Shaping your own board. For some reason this is the ultimate aspiration for many surfers. To mold the element that connects you to the seas; and all this spiritual stuff I guess.
What is actually true is that it has a beautiful craftsman element and a strong technical component that will make you feel on your flesh the behaviour of volumens, angles and rails on the water and somehow progress or at least understand better your surfing.
Mi good friend Juan decided somewhere half a year ago to find a new hobby for those rainy winter afternoons. He had been for a such long time gravitating around this idea, gathering information, studying the process and finally he decided to get on the mud and craft a workshop that little had to envy to the first breaking bad laboratory. During the winter he made a really cool twin fin that actually flies on the water surface. Well, this probably has to do as well with the fact that Juan surfs everyday and can make it fly, but still I got really impressed with his first work.
Last week we were together on the Pyrenees ski touring and he informed me that he was about to start working on an evolutive and a Hypto Krypto so I knew I had to head to his workshop to see the process first hand. Before even starting he spent close to a month building the workshop, insulating the room, installing the appropriate lighting, gathering tools and making himself several tools.
The first thing I realize once inside is that there is a lot of work behind and not exactly easy. For a start there is a big component of engineering. You can tell that Juan masters 3d modeling, angle and volume behaviour and Hydrodynamics.
The modeling of several boards can be found online and used as a masterline, but to me it felt that you need technical knowledge to be able to interpret them and get the best out of them.
Now comes the fun part, cutting and shaping the block of foam.
The raw material is basically a 3d rectangular block of high density foam with a wooden core. The first step is to cut the block of foam with the flat profile that the board will have. Then we start shaping the under profile of the board, and once it is done we move to the upper part using the bottom as reference. The edges should be left for the end and they are actually quite harder than the under part and deck.
Once you get the clean shape, we should insert the fin and leash plugs. You have to consider that the fin plugs have to be placed referenced in two axles. Not only both plugs of a same fin have to be aligned perfectly, but the two external fins have to be completely symmetric and with same opening angle. Making a mistake here is easy and can really affect the behaviour of your board. For a start we need to drill our beloved foam that we have been shaping for days, align the plugs and then glue them with a resin glue. Here again we need experience with the alchemy: what is the ideal mix for the resin, did I put enough catalizer, too much maybe?, will I need to fill with fiberglass?
If so far we haven’t messed up, there is one last big step: the glassing.
Glassing is complex and many things can go wrong. Juan has a good friend that has solid experience working with different resins, fiberglass and glassing different surfaces for industrial purposes. Last time his experience was key for the success of the project. (LINK AT THE BOTTOM)
The next day that we will work glassing those beauties, I’ll be there capturing the action, so for now on I won’t go deeper in details.
One last master tip.
as you can see there are several critical points in the proces. It is important to not get obsessive at any step. You are going to go through same areas again and again at different times with different tools and materials. Don’t over spend hours trying to shape the best under part ever with obsessive perfection because you will probably sand that part again and again, drill nearby it, glass it several times…
As soon as it works and there is not a major mistake just move on, In the end everything will come to place just like a big puzzle. Moreover, we used the technical tools for measuring different workshop boards and the classic pret-a-porter boards that we normally surf with and they had as well the same kind of mini imperfections that we describe. So, again don’t go crazy and keep moving.
Happy riding for everyone!