Psychology Of A Surfboard Customer

I thought I’d start a thread on the anatomy of surfboard customer. As you can probably tell I’ve got far too much time and not enough money on my hands. I like to bitch sometimes as well. I have classified surfboard customers into several groups. You long time surfboard manufacturers and surfboard retailers may like to elaborate. 

  1. Dude McDude. Thanks to whoever came up with this title. Likes the idea. Likes the idea of liking the idea even more. More than frequently goes into hybernation when it comes time to actually ordering/buying something. 

  2. Dude. Surfs semi regularly. Enjoys surfing and enjoys spending as little as possible on surfboards as infrequently as possible even more. Saves money for more surfing. Which is why you get all the pleasure/glamour out of being a surfboard shaper. But water gets cold, and the sun gets bright, so spending more than a surfboard every six months on sunnies and wetsuits is no big deal. After all, you need those things to go surfing.

  3. Loser/dickhead. Thinks he can use people. Is owed a favour because he’s never heard of you, you can do somebody a favour can’t you, is this the best board I’ve ever had, did/didn’t use Resin Research, Aerialite, cheaper materials etc. Will stand there and make up complaints without ever even having bought anything because he came “all the way to see you”, petrol costs money, etc, etc, etc. This is why you owe him something. 

  4. The paying customer. A rare beast. They don’t complain unless there’s something actually worth complaining about. Will actually buy something before complaining about if they complain at all, and if they do complain it’s usually for a good reason. Appreciates the amount of time it takes to make a surfboard and is willing a pay a fair price for it. Otherwise know as someone you actually want to come back.

That’s about it for this bitch and moan. Hope you have a cackle.

  1. Non Shaping Shaping Expert has never shaped a board but studies all the magazines and can tell you what you are doing wrong.

  2. Best Friend Cluster F-kr buys boards from you but his neurosis doesn’t allow him to be satisfied with what you make him. There is always something a little off on the latest one, of course the one he sold back when was magic.

  3. The Debator will go head to head with you on anything for the sake of debate. He has no problem describing his bottom as wobbly and unstable after you explain to him that flats and concave are stable and pickle barrels are wobbly. Denies the existence of physics.

  4. The Controller needs to micro manage every aspect of his surfboard being built…from the shape to the 5/32" pinline. Need I say more?

I thought that only the Japaneese made a big deal out of the last 0.75" of the nose tip.

Well you something 30 white kids are equally anal.

1/4" nose clip on the very tip was the main concern last order?

Proud to be customer type #4! I KNOW I’m not being overcharged, given the expertise and time that goes into shaping my board and the very small profit margin the shaper receives. I view a hand-shaped board as a labor of love and a work of art. I wish all the other “customer types” would get a clue - and especially that they’d start boycotting pop-outs!

HAHAHAHA…I don’t shape, but this is a great topic.  I’m in sales, so I can relate in an off beat kinda way.   My rule of thumb, which gets me through the majority of my days, is:

You spend 95% of your time bitching about 5% of your customers.  It’s the cost of making a buck. The percentage might be more in the surf community, as everyone has an opinion, and that opinion is typically better than yours…hahahahaha…great thread.

Yup opinions are like assholes… everyone has one… including you!


Try to build something that doesn't get on the radar of #1, 2, or 3.

DS' #5 is classic, I tell guys if they're getting their info from the mags, they're living in the past.

then there is Customer type 4A - pays, AND brings cold beer when picking up final product at end of day or week…

I love that type. When I was operating out of the Radon Boatyard (80’s) customers would bring me ‘tips’ that included lobster, abalone, scallops, just off the boat rock cod, avocados, lemons, oranges, almonds, beer, and wine from a local winery.

Not a bad way to go. All the shellfish and cod were from commercial divers and fisherman. A gr8 group of guys.

I also had a fertile barter system going which included an auto mechanic, chiropractor and dentist… they all had beautiful quivers and I had a tuned truck, a flexible body, and great dental work. I also traded for plumbing, drywall, and electrical work.

