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Looking for a New Board? Why Not Make Your Own?

By Jake Howard

With summertime knocking, things opening up a bit and life inching toward normalcy, perhaps it’s time to step into the shaping bay and whittle yourself a new surfboard.

Making a surfboard with your own two hands isn’t nearly as daunting a challenge as it may sound. And, thankfully, we live in the ideal place to cover yourself in foam dust.

Recently, I found myself stepping into Basham’s Factory and Surf Shop in San Clemente to eyeball the used rack and see if there were any diamonds in the rough. I soon found myself wandering through the aisle with all of the shaping tools and materials. Then I started checking out all the raw foam blanks.

“As far as functional and foundational building of a surfboard, it really hinges on two basics that are of equal importance,” master craftsman Marc Andreini told me in an interview a few years back.

“One would be the template, the outline curve. And second, which is equal, is the rocker,” he continued. “Those two things have to be harmonious, and from there, although there’s really nothing that’s unimportant—maybe fine sanding is the only thing that you don’t have to worry too much about—but from there, it’s pretty easy to pull off a functional surfboard.”

A few years back, I was afforded the opportunity to make a board at the Shaper’s Studio in San Diego. Learning the basics of the process, the pursuit of a “functional surfboard” is what I was after—meaning, if it floated and I could catch a wave on it, I would be happy with the result.

With a relatively small list of tools and materials, it’s relatively easy and affordable to get started shaping your own board. Basham’s has pretty much everything you’ll need.

When I decided I wanted to take the next step and shape a board in my garage, my shopping list wasn’t very long. I armed myself with a surform tool, a sanding pad, some sandpaper and sanding screens, a measuring square and mini planer.

Where the magic happens, inside Timmy Patterson’s shaping bay in San Clemente. Photo: Jake Howard

I already had a small handsaw to cut out the outline of the board and a few other random tools that I’d been stockpiling. I borrowed a planer from a friend, but that’s the next necessary tool to acquire. Most important of all, I picked up a 7-foot, 4-inch blank and was out the door for under $200. 

My shopping list included the following:

  • Surfboard Blank: From $70-$200 depending on size and material
  • Stanley Surform 10-inch Plane: $20
  • FlexPad Velcro Block: $21
  • FlexPad Velcro Sand Screen: $4
  • FlexPad Velcro Sand Paper: $2
  • Kakuri Mini Plane—Curved: $45

I made a rack to shape on using some leftover galvanized pipe, a cut-up two-by-four, an old yoga mat, and, of course, duct tape—but I’d really recommend inquiring at Basham’s about renting a shaping bay.

The biggest challenge a first-time shaper may experience is finding a template to use. Closely guarded by the community of shapers, the template will allow you to trace the outline of your soon-to-be new board on the foam blank and cut it out.

There are a lot of how-to videos out there online, as well as some really good books on the subject. It may also be possible to take a lesson or two, which really helps get you started in the right direction.

I haven’t dabbled with the mystic art of glassing a surfboard. You can pay the guys at Basham’s to do that for you, and it’s well worth your money. But if you really want to mess around with cloth and resin, they have those materials there as well.

Just remember, for the first-timers, success can be measured in terms of a “functional surfboard,” and the reward of riding a board you made yourself far outweighs how weird it may ultimately look.

Jake Howard is local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for a number of publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.

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