The future of Surfboards thread...

I knew you could not pass on clicking this thread. I’m glad I got your attention.

I would like to start this with my new favorite quote,

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” Winston Churchill.

I believe a lobotomized circus monkey can sand out the grooves on a CNC’d surfboard blank. Computers have made hack craftsmen look like hero’s. I shape and design all my surfboards in my shaping room. By hand. Not a little computer screen. On a 1st quality blank, my vast collection of outline, rocker, and rail templates, my Skil-100 planer & my own two hands. No computer-aided anything!

For years, I have rebelled against shaping machines.  Each year, there are fewer new young guys learning the art of shaping. In a generation, hand-shaping skills may be lost forever.  This is because now, you don’t even have to copy a hand shape onto a computer, the software lets you create the shape on a screen, press a button and presto: ten minutes later, your blank is shaped.  Where is the joy and artistry?  Does the designer even surf?  I can assure you, many don’t!

Skil, Rockwell, Makita, Hitachi, Bosch, Craftsman, Mall, Black and decker, Dewalt, Ryobi, Stanley.

I’m sure I missed a few.

All that matters is you use one.

Power and handtools over CNC anyday.

I an just glad to see these tools still being used to shape surfboards.

This website is the last bastion of real board builders.

I consider many of you as my surfboard brethren.

The B.B.B. Board Building Brotherhood.

Keep using them.

Make your own tools.

I have worked professionally in this business for 30 years.

Not a lot of originality out there. Lots of copy this or that.

That is why most big surf-shops are a “sea of similarity”.

Far more creativity on sites like this.

I strive to NOT follow trends, and let that dictate the look and style of my boards.I hope you can see my passion for building unique, quality surfboards.

You can teach a man technique, but you can’t teach him passion.

Tradition is my muse.

The future of surfboards is not coming from the “Big surfboard manufactures”,

it will be from the true craftsmen in places like this.

I raise a glass to you fine gentlemen.

True,but like the topics on this forum, we run out of( practically applicable) approaches after a while.  Viz, all the recycled ideas which in point of fact trace their roots to the late 60’s - early 70s,

computerozed shaping is a “new” tool which is widely and usefully available.  If a would-be board builder comes up with an idea/shape and has the software and time to learn how to use it, why should he/she not not?  It could easily relieve the noob from many of the excesses he/she might otherwise suffer in learning to hand shape.  The result will be a more fully realized board in less time, without the plan shape error, lumpy rails and irregular rocker that are too often the fate of the newly minted “shaper”.

I only wish there were something similar for glassing.  Lord knows I’ve had at least my share (and then some) of batches of Lam resin going off before the rails were wrapped, pin line tape that leaked and had to be sanded off, snd exposure to toxic fumes and dust.

theres little “zen” in a shape, you one needs to be able to smoothly execute the vision and I say if the machine helps, use it.

if one wants to do the deal the “hard way” the go to it.  But the person using available tools and technology will prosper.

Ive said this a million times.

There are guys who have never touched the planer who use the CNC and Craftsmen who have hand shaped thousands of boards who use it.

The guy who has never touched a planer… doesnt understand and is really doing a disservice to the customer. The latter again its just a tool. You still have to have the eye and know what you are doing to finish one right.

At the end of the day its just another tool if you are doing 5 of the exact same board per week in conjunction with all your other stuff, you are a fool to not use a cnc on them.

It frees up the time for a craftsmen to create new things instead of copying the exact same thing over and over.

Theres a point where it just makes sense.  Time, Money, Consitency. 

As long as the machine operator is good…The most respect i have are guys like Wayne Okomoto and Todd Proctor etc. guys that are so invested in their machines and do a lot of the work themselves… its an extension of their tool collection.

For the customer its great too. You have that customers file, he has a history, you can much easier make tweaks based on feeback. Where its easier to see sitting side by side.

Im in no way saying hand shaping or craftsmanship is obsolete. You just have to be objective about it.

Since I work in the future I guess I should comment here.

I’ve used cnc in the past, but we do 95%+ customs its not much use anymore. Besides, we have other (proprietary) tech that replaces much of what cnc does, and is more adapted to customs.

The future is simpler processes and fibers no one has heard of.

