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Shape Your First Surfboard
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Shape Your First Surfboard

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Looking for something to do during quarantine? Why not shape your first surfboard.

We go through the tools and software you need and also I walk you through each step of the process.

If you love surfboards as much as I do then you'll love shaping them even more. Have fun.

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Hey guys! Double D here with Saltwater High! And today I wanted to talk about shaping your first surfboard. We're all in quarantine, we're looking for things to do so why not shape a surfboard? It is so much fun. Yes, it is. And once the quarantine is over, you can still continue to do it at your leisure! How awesome is that?

The first thing that you'll need to do is download some software called SKU Shaper. Now they've got a two-week trial so you can download the software and design your first shape, right now at home for free. Check that out. So download the software and basically it works-I i don't know if you've ever dealt with CAD programs, but it's like a CAD program, which is a 3D program for engineering, and it'll give you a lot of different views of your shape, front, back, slices, 3D, that sort of thing, and it's really cool.

So the first thing to do is to download that and to play around with some shapes. What I recommend for your first board is to shape something that you love to ride. So if you love longboards, shape a longboard. If you love shortboard, shape a shortboard. If you like mini mals, you could do that.

I personally love the Mini Simmons. If anyone knows anything about me, you know, I love them all day long. I love me my Mini Simmons! That's what I shape. And you'll see some examples in the show notes that give you some tips and tricks for shaping a Mini Simmons. We also have a Mini Simmons Facebook group. For those of you that would like to join, go to and I'll put that also in the show notes. OK, cool. So you got the SKU shaper software downloaded, you've got your first shape ready to roll.

The next thing you need to do is you need to get that file-that shaping file to a CNC Shaper that's going to cut out your blank. Now some CNC shapers will actually get the blank for you and cut it out and then send you or you can go pick up the blank. I personally use a CNC shaper here in Ventura, which I love, and I will drop that in the show notes. His name is Spencer. He's super cool guy. He's been doing my CNC shapes for a long time. It's going to cost you between 1500 bucks, maybe more, if you have a longboard, like a 10 foot or something, I'm usually CC-ing shorter boards, so it tends to be less money and they go and pick up the blanks for me, which I love. And they usually get those from Fiberglass Hawaii in Ventura.

But if you need to order the blank yourself and you're actually not using the CNC machine and you're just hand shaping it old school style, you can get that from We are not affiliated with, but I have ordered blanks from them before and they're good guys.

So why don't you just get one from their board? So you got your blank, you got your file, got your blank. Now you need some tools and we're going to go super cheap on this. And I've given you links to all these tools that I'm going to recommend in the show notes. And let me see, you can do it for 50, 20, 100, for less than two hundred bucks, you can have all these tools and realize that they're not just good for one blank, they're good for lots of blanks.

The first thing you're going to need is a planer. Now a planer is an electric tool that's used to normally plane, put a straight edge on a door, they call them door planers. But these are the same tools used for surfboard blanks.

Now, there are some fancy ones out there that you can get if you want to spend some more money. And they are altered in various ways for foam. You don't need those. Just get you a damn planer from Home Depot for fifty dollars and you can get one-the one I put on the show notes it's from Wen and it's like 41 bucks. That's all you need. So get your planer then, you will need some sandpaper. You're going to need some sandpaper, get some sandpaper and get what's called grit sanding paper, which they use for. I think they use it for drywall, and the difference is the grit sandpaper has these holes in it. And the reason these holes are good is because as you're sanding your blank, you want the foam to roll through the sandpaper, kind of breathe. It's breathing the foam bits, right? And it won't divot and it won't get caught underneath the sandpaper, like regular wood sandpaper does. And the screen is actually much better too. It's stronger and won't rip and it's good for the rails. Right? Super good for the rails.

So you want to get 80 or 60, 80 grit, hundred grit, 150 grit, and 120 grit. And basically the grits, think about the grits as its coarse, so the 80 grit's, 60 grit's really coarse. That means it's going to take off more foam and the higher the number, the less foam it's going to take off. So as you do your blank, you want to start with the lower grits and move your way through to the higher grits, because once you take this to the glass or glass it yourself and it's up to you. I don't like me glassin', so I don't do it.

So, when you finish the blank, you want to do like a 220-ish grit so that it's nice and soft for the glass or so the glass sticks to the foam. And also you're not going to have a bunch of divots in the foam with the higher grit count. So the next thing you're going to need is a block plane, and that's for the stringer. You can't use the sandpaper- you can use the planer on the stringer, but you can't really get it to the right depth without the block plane.

