Lifting The Lid On The Surfboard Industry

'The evidence of a rotten and degraded industry is everywhere'

Grant Miller's picture
By Grant Miller

Lifting The Lid On The Surfboard Industry

Grant Miller
Swellnet Dispatch

Grant Miller began shaping in 1978 under Terry Fitzgerald and Frank Williams at Hot Buttered Surfboards in Brookvale. During this time, he also competed on the fledgling world circuit. After three years at Hot Buttered, Grant left and began Hot Dot surfboards, also in Brookvale. Feeling restless, he later moved to the US and spent many years in California and Oregon. Returning to Australia in 1999, Grant released the Waterskate model, a rejection of wafer-thin nineties boards, and thus began the second part of his Australian shaping career.

Never one to follow the mainstream, Grant has conceived and designed many unique surfboards. He's also earned himself a reputation for speaking his mind, including fierce criticism of offshore manufacturing and marketing misinformation.

Grant has shaped internationally and his serial numbers currently run north of 20,000.

He now shapes custom Miller Surfboards on his farm near Bawley Point on the NSW South Coast.

On a recent surf trip to Indonesia, I was having lunch with a friend of mine who has worked in the industry for many years. We were talking shop and he asked me, "Grant, what do you think of the industry right now?" 

I told him I thought it was like a shiny red apple: It's good looking on the outside but it's rotten in the middle.

Many of the issues responsible are related to misleading marketing, although that's not the whole story. 

You will notice that generally, I will not be naming names. That's because I'm not interested in any possible litigation which may ensue. This is an opinion piece, my opinion. However, it is based upon multiple lines of industry intelligence, as well as my own observations over many years. I'm often reminded of my old mentor Frank William's quote: "Never sit on the truth for the sake of peace."

The evidence of a rotten and degraded industry is everywhere. Surfboard manufacturers offering steep discounts on their boards. Or free freight. McTavish was offering free freight anywhere in Australia, well before winter. Or free board bags and accessories. Others reminding consumers how quickly a new board can be built now. Some manufacturers have gone to the wall. I can get blanks from Surfblanks in Brookvale, with custom rockers, in less than a week. Normally it's weeks. Shops are quiet, orders are thin. This all relates to a massive oversupply of boards in a limited market. It is also due, I think, to consumers not wanting to spend on new surfboards due to a lack of trust.

Lets break things down a bit more. 

Marketing, Gimmicks, And False Claims

These days, marketing has replaced truth. Marketing is a commodity and marketing sells surfboards. 

There have always been gimmicks in the surfboard industry. Usually they are short-lived because they don't work. Now, these gimmicks are more subtle and they have longer lives.  

We are told, for instance, that boards with carbon fibre rails flex and provide thrust out of turns. In truth, forward projection is actually lost through the turn early as the board flexes and drive is lost. Perhaps there is some slight spring out of the turn which follows. But any claimed benefit here has already been cancelled out. We are told that stringerless epoxy boards are both more flexible and stronger. Naturally, boards without a stringer flex more, but as above, those benefits are questionable. Yes, epoxy is stronger than polyester resin, but the blanks used in epoxy boards are exceedingly weak and break more easily. When damaged, they rapidly absorb moisture. These facts are not well publicised by manufacturers and shops.

Here are a few examples of what I regard as typical of the false claims currently being peddled:

A popular shaper from Southern California claims, "The Model X is a board that works for everyone". This is his opening spiel before we watch a B-grade pro surfing the board successfully. This is simply bullshit. 

Another one from Australia, "This board is suitable from two feet to twelve feet feet." More bullshit. "Strong but flexible"...you get the idea.

These days, many shapers simply employ some B-grade pro and shoot video. A good surfer can make anything look good. Currently, the twin fin is back in vogue, with or without channels - there were plenty in Indo recently. I talked with a few punters and most were regretting their purchase. "It's too loose", "not enough drive", "too short" and so on.

The degree of YouTube influence is shameful.

The major problem here is that rubbish claims, such as the above, erodes trust in the claims made by legitimate shapers. When people are consistently lied to, naturally they do not trust. Once broken or shaken, trust is difficult to rebuild. 

Grant at his South Coast showroom (Dean Dampney)

Litres

Regrettably, the propaganda surrounding the supposed value of knowing the volume in litres of a surfboard is well entrenched. This again, is a gimmick. It creates the perception that you are somehow involved in the customisation of your new board. Whilst appropriate volume in a board is very important, other factors which interface with volume are at least as important. For instance how the foam is distributed throughout the board, rail shape, and critically, rocker.

Take two boards, both with identical volume. One has more rocker. That board will paddle slower and be looser than the other one simply due to rocker.

But again, the marketing of litres means that many surfers now buy boards with X litres, because "that's what the volume calculator said I need." Different calculators spit out different calculations. Then what? The litres concept is aimed at hooking a purchaser in, then directing them to a surf shop. However, even experienced shapers who should (and probably do) know better, are spouting the litres mantra in fear of missing out on sales.

Every single time I surf the majority of people in the water are under-volumed. "But the guy in the shop said I need forty litres" and on it goes. Competent professional shapers who I deal with, like Dylan Perese and Mike Psillakis, evaluate each client carefully, and calculate how much volume they need. They do not spit out some cookie cutter number and just hope for the best.

Buyers Guides/Reviews

These are nothing more than marketing disguised as help. Manufacturers have to run a paid add to participate, so immediately the whole process is ethically compromised. No negative or useful feedback is ever offered, and the editorial content is written by "editors" who have no training or experience in surfboard design or manufacturing. They appear to somehow regard themselves as experts. They are certainly not. 

...next!

Fins

This is one of the biggest rorts of the industry. These days virtually no surfboards are sold with fins.  Why not? We are told, that's to allow freedom of choice for the surfer. 

The truth is two-fold. Firstly, it obviously saves the manufacturer some input costs. These, however, are not passed onto the customer.

More importantly, perhaps, it creates a very cosy relationship with all those involved in selling fins: the fin manufacturers, the surfboard builder, and the shops.

The mark up on fins from wholesale to retail is at least 100%, with the vast majority made in China. A typical Thruster set of fins is now approaching $180.

If you look closely at the fin spec sheets from FCS and Futures, many of the fins are so close to one another in dimension and flex, that even Slater wouldn't feel the difference. Yet, the advertising tells us that Fin X will surf so differently to Fin Y and so on.

And how many surfers really know much about fins? Even some shapers don't. So, the consumer can be sold, or upsold, virtually anything and who would know?

Some of the fins cannot easily be replaced individually. So, if you lose one in the surf, well that's just too bad, you're up for another set.