Barry you have some God given and some hard earned skills, and skils.  Still in today’s world which consists of mostly uninformed surfers they want a model, and not a custom surfboard, so cnc’d blanks with stupid names like scorcher or neck beard have taken the place of a well designed boards tailored for a surfer based upon a wide array of variables such as but not limited to: Ability, height, weight, type of waves, size of waves, length of waves, paddle ability, and type of surfing.  Oh I left out the famous, and heard it a million times, which shows me how stupid surfers are:  “Will it duck dive.”  Sadly surfboard shapers are not recognized for there ability to interpret and design, but for the most part people just copy trends, and jump on the what’s cool and trendy. 

I have a lot of stringered EPS for anyone in the HB area  who wants to get some practice in.  (for free) Not suitable for a good board, but less expense to someone who thinks, “paying their dues”, should be part of the equasion.  I have asked Foam EZ a couple of times, They were not very responsive.  You would have to take at least three feet of thickness.  (Called “Z” in the CNC world).  A lot of first boards don’t deserve to be glassed, so much added expence for a dog board.

PM with your phone # if interested.


Hey Barry good post but unfortunately instant gratification is just so much easier than hard work diligence blood sweat and tears.

I’m always amazed that there are people who can handshape a surfboard but need a computer to design it.

If CNC’s were about shaping, then “magic” boards would be reproduced daily. They are simply a production device to increase output. I gotta love guys like Barry and others that are self-contained and do it from beginning to end. THIS is the soul of surfing. To me it is more soulful than the riding. I don’t need complicated shapes for my surfing style. After trial and error, I dialed in what I need and stick with it just like countless others. “Progressive” surfing doesn’t enter my world because I don’t do it for a living. I find “new” developements interesting but it has been years since I’ve implemented any in my boards. Surfing styles don’t change in individuals over the years so why change what works. The only other reason to try something different is curiosity or boredom (or for some…aging). As long as guys shape in their backyards, there will be soul shaping.

Handshaping is sculpting.  It is a form of artwork and self-expression.

But the computer allows the mind to explore unlimited shapes, variables and combinations in time frames of seconds.  The space required for storing many thousands of designs, concepts and ideas fits in the palm of your hand, economy of space.  Ideas/designs can be stored safely for decades on small plastic disks.  It is a wonderful tool for design and precision.

The computer is a tool.

There’s this myth that cnc/cad somehow allows perfect replication of design. It’s usually perpetuated by people who don’t actually build surfboards (or those who do and have something to gain by selling the public on the idea).

But the truth is that cuts vary, scrubbers vary, and rocker can go all over the place when you’re hand-lamming them on T-racks. 

I have files and have had a lot of boards cut on various machines, but I wouldn’t want to be a “thumb drive shaper”, as huie put it on another thread. The future is there but it doesn’t involve using cnc in conjunction with 50 yr old glassing “technology”.

I was not talking about CNC machines specifically.  Computer generated design templates for hand use are very accurate, time after time.  If they vary more than a few micrometers, you need a new computer/printer.  Designs can be easily modified for comparisons.  The computer expands the capabilities of the human mind.  It uses math, much faster than the human mind can.  The equations it uses for each design remain the same every time (precision).

I would rather use a CD or jump drive than multiple file cabinets and/or storage sheds.  I keep full-size templates of designs I like.

A quality computer is only as good as its ouput devices – including humans.  Computers are not evil, just tools.  I like hand shaping but will not join the Luddites.

In the surfboard world, no one runs machines anywhere near the resolution required to get cuts perfect. It would take too much time. Then there’s indexing, which can induce substantial variations. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good tool for some things; but it’s just not “as advertised” by the media and industry.

When we get to 3D printed boards, it’ll obviously be the schizzle, though.

The mind learns slowly.  Moving your planer repeatedly over a curve gives your imagination the time to see what the water flow will do as it passes. 

Can the same be learned by just passing a sanding block over a pre-shaped curve?  I don’t know.  But can it be learned if all the worker is thinking about is smoothing out the ridges?  Then no.

But is the craftsman, who has the passion to do it by hand, when an easier way is available, more likely to come to a more perfect end?  Then yes.

I can see a future of CNC and 3D printing working together.  With some of the newer bio foams and prehaps newer sealing materials it might be possible to completly recycle a damaged board.  Of course there will always be the stoke of true hand crafted product. It can still be made for recycled materials 

As backyard hacks go I have my fair share of masonite templates on hand, and I’m not talking about multi-use spin templates, either.  Each of them have been used to build one or more boards and most of the boards I’ve built have surfed just fine.  I used the batten/brick combo to lay in every one of those curves, so I’m familiar with the technique.  