The block plane is a carpenter tool. And essentially, what you're going to do is, as you use the planer and the sandpaper to shape the foam down, you'll want to use the block plane to even the block, the string or block, which is made out of wood to the level that you've sanded the foam. So think about that. So you're playing in it, you're sanding it with the sandpaper, and then you've got this- looks like a mountain around the stringer and then you take the block plane and you run that along the stringer and that brings the block-

that brings a stringer down to the level of the sanded or the planed foam. And the other thing you're going to need is some calipers, and I've put there some 11-dollar calipers that I found a link to. And you need that so that you can measure your thickness as it goes through the blank, okay. So your thickness at the tail and at the nose should be about the same. Let's call it one and a quarter inches thick.

And then as you move through the blank, you want heavier thickness through the middle and gradually it should move back towards, say one, one and a quarter thickness towards the back. So as you're working on your board, especially side to side, you want to make sure that your thickness is the same and consistent all the way through. It's a little bit tricky and it's not going to be perfect, but at least you'll have the ability to caliper your board and to figure out whether it's the right thickness.

A lot of new shapers, they do one of two things, they either take off too much foam or they leave too much on. Now, I'm going to tell you if the better thing to do is to leave too much on because if you take too much off, it's going to be too thin, it won't flow, you're going to be bombed. So worst-case scenario, leave too much foam on and it's going to be super floaty, and you're just going to have a board that is probably too thick. You won't be able to sink it as well. But that's OK. This is your first board, right? Don't expect it to be perfect.

When you CNC the board, your thickness should be pretty close. You'll still need to work on the evenness through the middle, to the nose, and the rear of the board and around the rails. That's where the shaping process takes place of a CNC board. If you hand-do the board, which I've done and I don't recommend, it's a lot more work. You're going to end up with an inferior product. I get it, a lot of guys, they think that using a CNC Shaping machine is cheating, but I don't think so, dude. Look, you came up with the shape. You had a CNC-er, basically rough out the board for you.

You're going to have a much better board in the end with a lot less work. Now, if you want to hand shape it, go for it, bro. But I would just CNC it. You can do, in the same amount of time, you can do two or three. That's what I would recommend. And call me what you want, but I like to make it easy, easy, easy.

OK, you got your CNC shaped file, you've got your tools that you bought online, and you went to Home Depot and you picked all those up or you can get all the supplies at one of the blank suppliers, which it's Fiberglass Hawaii Ventura and then Foam E-Z. I think they're in Orange County. You can also buy all of your materials and tools from them. It's going to cost you more, but they'll be a little bit fancier and might have some alterations made specifically for shaper. So however you want to do it, that's the way to do it.

The next thing that you need to think about is your blank. Now I have a pretty extensive article on Blanks and glassing, actually, and I'll put that in the show notes. Essentially, you have three types of blanks, you've got EPS foam, polyfoam, polyurethane foam, and wood. I've shaped with all of them. Wood is by far the hardest and poly's the easiest. EPS, I like because it's ecological. It's eco, eco foam's well, it's as close as eco's that you can get. Well, that's not true.

There's actually some guys doing some mushroom blanks out there, which is pretty darn cool, but I've never used them. The EPS foam is better on the environment. It's harder to shape, though. You're going to get a lot of divots. And it's like when you golf, and you're on the grass that you're going to end up with a blank with a bunch of holes in it, which is OK, if it's a trade off. But I would do a poly board, to begin with just because it's a lot smoother process and it's nicer to shape with. And then down the road, if you really want to do a wood board, I super recommend it. It's a lot of work and the end result is going to be a lot heavier board. So you might want to get a few boards underneath your shaping belt, HAHA, get it? Shaping Belt. Before you try a wood board.

But anyway, if you're into the wood thing, go for it, do it first, make it hard. But if I were you, I'd do a poly one and then do an EPS one and then try a wood one down the road. That's just me and this is my podcast, so I can tell you, like I like it.

So you got your blank, you can get that once again at FoamEZ or Fiberglass Hawaii, there's US blanks, there's a couple more online that I've never used, but there you go. So once you got your tools and your blank, you need to find an area that's OK to make a mess because it's going to be really messy.

Now, you can set the planer up with a vacuum hose to try to shop vacuum the foam pieces as they come off the planer, but it's really hard and it's difficult to maneuver around the board. But if you really want to do that, you can Google that. I don't do that. I personally, I have a shaping room that I built and I just sweep up afterwards. Oh, and you definitely want to use a mask, but everyone has masks. Just grab one of your COVID-19 masks and use it in the shaping room. You'll be fine.