Preferred mode of transport. Note: face mask doubling as a helmet.

Shaping Machines

Machines have entirely altered the surfboard landscape. Almost gone are the days when the best shapers were often also the best surfers. I'm thinking here of Allan Byrne, Simon Anderson, Barry Kanaiapuuni and Reno Abellira in Hawaii. There are multiple issues at play here.

Now, young shapers, savvy with social media and quick with a mouse can invent themselves at will. But who trained them and for how long? Can they shape a blank from scratch? Not necessary. Just buy the software and access a machine. Files saved on a machine are often shared, with or without permission from the original shaper. File sharing is a big problem. Just look at the big brands of boards all lined up in surf shops. How similar they look. How similar they are. 

Then there are the quality issues of mass production. From time to time I drop into a shop here and there and pick out boards at random. All machine-shapes. Feeling them up, rails and outlines not symmetrical. Why? The industry pays piece rates. The more you shape the more you earn. I've overheard production shapers in Sydney, skiting that they could finish a computer shape in ten minutes. It shows! Anonymous boards shaped by anonymous shapers.

Yet this is how most big brand custom orders are produced today. Ordered online, or perhaps in a surf shop. I encounter a never-ending line of customers who have purchased this way, often paid top dollar, and then been bitterly disappointed. The board does not suit them, it's not what was promised, falls apart, and so on.

Surfers paying $1,000 plus for a white machine-shaped board without fins! In addition, fewer young shapers have anyone truly talented to teach them anymore. This is partly why custom shaping by hand, from scratch, is dying. 

Offshore Manufacturing

This was perhaps the beginning of the end for our industry. Various Australian and American shapers either started or facilitated this type of production. Thailand, China, Taiwan, Bali. These boards, of varying quality and price, are produced much more cheaply than here. I have also heard varying reports about the EPA situations. They have flooded the Australian market. Some can be bought for as little as $450, with colour, delivered door to door.

The surf shop mark up on these from wholesale, is slightly higher than Australian boards too. And so, more are sold. There have been cases where point of manufacture was not made clear, and these boards were then passed off as having been made here rather than in Asia. 

All the Australian manufacturers who have been involved in Asian production, are in my opinion, partially responsible for the current oversupply. Years ago, after I released the Waterskate and the massive demand which followed, I was approached to have them built under license in Asia. Royalty was about $60 per board, and thousands more would have been sold. You can imagine my response! 

However, I sleep well.

Again, the more boards that people buy originating in Asia, the quicker will be the end of the craft of shaping as we know it in Australia.

Grant looking not unlike Tim Winton, and also with much to say (Dean Dampney)

No-one really enjoys bleak news like this. So what's to come, are there any answers?

I'm an existentialist; I believe in choice. For me, this is an article in the public interest, a consciousness-raising exercise if you like. 

I think that if surfers have more knowledge, then they are free to make more informed choices. 

So, ask in shops where the boards are made, if you care. Watch peoples eyes carefully as they answer you. Trust yourself. Does your shaper really seem to care? Don't necessarily blame yourself if you are having trouble riding your board. Oftentimes the board may be to blame. If you are really into it, keep detailed records of your boards, measure the rocker, fin locations and so on. Ask your shaper to record the vital details for you when you get a new board. That way, each new board is not just a stab in the dark, but rather a progression from the previous one. Ask your shaper to either include fins or recommend fins for you.

Educate yourself, even a little, so you can have more control and an improved experience.

// GRANT MILLER

Comments

croca's picture
croca's picture
croca Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 2:46pm

Truth bomb !

Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 2:52pm

Anti marketing - I might just buy a Miller

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 3:15pm

I bought a miller fskate second hand and I decided to go with the litres he recommended on the website and it was way overvolumed. Was an interesting board and I think with a different fin cluster and less volume(!) it would've been a good board.

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 3:49pm

Didn't you have a very bad fall from a ladder around end June, ribs lungs etc. Hope you are healing up well.

Denyer's picture
Denyer's picture
Denyer Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 3:56pm

So much truth. I sometimes want to laugh when talking to another punter who brings up volume or fin type.

Denyer's picture
Denyer's picture
Denyer Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:01pm

Also, I did once purchase a board from the Sydney shaper that makes the one quiver board for 2-12ft.

It was the worst piece of garbage I've ever owned. Creased it second surf in two foot non-sucky waves, not doing anything particularly risky.

I forgot to mention - it was the absolute worst piece of garbage I have ever owned.

tyzee63's picture
tyzee63's picture
tyzee63 Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 8:06pm

Fair to say that Sydney shaper is the same one that appears in Audi ads and has an ostentatious super-modern flagship store.

spinafex's picture
spinafex's picture
spinafex Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:05pm

This isn't lid lifting, this is the same custom hand shaper gripes we've been hearing for years. The current drop in demand is not because surfers have lost trust in brands its due to the Covid boom when everyone went out and bought boards and now they have too many. Offshore production quality? I've had plenty of Thai made boards and the quality has been top notch. Design wise too, in fact one of my favourite boards is an Aloha Woods Twin D Twin plus trailer. Fins? - well they laster much longer than boards and actually have resale value.
I do agree twin fins are definitely a bit of a roll of the dice - I've got one that seems to have a mind of its own (5'4" swallow fish) and another which seems to respond to my thoughts (5'10" Round pin with spiral vee bottom).

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:33pm

Way back - Grant Shaped New Wave Derek Hynd Model Twinnies . . .

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:05pm

nice. I actually guffawed out loud on the loo, when I opened a mag, and saw the 3 pack of twins, FCS II Mark Richards Limited Edition Collectors Box Set for only $589..

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:20pm

Haha... copies now available on Temu for $29.99 free delivery

Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven's picture
Sheep go to heaven Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:56am

Fucken Temu .....
What DONT they sell ??

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:51pm

Shit yeah everything.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:22pm

whos the author ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:03pm

Author of the article..?

Grant Miller.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:44pm

yeah i was just trying to draw attention to the fact that its Grant still spruiking the same stuff he was on about 10 years ago.....another way to sell surfboards......buy a Miller !

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:24pm

I had to frown at the computer for a couple seconds... maybe an extra return between the italicised bio and grant's article..?

canetoad's picture
canetoad's picture
canetoad Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:53pm

Truth ! Looking forward to part 2 ! Should be interesting digging deeper and finding......yep, more Truth !

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 4:58pm

Changing fins can turn a turd into a diamond. Truth.