With that said, it’s been a few years since I even looked at any of them or learned anything new from those specific curves.   FOR ME,  designing (and not including cutting) with the CAD software is way easier to use, readily produces nice balanced curves and most importantly enables really fast iterations of designs.  As with an Excel spreadsheet (which I use a lot in my day job) doing multiple what-if iterations on the fly is free and fast when compared to doing things by hand.    I use CAD design in concept mode  - a lot.    Meaning, I’ll get an idea and lay it out to see the virtual rendition to see what I do and don’t want to follow up on.   Many of those concept-iterations don’t go any further than just the initial idea.  I have way more CAD designs that I would ever be able to build in real life - or want to - even if I was working in the industry on a full-time basis.  Some are real dead ends for me and others have aspects that I go on to use in the few boards I do build.  

One other way I use CAD software is to lay in rocker templates from the stock blank catalogues to decide which blanks to buy and whether or not to request the custom rocker mods.  That enables me to see where to position my template on the blank and how it fits that stock rocker curve.  With EPS blanks I don’t even have to plan on taking all my volumes off the bottom and risk dorking my rocker.  If I modify a rocker or a thickness I want to plan that in advance, not react to it after the fact as a result of ordering the wrong blank.  Which as an unskilled novice would otherwise be a guarantee if not for having the resource to use.   

If I was more artistic I might be able to envision everything in my head on an intuitive basis.  But I’m not.  My talents and strengths lie elsewhere so I’m going to work to those and I’m not inclined to apologize for that.  To those who are more artisitc and intuitive, I admire your talents and I salute you.  But I’m not going to stop building boards just because I wasn’t born with a right-brain bias, nor am I going to subject myself to trying to fit my square peg into the round hole someone it using to define as the only socially acceptable mode of surfboard design. 


This whole like of discussion reminds me a lot of how different people learn various skills.  Some people learn primarily by intuition and repetition to see the results of what they’re doing. They know based primarily on what they’ve done.   Many of them are wholly incapable of explaining how they do it or exactly why they think it works.  Others learn by trying first to understand the underlying concepts and principals and then applying those across the spectrum of their applications.  Both approaches have their advantages and work better than the other under some conditions more than others.  They also overlap in most people from one degree to another.  


BTW, Mike already alluded to the power of the vaccum bed in surfboard construction which IMHO has the demonstrated potential of taking custom construction in a different direction that only looks similar to what happens on a pair of shaping stands.  

GDad brought up a couple of key concepts: visualization and rocker templates. As to the former, it is all important to be able to “see” the end shape while in design phase. From my experience in building in general and surfboards too the mental task of laying out a line or curve from scratch and doing so repeatedly hones the visualization process. So I’ll pose the question; Can this be achieved in CAD drawing as well? I don’t know because I am an idiot when it comes to these infernal machines. I’m guessing it is possible but I don’t think I’ll ever get there. The older style of designing allows me to see beyond the lines on the paper (or screen). It is a learned process but there are those that are born with a gift of seeing the end product before starting anything. Those with the talent of drawing can do this quite easily and it blows me away. Perhaps there is plenty of room for machines. GDad’s use of computers to check rocker templates is a real boon to shapers. His method never occured to me. Brilliant. I just think in different terms. I prefer older style architecture to modern, maybe I’m a Luddite too. The industrial revolution brought on many amazing things. Including the Arts and Crafts movement. Win-win.

ps. They all end up in the Sander’s hand anyway. don’t they?

When more than half of the “surfers” around here are riding these does it really matter anymore?


This thread again. Do all guys that build furniture, motorcycles, boats, etc. in their garages or small shops think this way? Oh the humanity, the use of modern manufacturing techniques and tools. You never see those guys on the web complaining. They know that building things by hand is an lost art, a tradition, has an intrinsic value, something that not many people have the skill to do and are very proud of it. I’ve never seen such insecurity, only from surfboard shapers.

I use a Surform to shape my rail bands and not a machine (electric planer) so I guess that means I’m core, old school or keeping it real.

The following is from a machine operator from California that works with many pro shapers:

"My old man used to make his boards out of balsa timbers he glued up into a blank and then shaped with a draw knife and sandpaper. (He’s 86. And I still have his draw knife) I recently asked him if he remembers the first time he saw someone shape a foam blank with a power planer. He did. I asked him what he thought at the time.

“Now anybody can shape a surfboard.”  Hmmm. . . sounds familiar.

If you build boards by hand, you know who you are, you know what you do is not easy and only you can do it with your particular style. I just find it funny that people go out of their way to bitch and beat their chest about it, on a computer none the less lol.


Ace, I’d like to ride one of those.

Not too sure about the surfboard though.