So find a place that you can make a mess. Your wife's going to be bombed if you take the garage because you're probably going to get foam all through the house.

If you can build a small shelter in the backyard, get one of those little wood shacks, that's a good idea. You need enough room to move around the blank. So if you're shaping a 10-foot longboard, think about it. You need 10 foot long board and then you need a couple of feet on each side and then you need some feet around. That's a pretty big shack.

But anyway, it's up to you, bro. We're in quarantine, so maybe that can be part of the project. But once you find the spot, maybe a place in their garage, you can create some kind of separation with plastic, so make a little plastic room or something. Put a fan in there because it's going to get really hot and then get some of those either shaping racks or you can just use some of those plastic ones from Home Depot that you put your board on and shape on those. You definitely want to use something to weigh the board down as you shape one side or the other.

So you can use that. You can either use a heavy beanbag or what I use is a brick. So I take a brick, and then I taped it all up and then I use that and I move that brick around. So that's another thing that you want to get as part of your tools. I'm gonna put that on the notes right now, I forgot that one, the brick.

So you want a brick, get your spot and then get out your planer and then go to town. Once you've CNC'ed, you don't need to take off a lot. You want to put in your rails and some shaping in the tail, maybe a little bit. You want to take a little foam out of the nose area, right. This is where the magic happens and it's not going to be perfect-your first shot.

Go slow and use your hands to feel as you go, your rails are going to be your hardest aspect of shaping. What I like to do is get a board that's similar that I really like. And I get a piece of foam and I take that foam and I put it around the rails and I kind of use that as a guide. And also I'll feel the board that I'm using as the guide and then I'll feel the shape that I'm using.

I go back and forth, feel take some off, feel, take some off. Go really slow on the rails. Your first rails are probably going to be a little boxy, but that's OK. There are a couple of different rails out there, 50/50, 60/40, 80/20. I put a link in the show notes where you can read about different kind of rails. Rails are just going to take you some time, you'll need to shape a couple of surfboards before you really figure-

I'm still figuring out my rails, a decade, more than a decade later. Think about that. So get your rails in, finish off your design, your nose and your tail, however you want to do that. Then start going through your grits. You want to do maybe 100, 150 grit and then do your 120 grit, use your block planer for the stringer, do your 120 again, and get it ready to drop off the glass.

Or I take all my boards down to Roberts. Roberts is glassing my boards himself. Super stoked. I mean, you know, that dude's a one shaper of the year, right? He's super great shaper and when he shapes my boards, I'm really stoked. It's not going to be cheap. It's going to cost you between two and 350, depending on how big your board is, you know, what kind of fin system you want.

That's the other thing about marking the fins, I'll also drop an article in the show notes about doing your fins. Your fins are bit complicated. You want to make sure you've got what's called the cant. You got the angles right on the fins. And when you drop them off at the glass, they always want the fins marked because everyone likes their fins in certain ways. So the ones that I have are for Mini Simmons.

But if you're going to do a shortboard, you can figure those out too or longboards a lot easier unless you have side bites, then you've got one large fin in the middle. But I'll drop an article on the fins in the show notes so that you can follow. I have YouTube where you can follow that really closely. It's not too difficult. You just have to measure it and make sure it's right and then cant it out with some other measurements. Canting is basically just angling outward or inward towards a stringer, ok?

Yeah. So that's about it. Super stoked that you're listening to this podcast. I want to encourage everyone to get out there and shape a surfboard. I love shaping. It's so much fun to shape a board and then to ride it. And for the same amount of money that you spend on, say, two new boards, you could shape two probably. And as you get better and better, your boards obviously will get better also, and it's just a wonderful skillset to have if you're a surfer and if you love surfing and you like creating things with your hands, if you have any artistic ability at all, you can also do a paint job on your surfboard, or you can get an air gun and you can make all kinds of different shapes. That's another super fun aspect of it. You could do a drawing with some ink pens. There's just tons of things you can do.

I just think it's a wonderful thing to do right now during quarantine if you're looking for something new to learn. This is a great thing to learn. And it's not very expensive, does make a mess, so you're going to have to figure that part out. But you'll be super stoked at the end. And you'll look back at this time and you'll be grateful that you had the opportunity to spend the time shaping a surfboard. So get out there and shape some surfboards. All right, y'all be well. Stay safe and peace out.