And vice versa.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:34pm

True that. Have a six channel thruster, thought it was a dud ... popped in AB2 fins, now it's the bomb.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:56pm

They really do need small fins. Tiny, those ABs.

blackers's picture
blackers's picture
blackers Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 6:15pm

+1 to changing fins totally changing a board.

what_up's picture
what_up's picture
what_up Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 6:46pm

So truth! Have had many experiences like that, interchangeable factor with fins so versatile! Although pretty hard to get boards with fcs1 tabs nowadays so I’ve had to build the stock!!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 7:11pm

? - FCS1 fins also fit Fusion and FCS2 Plugs . . .
They also fit Surfinz Gearbox and Modii .

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 5:44pm

Just buy a board you like made in Australia….dosent matter if a big brand or not.
Dosent matter if machine shaped or not…it’s hand finished ….you can still have a relationship with a big brand ghost shaper and tweak your board as much as a personal brand shaper….its all in the last minutes of love.
The main thing is …buy an Australian made one….$1000 bucks for a good board that’ll last you a at least a year…..so what….live well… cheap fun.
The el cheapo overseas pop outs are for people who aren’t hard core ….nor Aussie industry loyal types…..they have their place in the market for the un interested….and their surfing often reflects their choices.

Andrew P's picture
Andrew P's picture
Andrew P Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:43am

+1

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:55pm

Their place, the tip and more garbage added to all the rest of the shit from china. Piss em orff.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 11:09am

"1000 bucks for a good board that’ll last you a at least a year…..so what….live well… cheap fun." - just my opinion - Optimist but I can't justify buying a board so poorly made that it only lasts a year - surely surfers can see excessively adding to landfill is environmental destruction that is way off piste of modern climate change thinking.

kimbo1's picture
kimbo1's picture
kimbo1 Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 6:19pm

Had custom made Simon Andersons for years , his feedback was minimal , but if you could read between the lines of , no , maybe , sure , never , and my old favourite , "speak to Sharon " he was a delight to work with .

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:34am

Hilarious. I love how there's this myth that most local shapers will be as interested in you and your purchase as if you were their No1 team rider on tour.

A well know boardbuilder that I get a few off is like that. Fairly short on info in the process of purchasing, but up will chew your ear off as you go to pick it up paid for, telling you how good it is etc----> luckily they are good.

DingOZ's picture
DingOZ's picture
DingOZ Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 11:52am

Yeah, fondly remember talking boards with Simon at his old factory in a house next to Mona Vale firestation. Economical with his words and zero bullshit, but the knowledge gleaned from it was lasting.

Closest thing I've had to an audience with a guru on some mystical mountain.

Nolan's picture
Nolan's picture
Nolan Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:04pm

Had similar experience with Simon and many other custom shapers I've tried. I've also had no better hit rate with customs than rack boards/stock models. Exception to the rule was AB. Listened, was insightful with feedback and suggestions and made me cry with laughter at his many unrelated stories he was always generous with. His boards were some of my best - the last he shaped me comes out on only the epic 8'+ days. I didn't know AB apart from my board ordering experiences though I always looked forward to those experiences and often reflect on them - not so much icon awe as rub off from sharing moments with a character living his joy.

Nolan's picture
Nolan's picture
Nolan Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:14pm

Oh, and Jeff Bushman wonderful also. Back in early nineties I ordered a small quiver from him and proceeded to snap them quickly over the first 2 weeks of my trip. Ran into him by chance in Foodland carpark, got to talking and he offered to shape me some replacements at a modest margin above cost price. One turned into one of the magic boards of my life.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:14pm

Yes remembering trying to chisel a conversation out of him at Ulu's one year - was interesting one sided yarn. The peninsula has a few great old shapers with great stories like Bean or Phil Grace who are an absolute pleasure to deal with and they take you through a journey on the design. They are both one man bands who are in their 70's and still shaping quality boards using a computer with their files which they are continuously fine tuning or creating new. All custom shapes. We are stuffed when they stop as no one is around to replace them. Bean in particular gets heaps of repairs on all sorts of boards so he sees the latest and greatest which are generally they are good shapes however the craftsmanship varies immensely. Lots of snapped no stringers too.

kimbo1's picture
kimbo1's picture
kimbo1 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:45pm

Was I expecting the shaper who designed the most popular board design in surfing history to be intersted in a Vic kook , no ! . He must of heard something as they arrived as requested and surfed great . My mistake was going to the dark side , ordering boards from the online brands Global , Empire etc .

Paul Rooney's picture
Paul Rooney's picture
Paul Rooney Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 6:54pm

Current trends / models, liters, rail tape and generic logo placement is the death of early / mid aged surfers (blokes).
Go custom from a Local board maker - forget the glass house pop out BS.
Better still, make your own.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:13am

Agree with making your own. Once you do you will realise what skilled craftsmen surfboard shapers (& glassers) are. It's one of the most stressful and rewarding things you will ever do.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:15pm

Ditto

backyard's picture
backyard's picture
backyard Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 10:58am

As my name implies, I am a 50+ years addict. When I was young it was to the detriment of my surfing. At a point the scales tipped as my board-making became refined. Now days my refinements are to accomodate injuries and declining reflexes, strength, etc. However, as the author said being able to make incremental changes from board to board is great. And, I Love Mowing Foam. And getting to go to my favourite shop in the world - Surfblanks. I must be their biggest little customer, and nothing is a problem, or taken lightly.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 11:48am

Backyard - consider yourself extremely lucky to be able to have Surfblanks as your favourite shop in the world that you can just walk into. The cost of just getting a Surfblank blank to my door is more than the blank itself!!

Paul Rooney's picture
Paul Rooney's picture
Paul Rooney Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 8:12pm

yep - West Oz is crucified with the ability to create your own board - surfing mafia in control.

backyard's picture
backyard's picture
backyard Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 1:07pm

garyg1412 Don't I know it. I'm paying not much different to what were probably seconds from local shaper (unnamed) in Vic in the 70s when I started. And the resin back then was shitty/questionable liquid in whatever jar was at hand. In NY I used to get all my materials from Melbourne Florida- Surfsource, great and reliable, but yes the shipping.

backyard's picture
backyard's picture
backyard Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 1:07pm

garyg1412 Don't I know it. I'm paying not much different to what were probably seconds from local shaper (unnamed) in Vic in the 70s when I started. And the resin back then was shitty/questionable liquid in whatever jar was at hand. In NY I used to get all my materials from Melbourne Florida- Surfsource, great and reliable, but yes the shipping.

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 7:16pm

So i order a board off the author am i getting a free set of fins? or is he going to put in FCS or future plugs and send me on my way.

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 7:25pm

Everything is discussed and negotiable with Grant

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 7:38pm

A lot of this id agree with but a lot i dont.