I get customers that drop around with beer. do the odd love job like plumbing or electrician. The customer I hate is the one who pays upfront. They own you then. they want it yesterday.

Had a guy complain that the board was hanging up because the nose was 1/8" too wide.  Gave me expicit instructions about nose width.  I rounded the nose back in the final shaping so it wouldn’t put out an eye and that 1/8th inch tip rounding was essentially what was causing the hang up. At least in his mind.  Too bad he couldn’t surf on anything I ever shaped him.  Must have been my fault.  Fortunately the next board he went to someone else. 

Had a guy refuse a custom because the pin line didn’t match the one on his Beamer.  The wrong shade of green.  " But you ordered a green pin line."  Yea, but not THAT green."

You should have factored in the price to have some flunky pull a quarter panel off his car and take it down to Lowe’s or Home Depot or somewhere that their computer could match the color.

"Don’t worry about dings or scratches Ernie, just rip that fender off and throw it in the back of your pick up and “get er’ done”!!!

Hindsight is always so crystal clear!

Hey Greg, had similar incedent, but this was surf shop guys, including shapers.

Telling me I didn't glass and sand edges where they wanted, and there were no edges shaped on the blank!

Then telling me I didn't spray the right colour. The guy wanted maroon, so I sprayed out of the can with maroon, printed on it by the manufacturer. But it wasn't the right colour.........go figure.


Ya gotta love those colors ripe for debate and chronic complaining.

Colors like taupe, doe, salmon, sage, apricot, mauve…sand?

If it’s not out of the can you stand to be in trouble. But in your case you were doomed the first step this guy made thru your door!

Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t!


Agreed, better to baste and sand that edge in then to have the glass crack in 6 months.

I remember about 6 years ago when I first started to make my own blanks with EPS billets. I shape out a 8’0" Gun for Todos Santos (Pin Tail). The customer wanted red however when the epoxy was applied the board turned salmon. he said he can’t paddle out at Todos with board that color! It was refused so I gave it to my friend in Puerto Escondio and he loved the way it rode the barrel and it stood out for photo’s. The customer that refused the board never ordered another board form me. The guy from Puerto ordered 6 more guns? Win some Lose some! People get emotional over color. I stay away from red on Epoxies. It may be just a Nero Association on my part?



Go figure. My primary color for my EPS epoxy boards are white, but for my guns it’s all about red.

Red is my ‘signature’ color for guns. This has been going on for years. Someone asked me why, and I told them it comes from the age old practicee of making Hawaiian guns red so they could be spotted if lost in big surf.

A white one headed out to sea for Fiji or Japan could be mistaken as a whitecap from a helicopter, and blue and green just blend in. Orange’s are notorious for fading.

C’mon man, what looks better than a guy at full trim or squaring off the bottom on a red board and an aqua wave?

The psyschology of the surfboard customer is summarised by the following:

Perception of price paid = perception of surfing ability


While we all know this is not true in any way shape or form the general consensus is that the lower the price you pay the closer to the source you must be.  If you rip you get boards for free, Hot local surfer = on a deal of some sort, Regular or shapers friend = Deal.

To pay retail is to have no connection to the shaper or even the retailer which is even worse…  Even if a guy is absolutely loaded if he thinks he is someone (like a CEO of a surf company etc etc) he expects boards dirt cheap, at or below cost.  People try to learn about boards to seem more educated to the shaper in the hope of a better deal.


IMHO when you think about it is the source of most of the problems and real motivation for many of the buyer traits described above.

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!

Ive been doing angled channels and posting pics elsewhere and a guy posted and said "unless I see a famous rider on one Im calling it shit."

 So the psychology here is , that no matter how good the idea,  how great the reviews or how well the board performs... he NEEDS to see a logo/name on it , or else his attitude it totally negative towards it.

 Irrespective of the appeal, form or function of a product , the greatest consumer force is branding.

 Hes the perfect QuikripBong customer, no logo , no buy.

 And I think there are many young people/customers  like that,

 all 'pith and vinegar' to fight the establishment and for their rights as a generation but they cant do it without the right logo.