Custom or production??

This is a positivist view of science that’s somewhat limited.

It’s completely valid to gather enough opinions along with supporting information (board characteristics) and then to assimilate these into categories.  If the sample is big enough then you can make generalisations.

Hey! Isn’t than what surfboard building (and Sways) is all about?  Guidelines exist in the head of every good shaper.  The paradigm is not exactly the same for all of them (they have found varying solutions to the same problem), but that reflects the complexity of the problem and context (refer “messes” or 'wicked" problems), not the lack of knowledge.

I realise that this is not “good” enough for some people (you should hear my CNC operator who’s used to working in the motor racing industry).  They want difinitive numbers, test statistics and guidelines.  Throw in a budget the size of NASA and you’ll get it.  Until then qualitative social science research methods will have to suffice.

Better is entirely within the eye of the beholder.  Surfing isn’t a sport where there is a clearly marked goal line or a objective measure of victory.  It’s a form of expression and is at least as much about feel as about the visually identifiable.  


I got into shaping because I couldn’t buy what I wanted off the rack and I couldn’t get it from the shapers I had been dealing with.  The former because it wasn’t available and the latter because I didn’t know enough to be able to adequately identify and articulate exactly what i was looking for.  

Shaping and glassing my own boards gave me a measure of control over what I was using that I’d never had before.   It also taught me a lot about what features would return what I was looking for.    If nothing else, shaping and glassing and everything I learned by trying to get better made me a much better informed consumer.  


If someone approaches surfing as being a sport rather than a form of self expression then their choice of sporting goods doesn’t make all that much difference to their experience beyond the superficial WYSIWYG perspective.  They might as well let the magazine ads and the models tell them how to spend their money.   OTOH, if part of their surfing experience includes their personal relationship with the board - whether by picking out the combination of attributes or even building it themself - then the relationship with the people who contributed to that experience matters.  That’s true whether it was the person who shaped it or glassed it or sold you the blank or gave you pointers on how to do that pinline or designed a template you liked enough to emulate or whatever.  

The last board I built includes a bottom and rail configuration that I liked from one shaper; a foil and deck layout that I liked from another shaper, template features I liked from two different shapers, fin layout from Probox Larry, Matt Calvano and Larry  Mabile, and an epoxy lamination and finish I got from 3 different glassers.  None of it was original on my part except the assembly of this particular combination.  Inasmuch as I am really stoked how most of it turned out I owe props to all of them.  My direct personal involvement and their indirect involvement absolutely figures heavily into my surfing experience with that board.  

I could never have gotten anything even remotely close to this from any production vendor.   I don’t think I could even have gotten most of these features off any of the generic retail shapes those production factories put out.  It is the artisans I’m following and shamelessly trying to emulate, not the businessmen whose perspective is defined by units of production and sales volumes.   

For me, it’s definitely personal.  So yeah, for me there’s no question - custom is absolutely better.    

To define “BETTER”


get some people and
Take some averages …Like…


Did your Custom come out the way you liked ?

Did it last longer than your off the shelf model ?

Did you mind waiting ?

Was the price VS benift (of customs) there ?

Which board could you find more Inperfections with ?

Did your friends give you shit about the board your bought ? 
(either of shelf or custom)

Did your freinds enjoy riding your board ? 


(post not intended to favor either party, just an idea on how to define better)


to point an intent analytical mind in the right direction,

The ocean is that way.The surf is the world capital

of objective non anecdotal and you ,as many often do,

have misspelled ''pier reviewed''...

A Good board is a good board

if you wanna be convinced

you are a candidate for a sophisticated sales pitch .

double blindness is great for an FDA pharmeceutical

but as to surfin boards and performance issues

we have found in clinical trials here at the laboratory

that to ask two blinded critics is as good as fifty blind

critics.from the simple fact that this subjective attitude

remains a criterion concern the inquisitive concerned

indeed must by no understatement be banned

from getting a custom shaped and glassed board.

the entry level surfboard buyer's need to be convinced,

has displayed the lack of experience necessary to appreciate a custom.

This "need to be convinced " is a front for a burning void of personal experience

desperate for anecdotal vicarious experience,what is a clinical test other than an

officiated documented measured anecdote.


Garbage in some say

garbage out.

pop out surfboards

are often the Best

for pop-out surfers

Just like Mike D. eluded too....You can take the exact same shaped board, with the exact same fin set up. And make it ride completely different many, many ,many different ways.  Poly foam...EPS, 4/4/4 glassing, parabolic stringer, no stringers, d-cell, core-cell, wood veneer, underglass, no glassing, too much glassing, etc.  I've tried all of the above in the same shape, and i know what I like.

we have reached a point that imperical data for a specialized pool toy is way too difficult for any organization, except maybe NASA.  

Quality control is about the only objective parameter in building boards.

There may obviously be times when custom or production is the question, at least from a consumer's point of view, but consider the builder's point of view. In which case, the question might be phrased 'custom or bread-and-butter?'

The cost of descent quality custom is virtually the same as of a descent quality 'bread-and-butter' board, but with the former comes increased risk, which reduces the expected gain of the builder (and it's both a short and long-term risk.) There is nothing new here, it's one of the major reasons why the high volume production boards currently rule the marketplace – and some of which are of pretty high quality.