Marketing and hype has always neen a thing.

Personally i think its great that everyday surfers no longer just ride what the pros ride, i think its great guys are willing to ride all kinds of boards and fin configurations and constructions

Litres measurement is not the be all, but its such an important measurement when ridding different boards, each measurement gives you info, length, width, thickness but volume now gives you the most info, its how you use that info.

Ten years ago or so some thought the Asian surfboard thing would kill the local shaper, it hasnt which is kind of amazing really not much is still made in the west.

No fins with boards, makes sense, if they provided them they would only be cheap generic fins, we all have our favourite fins and multiple sets unless a beginer anyway.

spinafex's picture
spinafex's picture
spinafex Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:35am

Volume is a good metric to figure out roughly what size you should look at when going from your current board to something new. It's not the end all and be all but it's still super useful. The reason hand shapers are always bad mouthing it , is shaping software calculates it for you. Handshake a blank and you don't really know the volume. I do remember there was one mob who had a water tank with a displacement gauge they could use to measure volume for customs.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:42am

Jed Done - Displacement Tank.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:04pm

Good point on the hand shapers not liking it as cant calculate it.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:27pm

There is a formula to get a good idea of volume for hand shaping.

spinafex's picture
spinafex's picture
spinafex Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:03pm

Got a link to that John?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 12:25pm

Nulltuul have a formula for that.
"[Slider-Bar] Surfboard Volume Calculator" https://nulltuul.com/surfboard-volume-calculator/
Punch in Dims of your off the Rack
Board and Cross check with litres written on the Blank...
Up to 2 litres of Error at a guess trying to get Handshape Volume?

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:17pm

Id be pretty sceptical on how reliable a formula could be these days with how varied shapes are and volume distribution, even bottom shapes and concaves, deck, rail, tail shapes could change how much volume is in a board quite a bit or where volume sits.

Thats why i think volume is such a great measurement, shapers mostly through computer aided design have been able to hide or distribute volume like never before.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:19pm

And churn out the exact same shape. It saves them a lot of hard work with the planer which any old shaper will tell is no fun after number 1000. The fun is in the design and the finish.

Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard's picture
Le_Reynard Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:45pm

It's exactly the reason they try and downplay it. How can another metric of information be bad?
(Of course, over-relying on it is a kook move, too)

poo-man's picture
poo-man's picture
poo-man Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 8:26pm

Opinion piece and I get the angle. As someone said above the current over supply in the market is the post covid boom coming off where so many people either tried surfing for the first time or got back into it.
At the end of the day people don't go back to board brands that they've had duds from so some of those major brands must be doing stuff right or they wouldn't get repeat customers. Of course they market their products as any company does. I don't see anything sinister in that. I've had equally bad boards as customs over the years or off the rack. These days i'm off the rack nearly always and have had some excellent main brand boards. Can't fault the Firewires for quality and longevity either and they're made in Thailand. Just rode a brand new CI Dumpster Diver today (sucked in by the marketing) but it went superbly first surf. Looking forward to another crack on it tomorrow.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:43am

Get out before the devil wind got up?

poo-man's picture
poo-man's picture
poo-man Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 5:44pm

Yep IB middle of the day yesterday was sweet. Today too small really ay? Some fun ones and super glassy afternoon though. You get some?

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:10pm

Outsides just before 2pm today. 4 of us and absolutely flawless glass. Head high.

Another broken rib, but never mind.

poo-man's picture
poo-man's picture
poo-man Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:36pm

Awesome I should have gone there too

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:47am

"At the end of the day people don't go back to board brands that they've had duds from so some of those major brands must be doing stuff right or they wouldn't get repeat customers."

Bingo! I've had absolute turds from lost, FireWire and Stacey (bullet twin). But I've NEVER had a dud from JS and DHD. Yes they're big brands but IDGAF because I've never had a dud and until I do I'm going to look to buy them again as a preference.

Also the best board and also the most durable board I've ever had was an epoxy JS from.... Thailand! The horror!

bocirl's picture
bocirl's picture
bocirl Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 8:28pm

This is just a rehash of the article he wrote on here back in 2015.

scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton Tuesday, 9 Jul 2024 at 9:38pm

Always bought a board a local hand shaped board nothing better than seeing it from scratch and get it glassed solid . The big brands and there light as 4oz cause apparently that’s what so and so rides . Pay big bucks all for a sticker walking down the beach each to tbere own I guess .

jim.phillips's picture
jim.phillips's picture
jim.phillips Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:16am

This is the most truthful piece I’ve seen , as boards builder for 63 years, 3 time US Champ, International Surfboard builders Hall of Fame I think I am qualified to smell BS in the surfing world.
Construction paper and screen printed carbon patches.
Especially the flex theories, flexing never returns what is put into to it, a loss of energy.
Off shore builders opening satellite warehouses who have never or know nothing about the client base or conditions they plan on selling too.
One builder commented that he hadn’t hand shaped a board in years.
The industry in clouded by the smoke and mirrors, this is why I offer each client who is nearby to sit in during the shaping of their custom.
An educated customer is a better customer.
The myriad of new school, pre school “ shapers” videos show no shaping, just skinning a blank, terrible rail shaping and mushing it together with a sander.
That is blank shaping, not surfboard shaping.

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:40am

Liked your input Jim. The article was interesting, especially the topic of volume. After moving to Tassie more than ten years ago (near Hobart) it took me quite a few years to work out why I had trouble catching and riding the waves (around Hobart they are mostly slow and very gutless). As an older surfer (75) I had to start with at least another 10 litres in volume just to cope with the extra wet rubber and increasing age/injuries. Until I moved there at age 65 my big boards were under 30 litres. What a shock to go back to beginner level. I have a lot of respect for the good surfers down here because they have so much extra rubber to contend with most of the year. Good read Grant.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:44am

Having more volume doesn’t mean going back to beginner stage , it just means you get in earlier, catch more waves, and have more fun, without feeling the need to try and copy the WSL stars , which most people will get nowhere near anyway!

Juliang's picture
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Juliang Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:43am

If you think having more volume means going back to beginners level, try watching swellnet article Matt Chojnacki 25 /06, and Bryce Young Following the fall line, and see if you think you were better

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:50am

In that movie Bryce young surfs a fucking wooden board with probably 10 litres!

Big difference between a great surfer that chooses to surf a bigger board and a fat old man that can barely struggle to his feet on a boat.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:18pm

Yeah there is a big difference, that’s the point, the assumption that all long board riders are kooks , is disproved when you see guys like that choosing to ride them.And the fat old guy on the log might actually be getting better waves than the unco ,squat guy on the 5.9

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mugofsunshine Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 10:08am

The board with the least volume in my collection is 5'3 x 22 x 2 3/8 square nose and tail and flat as.. It's also the board I use in the smallest most gutless waves.

