The Disappearance and Reappearance of the Surfer Shaper?
Yes, most of them surf, but can they really test their equipment and get a legitimate feel of how they work? For the most part most shapers kinda surf and are far from being true test pilots for their own equipment built for the high performance surfer.
It baffles me that dudes that barely surf, shape surfboards, due to the facts that:
1. There is no money in making surfboards. Despite the “high” prices in stores, they cost too much to build. Surfboards are one of the last mass produced, hand made items built in America (besides the brands employing women and children in Southeast Asia).
2. The days of the rock star shaper are long over. The focus and notoriety has shifted to the pro surfers themselves. Most consumers are not concerned with who crafted the board but want to know more about which pro is riding them.
3. It’s a pretty dirty business. You are in a dark room all day, surrounded in toxic foam dust, only to have what you built nitpicked by surfers of all skill levels.
It’s quite frankly a labor of love.
The high performance shortboard is a tricky piece of equipment. Subtle changes in things like rocker, concaves, and volume flow (to only name a few), can dictate how a board performs in certain conditions. That alone drove early touring surfers to start building their own boards trying to get an edge on the competition, and who better understands what they were talking about than themselves. Some of the greats who made the transition to the dark side and started making their own equipment were Mark Richards and Simon Anderson. Simon invented the thruster and immediately won Bells Beach solving his issue of lack of pivot and hold off the bottom. The critics thought he was crazy until he blew away the competition. Obviously his thruster design is still being used today.
There has been a really good reemergence of great surfers building their own equipment. It is still just sort of a hobby for most of them, but it is a start. Dane Reynolds, Rob Machado, good buddy Ryan Burch have been busy in the shaping bay creating unique boards. I would love to see the day when a ‘CT surfer is smoking guys on tour with a board that he designed and shaped. That day could come soon.
So ask yourself in the future, “Do I trust a shaper that has only relied on vague feedback from team riders and pros?” “Or do I trust a shaper who has only sat and designed a surfboard on a computer program?” I’m going to go with the expertise of a person who can actually demonstrate how what they build works.