Crafty's CNC Fiasco thread, for me at least, introduced a little more than the perils of choosing a incompetent miller into the general conversation. Lists of competent millers will eventually surface, as already have lists of competent glassers. When that happens, it's not inconceivable to envision that people, at least those who know what they like, will start carrying around their own files, like medical records. If you loose or destroy a board, you send your file to a miller, and then arrange for him to send it off to a glasser, and the last guy in the chain sends it to you. Or, if you want to just tweak your board a bit, you make the tweak in your file, or get somebody to tweak it for you, and send it through the system. Either way, the wait time or turn-around will likely be reduced, conceivably to a matter of days.

My guess will be that the costs are likely to stay the same, or may even go down for such scenarios. If each link in the chain is competent, than the risk of a shitty board will be completely placed in the hands of the consumer (remembering that risk in this case has a money equivalent) – but it will at least be a high quality piece of shit.

Will this eliminate the occupation that we now call 'shaper'? No, but it's likely to cut down on their business, at least the bread-and-butter end of it. And if they are to survive it will likely mean they will have to increase their rates, and understandably so... and about time too.



It's too bad surfding deleted his story about the pro's Simon. The jist of it was a pro pulling an off-the-rack identical to replace a broken board. It didn't ride as expected. Not surprising given that it has twice as much glass on the deckside as the custom pro model. That's the fallacy of the ''well, the pros ride PU'' argument. What the pros ride ain't what's in the rack. But let's keep that a secret, wouldn't want to upset the establishment.... 

g’day Mike, do the pros mainly ride super light fall apart polyester/PU? What are the typical pro-glass cloths and the weight of the finished board? I know Surfding says that a few of them are riding epoxy over PU.

I post things and when I get slammed I pull out like surfing on the east side of the Island until dusk when the sharks start to fill in the impact zone I paddle in.

Simmon Anderson is an outstanding shaper. Some of the PRO kids in and around our family will pick one up when in OZ as they will a Chile, JS, DHD or a Weber. I've seen some of the boards they bring over for at least the last 9 years. Before that most of the boards were Californian Made. Seeing guys like Mick, Parko, Dino, Taj (the list goes on for about 10 pages in OZ) Riding all these boards with single barrel concave all the way through the board and perfectly foil and the fins placed slightly different that what was being done in the surf ghettos of Cali.

My son came back from OZ with a Simon that was originally shaped for one of the WCT guys at the time. It rode really well and improves his down the line speed and hard turning. At the time I was making boards with single to double and the fins were further back. This made me adjust the board to Single barrel with the fins moved up slightly. This also improved the general boards I made for custom orders.

To shorten this rant this is what happened:

The board had a 4 oz bottom and a 6 oz deck sand finish glassed on fins. After a few months of riding the board to death He had at least 20 new boards in the rack at our house. (Our garage was all boards and wetsuits at the time). With all the new boards he still walked into a surf shop and paid full retail for a Simmon that he saw in the rack with the same dimensions as the magic carpet he got from OZ. When I check the board out it looked like it was from the same machine file and the rocker was absolutely perfect as was the foil. The quality control was amazing. At full retail as long as you get the magic that's a cheap price to pay to do something you love. He took it out in a pretty good head high firing line up on the Southside of the pier brought it home that night and said, I don't get it this thing looks the same however doesn't ride the same. It was at least a .75 heavier. So I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the shape is important however only a part of it. The glassing schedule is also a key factor. We are talking High Performance Shortboards.

So there is a kind of rule of thumb here in this category of HPSB’s:


1 x 4 oz plus 4 oz butterfly patch Deck, 1 x 4 oz bottom - hot coat with warm resin in a 80 degree plus room - heavy sand - FCS plugs or Glasson (Foam Core - US Blanks RED Formula)


1 x 4 oz plus 4 oz S Cloth - EPOXY over YELLOW PU (Surf blanks America)

4 oz S Cloth Bottom - Fin system (whoever is the sponsor)

EPS - XPS and other materials is a whole other subject. As far as the custom market goes this is what’s working.



1 x 6 oz plus 4 oz full deck patch, 6 oz bottom - hot coat room temperature - sand even and careful not to show any weave. Futures (Foam Core - US Blanks BLUE Formula)

Deck dents are not that important to a serious surfer. The week-end worrier is more freaked out and perceives poor quality if the deck caves.

Therefore you will have a market for the brands that are ready to ride from the shops.

Custom is for a whole different level of surfing.

Regardless of CNC or Hand shaping there's more too it believe it or not?





surfding beat me to it, but like I said , we can't let this get out or it might upset some people.

cheers Mike for bringing up that important point about the pro glass versus glassing for the masses difference and that great explanation Surfding. I expect the S-glass would make a difference as well as the cloth weights.

this is what I’m seeing in the water in west Vicco - a high percentage of my age (late 40s) and older go for their local shaper, because theyve moved on from the chip, but thats not a rule. But most potato chips that I see have the distinctive decals that show they come out of the BASE retail outlet in Vic.

most of the BASE boards I see are by Bourton (Murray), Simon Anderson and DHD (Darren Handley). I see a fair amount of JS boards too. BASE and JS websites are quite open about their use of CAD and CNC. I see the occassional Firewire but not many. The only foreign boards that are popular are Merrick. The Webbers I see are mainly the Afterburner - which is a sort of Flyer type board and not reall ultra high performance chip. The Afterburner does look like it goes well though. I happened to be in the right place at the right time one day and got a waters eye view of Parko (JS) surfing the local waves and all I can say is WOW.