I personally measure volume on the nipple to belly button scale when sat on my board. The above leaves my nipples barely catching breaths

Juliang's picture
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Juliang Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 12:00pm

Volume preferences are very variable, it depends on where you’re surfing, how crowded it is, whether you like doing longer turns or shorter turns , or whether you feel the need to turn at all on every wave. In my experience, when surfing remote locations, with no one in sight, you don’t feel the same need to do turns on every wave because there’s no one watching!

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spinafex Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:40am

Hey Jim I really enjoyed Zac Flores step by step how to shape a board - using what I think is the Jim Phillips method?

greg-n.williams's picture
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greg-n.williams Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:40am

Some of the best boards (& I've had quite a few in my 40yrs of surfing) are ones I've picked off the rack after putting them under my arm & sussing them out, Re: rails , thickness distribution, rocker, fin placement etc,etc. Over the years I've had some real DUD customs from renowned shapers (to thick/thin/ not symetrical, poor glass jobs, etc) At the end of the day I can generally get the right board for me from looking & feeling whats right for me from a rack of used or new boards. As far as fins go I'm currently riding a board that generally performs well & has the same side & back fin combo with a slightly different rake proflie for the other side fin (2nd Son put it on the rocks & ripped fin & box out). It was all I had @ the time to surf it after repairs & I'm buggered if I can tell the difference in the way it performs! Go figure, L.O.L.

PCS PeterPan's picture
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PCS PeterPan Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:58am

Yup , couldn't agree more . My laminator in Brooky refuses to put up his rates for fear of loosing business . Go figure ! I want to pay him more so he doesn't shut shop .

z s's picture
z s's picture
z s Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:56am

When computerized shaping became the norm everything changed. Before there were very few shapers out there with the skill to make a *good* high performance board and replicate that design over and over by hand.

Shaping machines are another thing - there are plenty of bad cuts out there, We're talking dims off by 1/4 in width, wrong thickness etc. Consumer thinks the machine is perfect. Handshape by a skilled shaper is often more accurate. Then there's the issue of scrubbers sanding the cuts (often poorly) - many boards with asymmetrical rails and edges - yes it makes a difference.

This is not to say the handshape is better, rather the market is diluted by a) lesser skilled shapers and b) low quality product

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:52am

A few years back I spent time hanging around a cutting and laminating factory, and until then I hadn't realised how inaccurate machine cuts can be. Mostly due to human error, such as not lining the blank up correctly when spinning it over, but also the blanks moving during the cut.

I also hadn't realised how skilled some finish shapers had to be restoring imperfect cuts to something that'd pass muster in a shop.

Made me realise that nothing should be taken for granted. Just because it's a machine cut doesn't guarantee perfect replication. It's possible but not always accomplished.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:26pm

Yeah can take up to an hour to position it on the machine and if it comes out with too flat rocker the skilled shape can get it right.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:28pm

?

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:43pm

True had a new machine and took ages to get the blank in the right place and hooked up and talking to the computer properly. Is that what the ? was about?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:14pm

Yep

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:48pm

An expert reviewed local building industry complaints; builders were on relying on precut timber & building house frames....
They had guys cutting timber from a machine, however..... the blade, bearings and jig was worn...
and so the cut timber was often 2-5mm out, per cut x 30 = up to 150mm 'out of wack.... '
The builders chocked/ wedged up the frames to level and kept buying the cheap timber..... & complaining...

Komodo's picture
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Komodo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:27am

Fantastic article!

Andrew P's picture
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Andrew P Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:52am

Great info in the comments here. The reason why surfboard manufacturers are having fire sales at the moment is not limited to this industry - everyone who markets discretionary products/luxuries is hurting! Inflation + 13 interest rate hikes in a little over 12 months has taken most of our disposable income away post COVID. Instead of buying new boards, Aussies get their dopamine hits from Temu (it’s so cheap!), takeaway food and “experiences”, while trying to pay the increasing grocery/mortgage/rent bills. The author has his microscope on his industry only and I understand why, but this needs to be put into context with the wider economy.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:43pm

This, so much this, saw the same when making boards in the rising rate environment in 2005-7. Consumer discretionary coin just vanished into mortgages.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:53am

I used to own a FireWire Spitfire 6.10 , helium, and it was the lightest,strongest, and fastest board I’ve owned. It used to gouge cutbacks , but I’m more concerned with speed these days than manoeuvres. Then I realised I got 2 to 3 times more waves on a higher volume board, and came out less frustrated, so that’s the trade off these days.

bbbird's picture
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bbbird Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:26pm

or you could join the local shortboard riding club & get easy waves per heat every month
(only by excluding all free surfers for most of the day at the best local waves on the weekends )
Is this a seasonal sheltered fashionista workshop for these handicapped denialists ?
https://surfingnsw.com.au/regions/

"denialism is a person's choice to deny reality as a way to avoid believing in a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denialism

bbbird's picture
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bbbird Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:40pm

There are fine tuned craftmen & athletes and ....there is flash fashin & fast bucks

& then there is science & comedy

ryder's picture
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ryder Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:41am

A couple of days ago scrolling through Insta. Tai Buddha was spruking a new model from JS called the Big Horse. In short, the gist of it was more volume, easier to paddle, blah, blah, blah...

Now, i've been surfing over 40 years, but you can't tell me JS and his merry band of core lords have suddenly stumbled upon the magic ingredient of more volume being the missing piece to catching more waves. It was like he'd cracked the code of surfboard design.

Are these guys taking the piss or what?

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:29pm

Yeah like they discovered the mid length.....been around forever.

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:47am

As someone who only gets out a couple of times a month because of work / kids etc, when I'm unfit a board can feel bad, then when I'm fit the same board feels good.

