & height. I love it

  • Jolix

    I wish there are people who can read this message who can help us to reach our dreams that someday….there are even old surfboards we can use as tools to reach our goal in life…to compete in a world of surfing someday. We are here living in the Island of Siargao Philippines. But we only use flat wood as our surfboard….it’s not a real surfboard.

  • jay

    Surf with your shaper.

  • Matt

    The truth is that the majority of surfers are not riding equipment that would give them the opportunity to surf at their optimum level. There are so many variables that finding that “perfect board” is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. I believe that shapers can add tremendous value by evaluating an individual’s surfing profile and then providing a board that can aid in a surfers’ progression.

  • shala

    RB who cares…. I mean really, sometime people just want to have fun. What do farmer tans have to do with anything other than they’re maybe not local? Some people happen to have farmer tans and are visiting your surf place for the first time and some people have to work all the time. Stop being so local and share the space with the good and not so good surfers.

  • Michael Davis

    Back in the 60’s and even early 70’s most surfers didn’t have a quiver to go to. Even team riders didn’t have a quiver of sticks like they do now. Most good surfers would have to get a stick that would work in all wave conditions. They would have to settle for a stick that would work a little better in waves they rode most often and loose a little performance in waves they didn’t come across to often. It was a give and take kind of deal. During the single fin days we would change the style of fin to get a little different fill. Myself I liked the Clark foam blanks and the old school poly. boards ; when the twin fin first came out the boards being built at first had good floatation some width to them and paddled really well. I can remember back then when you were in the line up waiting for a wave you would be sitting on your stick and it would float…now they sink a foot are more.

  • slickwillie

    This is especially true for the east coast surfers, I grew up surfing NJ and my board there is a 5″11″ Mayhem high performance shape that is perfect for the steep, closing out NJ waves. Now I live in Florida and my go to board is a 5’8″ round nose fish. To be honest in Florida I only use my 5’8″ unless it is chest high plus, which is like 5-6 times per year tops in south florida. When riding my high performance board, I find myself running out of speed in the middle of any type of roundhouse cutback because the waves are so weak here

  • G

    RB Kauai you’re so cool, wow. I Love it…
    No kidding all those kooks from Santa Cruz and other cold water spots with their lame farmer tans. I won’t go into guys ripping on basically tiny boards in double over head waves. One can only hope they find ways to fill their needy egos, like you seem to have obviously accomplished.

  • Dani

    Such a unique sport that let’s you try and try and when you think you have reached your “Magic ” than again after sometime you look for that other “magic” that actualy changed due to your progression \ surfing mature and other sides related to your body change and wave conditions.
    That “magic” stick stays for some time and than as the further progression comes in the future than you look for that “magic” that will make you maximaze your surfing at its best.
    So much variety and complex yet its such a nature bonding sport.
    You may think to change but that change in the surfboard can be for the worth or best – only have to try and acknowledge after each time in order to eliminate factors that for sure do not suit you and write the ones you do need in your next surfboard.
    Each change shall be compensating on another so important to verify the general request from a surfboard and even if it does not feel right at the first session give it a try a few more times – try some patience.
    Volume is so important and that’s really as important as length \ width \ shape design – rocker,tail etc and thickness – so always take this one into consideration !
    Always when i am sure i know what i need than it surprise me again with some model i do not like \ like.

  • nk

    Is really amazing,nearly i cant believe all this thing,what kind people ist it just ussed and harm other people with out reall reason,i will lets u know talking bout board not the mean u can fine out the way and reallity person,but speak ar really formal and nice u will get the realityl answer whay………coz this is all fake just make by person whos really think ar very ponsitif to her.but the reall is not ?thank you…..

  • Rick

    If you’re going custom the best way to get boards well suited for you is to get someone to film you surfing the waves you want to use the board in and show it to your shaper. It can be a bit of a hassle if you’re like most people and don’t get filmed much or at all, but it is of infinite value to the shaper in evaluating how you surf – and you’ll probably learn a lot about yourself as well.