Remarkably, a lot of good surfers really don’t know the process that a highly experienced shaper goes through for a demanding one off custom shape. Particularly a hand shaped board that demands deck and bottom rocker adjustments, specific thickness foil and individual deck and bottom contours when not inherently in the blank to begin with. IOW envision chipping perfection out of a big block of foam.
I had a close friend and very good surfer get in the shaping room with me this week thinking I was going to whip out an 8’3" in half an hour that he wants to take and leave in Hawaii. We do regular business producing a design he conceived,and I have a private stock of blanks for that particular design. Then he comes and throws me a curve ball with something else. Hey, that’s the nature of custom. So once we get into the room he starts to try to direct me in ways that I never do and I have to engage in what I call “potty training”. For instance, his big focus was on fulling out the nose curve compared to his 9’0" semi that I made him. He wanted me to maintain the back 60% of that board and widen the front.
“Let’s draw out the nose that I want first” he says.
“Let’s not” I reply.
Then I explain to him that my method is to always work from the back end first. It works for me and I am very methodical which I prefer to call “disciplined”. We draw the aft section up to where he wants to bring the curve out fuller. I measure a couple widths on the nose of the 9’0" (at 12" & 19" back - the area he wants fuller) and put a couple dots on the blank. Then instead of drawing a bunch of different lines that will get confusing after the 2nd or 3rd try, Instead I grab some green 3/4" tape and pull the curve he’s asking for.
“Is that what you want”?
“Wow, that’s perfect”!
I recognize that curve, and pull one of my templates used a lot on sailboards in the 80’s. I place it on there and they are spot on to each other… I mean spot on. No flats in the tape off, and positioning the template a little bit and they are a perfect match. So now I can draw both sides and have at it.
He’s now getting excited and wants to hurry, except for one thing:
I point out to him that the blank I use on his other ‘model stuff’ has a considerably flattened rocker at both ends and results in deck distortion (camel hump) that I have to correct before anything else. Especially if he expects me to net the thickness that he is asking for. I also make him slow down so I can pick his brain to find out what he wants to change from the 9’0" to the 8’3". I explain to him that the flattened blank will require me to build that rocker he wants into the blank, I have to measure the 9’0"s tail rocker in several specific intervals then compare to the flattened blank to look for a correlation and ratio if there is one. I find a 3:1 ratio in 3 of the 5 measurements I take, the other two are less than a 2:1 ratio.
Comparing curves from one length to another in order to translate that into a desired curve into a different size board is both complex and challenging… and it also goes completely over his head, even as experienced as he is in working with many different luminary shapers over many years.
So finally after I make him slow down and explain I have to map out all the features he wants in this newer counterpart to his 9’0"… only then do I even know if the blank we have will net what he wants.
3 and 1/2 hours later of complicated and intensive restructuring of a blank that was never intended for this type of shape, I have a super fine tuned board that would have been much easier to produce if I’d known first hand what he was after before I started.
But that’s the nature of custom.
And that’s also why throughout the years I made fewer boards for less money than how I approach it now. Yes I still do one off customs. In fact I have to dupe a 7’11" Surf Prescriptions (albeit in EPS) next week. And it will be about as exact as you can imagine (I scribed the deck & bottom rocker and thickness flow aka foil for this and the blank was made from those templates). Get out the contour calipers for rail shape replication, etc.
Anyway, I make more money and produce far more by offering models. It has become a necessity of our times. Otherwise you make very little, if a living at all. That’s why replicating someone else’s design COSTS EXTRA. It would cost even more if you scanned it then found the correct blank to have it machined…
The “Psychology of a Surfboard Customer” is whack. If you are a no name shaper bending over backwards creating one offs that are someone else’s idea of perfection (which if their idea doesn’t work and you shape it… then it’s your fault and your name is on the board…)
Well, I’ll just stop here. You get the point!