But then sometimes you do genuinely just find the magic carpet.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:05pm

You need to surf more mpeachy. .........

mpeachy's picture
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mpeachy Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 11:47am

No disagreement here

matador's picture
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matador Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:38am

Im sure we all remember the 'popout' - it was a thing to be avoided, constantly belittled and never found in a shop of repute. Oh well, guess things have changed, Its as if many surfers seem to think that emerging from the dry pit with crowd arms raised is only as far away as a pro model marketed as the board of a world champ - same game in any sport.
For my part i have always bought from and directed people to local shapers. They are not hard to find. I think i can rattle off about five or six names in and near the town where i live. All reputable (well at least as shapers) and skilled craftsman. This crew keeps the art and culture of surfing alive.

mixie six's picture
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mixie six Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:49am

Started off on a Town and Country 30 years ago, tried plenty of others brands in the meantime. But always go back to Glenn Pang shapes, Flux or Sidewinder models off the book or good 2nd hand ones if they fit the profile, but usually a custom of those 2, square and thumb tail. Between 34-36 litre jobs. Always 5 fin box for thruster or quad, even stuff around on them as a twin haha. Swap out fins all the time along with that, but do have favorite fins for particular breaks. They're always really high quality stix with strong glass and last years. Have had a custom sidewinder and flux, S glass with core red blanks, square and thumb tail, 6'3" and 6'4", 2 board quiver for the past 5 years here in Philippines, surf every day when it's on. Although T&C aren't really 'trendy' as such anymore, it's surprising how often you see good surfers on them. Recent example is the 16 yr old guy in cho-poo, on his graffitied T&C. Pang has been around a while, I'll stick with him.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:08pm

I had a pang I liked soo much I..._broke it

icandig's picture
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icandig Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:08am

Once I was told by a shaper that all surfboards work. You've just got to find the best way to use them. Complaining about competitors lack of quality or customers buying from one place or another is not the way to get more sales (if that's what you want). If there's a market there, competitors will look to get a piece of it. Marketing 101 - find out what the customer wants and fill that spot. Customers are also savvy enough to do their due diligence; after all, there's this thing called the Internet. Sure, people get duped by dubious claims, but average joe will quickly figure out whether the product is the right fit or not. Give them what they want and they'll come back.

Fliplid's picture
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Fliplid Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:38am

Lifting the lid on surfboard manufacturing in Penong city

jez's picture
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jez Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:51am

Interesting point about EPS blanks being weak and absorbing water. While I belive it, it has never been an issue for me. For me the benefit of EPS is that you can add a stringer and extremely heavy glass jobs that would make a PU board too heavy. The trade off is that they dont surf the same a PU. EPS with stringer and 6x6 glass top and bottom will outlast just about anything (unless left in a very hot car). The strongest construction I have come accross is gary McNeill's flax EPS. Definitely not a gimmick IMHO.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 11:54am

To say its weak like the article says is such a weird thing to say you can create an EPS surfboard without a stringer but almost all poly blanks need a stringer for extra strength.

And If you get your finger and press raw poly foam it crushes quite easily and it will leave a dent while if you use the same pressure on raw EPS foam it will be harder to crush and will generally return close to its original shape.

I ride and like both none is necessary better just different, with different pros and cons.

Also never had an issue with EPS absorbing water, mostly i guess because the epoxy glass jobs are so much more durable open dings are rare.

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:37pm

My bad experiences with EPS boards have mostly concerned weak fin box installation. When a fin busts out, the appallingly piss poor job they did becomes obvious. Not saying this applies to all mass produced EPS boards, but according to a local ding repairer I know, repairing bad fin box construction keeps him busy.

jez's picture
jez's picture
jez Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:06pm

Thats interesting I'm guessing due to the foam itself being larger bubbles/harder to cut accurately? I don't have any experience with mass-produced eps boards, the glass on mine is so heavy it probably helps keep the fins in.

jez's picture
jez's picture
jez Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:06pm

Thats interesting I'm guessing due to the foam itself being larger bubbles/harder to cut accurately? I don't have any experience with mass-produced eps boards, the glass on mine is so heavy it probably helps keep the fins in.

jez's picture
jez's picture
jez Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:09pm

Yeah spot on. My preference for heavy glassed eps really just comes down to longevity.

spinafex's picture
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spinafex Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:32pm

The point about EPS is silly. You can get EPS in a huge range of densities. From 24 KGs per cubic meter to 36 Kgs m3 (which is heavy PU foam density) The less dense foams have more space between the beads so they'll be softer and suck water more while at the other end the beads are smaller and more tightly fused so the foam is stiffer and doesn't suck water. I think most EPS boards are 33 kg m3 which is like a light PU blank - but because you can get lighter stronger lams with epoxy resins they come out lighter.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 5:39am

I only make boards with EPS these days. As other people have mentioned if you glass them solidly and use a stringer they're stronger than PU boards for the same weight. The water absorption thing is real though. As soon as you ding one you need to get it out of the water to dry out. Fortunately since they're glassed so heavily they're hard to ding.
As for the fin plugs, I reckon that comes down to the instillation. I've never had any trouble.

GuySmiley's picture
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GuySmiley Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 10:55am

Grant could get a laugh out of this

gavin007's picture
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gavin007 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:56pm

Love it!

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 11:41am

Really appreciate these articles and the conversations they bring up. If I am buying a board brand new, I always go direct to the shaper for no other reason than it feels more satisfying than going into a shop and being served by some 19 year old who knows more about fashion than they do surfboards. On top of that I like a colorful board, and it's pretty nice to have your name etched into a custom, and getting snapshots of it as it's being shaped is exciting.

That said, some of the best boards I have ever had have been second hand, been beat up and a patchwork of ding repairs. Some of them I've bought for less than $200 and have been declared 'dead' by the previous owner, but have felt lively and fresh under my feet. So I don't think it's always true that the custom process from a local shaper is always going to lead to a better wave riding experience, but I do feel it does contribute to a better overall surfing experience (and given 99% of being a surfer is off the wave, that's pretty significant).

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:09pm

I've had good/bad custom boards, and good/bad boards off the rack.

My balance is definitely tipped in favour of working with, and supporting your local shaper.

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:29pm

Me too. Even with a lifetime of surfing and having owned dozens of boards, it can still be tricky to get a board that works for you if you want to try something slightly different. You have a choice of taking a chance with a mass produced board, based on the blurb on the website, or having a chat with the guy who will make your board.

A Salty Dog's picture
A Salty Dog's picture
A Salty Dog Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:08pm

You have to be honest about your own abilities and concede that for some of us, age will have a substantial effect it.

Young or old(er), the best thing you could do is to go for a surf with your shaper and let him do an honest assessment and put forward the most suitable options.

tip-top1's picture
tip-top1's picture
tip-top1 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:05pm

ben , your around the tweed area , go see bruce kay , top bloke good boards, heaps of experience, in your area

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 6:19pm

Thanks mate!

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:21pm

I stand to be corrected, but I think Grant was using a shaping machine, and doesn’t have an issue with them, it takes a lot of the pure grunt work out of the mowing and the final stages are done by hand either way.
My takeaway from his article (and yes he’s had a bee in his bonnet about this stuff for a long time) is that the years of development and fine tuning that can only come from a close relationship with return customers, is kind of given for free to mass production in the form of copying.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:35pm

While some things have never changed, there have been many changes to the surfboard industry. The main challenge Miller faces is with poor quality imports from overseas manufacturers – boards that often contain faults that the surfer won’t know about until after they have bought it. The introduction of surfboard shaping machines has also made waves (pun intended), cutting down shaping time from two and a half hours to 20 minutes. This has also meant many inexperienced shapers have come onto the scene. Miller perseveres by putting the same TLC into his boards as when he first began, taking up to four weeks to produce one start to finish. “It’s about matching the surfboard to the surfer. I want to build boards that people are really happy with…it’s also highly satisfying making something from scratch with my hands, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling,” Miller says.

---------------------------------------------------
https://www.afr.com/companies/join-in-or-drop-out-20070419-kaej3

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:26pm

udo thanks

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 4:32pm

Yep- Used a Machine for Stock/Shop Boards around 15 yrs ago
Always Hand Shaped since.

gavin007's picture
gavin007's picture
gavin007 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:46pm

Just support your local board manufacturer and shop.

Worth mentioning, I bought a custom Waterskate off Grant many years ago. I've since bought two custom boards through another shaper closer to home, but I still occasionally paddle out on the Waterskate, simply because it is a real wave catcher!

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 12:50pm

My rubbish bin has the same litres as what the website calculator says I need.
Maybe I should ride that..... expensive fins should make it work

mr mick's picture
mr mick's picture
mr mick Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:36pm

Haha, Make sure it’s the yellow lid recycling bin …… it’ll sound like you’re doing your bit to save the planet!!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:04pm

The world of traditional longboarding 'seems' to go against this - the boards are a big investment and I would think people will keep one for longer. Thus the custom shaper and tinted glass job and polish are a bit more secure? Or a bit more valued by that part of the market?

For the shortboarding, the big companies have the best basic designs down pat, and visiting a rack and picking one probably suits most. The tradeoff is styles will coalesce: your board creates your style, then your style creates your boards. If you make them or have meaningful input, anyway. What a pro can surf amazingly, a normie can struggle on meaningfully. The industry has discovered volume most recently which is a good thing.

What I reckon would be optimum is to take a design you like and work through it over a number of boards, just change one thing each board, until perfection is reached. If you shape your own boards and log everything (!) you can do this.

Consumer sentiment flutters in the wind, the latest insta post is the best board ever and joepro rips it but in 6 months time there's a new flame, and the old one kinda was short on paddle and was a bit jerky through turns and it was also a bit floaty and too stiff and this progression tends into infinity.

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 2:19pm

I concur VJ. I've got custom longboards from local shapers as a kind of statement pieces. I wanted them to be pretty as well as functional and I don't know enough about longboard shapes. You'd also suspect someone who has enough experience (on shortboards) to know pretty much what works for them. Something off the rack is easily found and sadly usually kind of disposable as preferences get tweaked. Sentiment flutters not only with fashion, but function. Getting older, slower, heavier etc...

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 1:25pm

Fuck, the guy that shapes my boards is a real arsehole
So I don't pay him either.

backyard's picture
backyard's picture
backyard Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 12:44pm

Same here.

chin's picture
chin's picture
chin Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:11pm

As a bit of an adjunct to this article, Grant had a nasty fall from the roof of his shed a couple of weeks ago, resulting in somewhere between 8 to 11 broken ribs and 2 punctured lungs. So he’s pretty knocked up at the moment.
I still have 4 of Grant’s boards, 3 of them were customs, and one I picked up off Gumtree as it was the same dims as the V-skate he made me. I loved that V-skate so much, I wasn’t keen to put it on a plane to Indo, so when I saw the Gumtree one (quarter of an inch narrower but otherwise identical) I jumped on it as a travel board.
He’s a good guy, a pleasure to deal with and very proud of his boards. Every one he made me surfed exactly as planned. In most cases I sort of grew into the board, so the enjoyment increased the more I rode it.
Anyway, all the best to Grant with his recovery.

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 3:26pm

holy farkin shit.. as with your swellnet articles 10 years ago, Grant, this one has spawned some really good discussion, which is what it's all about. Best wishes as you gently recover - glad you are still with us.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 4:13pm

Re flex and loss of energy, Grant may want to have a look and think about skiing and ski design. It's all about loading up a flexing ski (ever see the legs on those guys/ladies?), then releasing that potential energy and getting shot out of a turn.

Flex, I'm pretty damn sure, is also a crucial ingredient in why CT surfers ride thin, lightly glassed PU boards, and why SurfTech boards felt dead and awful.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 4:35pm

I agree with this.

In a past article on flex there were some dissenters in the comments who took Grant's position - I.e flex equals energy lost.

I've ridden a number of flextail boards and also flex fins - even riding a set now - and my view is that, while surfaces bend and flex, energy isn't lost as there are many surfaces holding during turns (four fin faces, many feet of rail, bottom contours). So a deformation in one surface isn't slowing the board via energy loss.

Also, I rode a Bushrat flextail a few years back that very clearly gave acceleration at the end of turns.

Was that at the expense of deceleration during the turns..?

It didn't feel like it.

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:21pm

My 1st board was a Crozier flextail in 1976; it maintained drive in a hard figure 8 turn, slide sideways into the barrel or pivot in the pocket, ... etc. as a teenovice, I thought this was 'knormal'
I didnt realise (till later when I had to standup) how dead most surfboards felt in the 1980's onward... until I rode an epoxy John Harris longboard in 1990's that flexed & responded like a snow ski ... driving into the next turn...
http://freeglidesurfboards.com/history/
Thanks Cris Crozier, Peter Crawford & J.Harris (& the guru George Greenough), for those brief tastes of freedom & speed out of controlled carves.

Flex maybe a compromise to strength in ESP or......a timber veneer ESP board is a sustainable stonger, flexible alternative to landfill....at least in my experience.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 7:02am

BB totally agree as i had a crozier flex tail like yourself around the same time frame and i took it for granted how good that board was ....moved on from that but it was so good in the tube and i often think back how good it was .

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 11:36am

I didn’t know anyone could surf that good in the 70s!

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 8:08pm

The Oz shortboard straight plainshape & rocker wasnt refined for small waves; it was still a time of single fins & alot of wiggling . Turns would bog and slow you down. ...even on perfect small waves in the 70's...... eg a reo was considered 'radical' and featured in the big surf movies in the 1970's...


https://www.eos.surf/videos/video-george-greenough-is-aquaman

Meanwhile, there were these few 'weird' guys in Oz surfing on their knees "the cripples" .... they were making deeep barrels, doing 360's, 'floaters' & bodyboard style manoeuvres; as the pivot point was more than 14inch up from the tail. Later, the kneeboard width & tails became more pulled in & refined, as these guys surfed & shaped boards for slabs, bigger waves and indo, very similar to the Miller skate above...in the late 1970's....

It was knormal to be dropped in on every wave so we often surfed sucky ledges, those same dropin guys couldnt ride....withouta nose dive, losing a fin or skin.
https://www.eos.surf/videos/peter-crawford

https://www.swellnet.com/news/swellnet-dispatch/2017/02/21/peter-crawfor...


Wave more intresting than cooking on a hot cricket pitch in summer
https://www.eos.surf/videos/george-greenough-children-of-the-sun

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 10:58pm

Timeless footage of Burleigh when Burleigh was good, and Snapper before the sand pumping. Amazing amount of nose dives and wipeouts for World Champions, back then! I still have visions of 10 o’clock reos winning titles , until Mark Richard’s came along with the twiny , and he’s 1 o’clock reos

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 8:08am

I can still remember paddling out at Burleigh cove behind Terry Fitzgerald, who was paddling out for a Stubbies heat,, 1976 or 7 ,and watching him takeoff on his first practice wave, and completely nose diving, surfacing and embarrassingly looking around to see if anyone had noticed. I rationalised it by realising he was from Sydney and wasn’t used to the wave , but that was a real eye opener. I also remember being impressed by Shaun Thompsons front foot, down the line takeoffs , maybe the same paddle out, can’t remember now?

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 9:31am

I can also remember surfing Burleigh Cove during another Stubbies , which you were allowed to do back then. I took off on a wave at the cove ,pulled into a long , fast , barrel , which just kept going. I remember seeing the 2 competitors , looking at me down the line , getting closer and closer. The wave eventually shut down and on me ,and I surfaced on the edge or possibly inside the competition area, someone on the hill hooted, and the 2 competitors, about 10 metres away , gave me this , were the stars get the f…. out of here look .So I just padded back out, and the announcer didn’t say anything and no one came and arrested me or anything. Seemed quite funny at the time

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 6:48am

Yep also have to agree, flex does store up that energy to be released, it doesn't just disappear. You can feel it on release as well in certain scenarios.

If it did waste the energy where does it go? Conservation of energy etc.

spinafex's picture
spinafex's picture
spinafex Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 10:16am

I think when some people talk about flex they're really thinking of damping. If you're surfing at speed, and most pros are, then surface chop creates chatter under your feet. PU soaks up the bumps like suspension in a car. The way it does this however with a lightly glassed board is by the foam compacting under your feet. Unfortunately PU foam doesn't return to its original form and you get foot wells and deck collapse. When your PU board feels dead it's basically because the foam is crushed.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 4:14pm

Dunno, last custom boards I was regularly getting were from Neal Purchase Snr, had some great boards
Moved to Bali and Bruce Hansel shaped me some great boards and some not so great, nothing wrong with boards per se, but did not go good for me.
Got a couple of customs from Cutch who was shaping for CI up there, until he no longer had time and went to CI.
Never had a bad board, CI Pro 12 went unreal, Taco Grinder and Happy.
Last few years have had a few JS's went well for me except a monsta box.
Had a FireWire grovel seaside which went ok in sunny coast dribble.
Now on a few Hayden shape models and all go sick. Virtue, Cohort 2 and White Noiz.
Like the carbon for sunny coast, PU for when good at home or Indo etc.
Maybe art form is being lost, but some great boards around.

Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame's picture
Hall of Lame Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:03pm

On the marketing gimmick point: A closely connected to the industry friend said that for the big brands with their dozens of models and new releases, the promo video footage can be the pro-surfer’s go to board with a different logo put on it. Hearsay only but surely no one would be so unethical in our special sport.
On the machine shape quality: have never had a bad board (with poor symmetry and other faults as claimed by Grant) and have been able to get seemingly exact remakes when required.

Gowest's picture
Gowest's picture
Gowest Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 7:41pm

When we talk about the uneducated or less experienced what the fuck is going on with all the pop out imported mid lengths clogging the lineups by unskilled greedy newbies?
As a friend who has worked with boards and glass for 40 years said recently there is no such thing as a mid length ,they are mini malls to which i agree and were scorned when i sold boards in the 90s….

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:11pm

FireWire Addvance doesn’t look like a mini mal , up to 7. 6 , 69 litres

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 11:47pm

@ go west, recreation surfys
Not hardcore surfys.....
Lineup has changed

legrope1's picture
legrope1's picture
legrope1 Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 8:29pm

Get a Psillakis... problem solved

Spearman's picture
Spearman's picture
Spearman Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:03pm

Tried selling a few older boards lately and were hand shaped with litres unknown. The majority asked for litres and never got back to me.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Wednesday, 10 Jul 2024 at 9:12pm

I think that happens with any product these days.
Potential buyer asks a question.
Respond promptly.
Never hear from them again.

Kook-Man2001's picture
Kook-Man2001's picture
Kook-Man2001 Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 2:12pm

Just make it up!

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 10:03pm

"How many litres is it?"
"Not sure, but I have a volume displacement tank I can check later when I get a chance, how many litres is your preference?"
"34 Litres"
.........
"Hey, guess what, it's 34 litres!"

sbuckley's picture
sbuckley's picture
sbuckley Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 5:44am

The passion and knowledge some surfer have on surfboard design and manufacturing is staggering.

So is the conceited arrogance of the opinionated blokes on all sides of this discussion.

I think what most surfers want are affordable, reliable and durable surfboards that get their particular jobs done.

Unfortunately for the romantics, for most surfers these are likely to be the highly refined boards made by the long established big brands. Think the Toyotas of the industry.

Some will want the equivalent of an F1 race car made by a team of scientists and engineers. Or a fine leather horse saddle made by a true craftsman.

But most of us just want a board that is affordable, reliable and durable - that takes what the outer limits of the industry have trialled and perfected and made this accessible for us so-called ordinary surfers.

Want a deeper dive on this topic? see Surfboard Artisans by Tom Wegener. Out of print, but available second hand and in libraries

https://www.noosalongboards.com/products/book-3

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 10:22pm

yeh, mate, I liken it to guitars..  fucked if I wanna get stuck talking to a guitarist about their gear.

You can buy a Mike McCready relic Fender, an Ash bespoke from Middleton, or a donkey guitar from china..
whatever, for most people, buy the china, makes zero difference.  If you can afford to support craftsmanship, do, it's a worthwhile thing in terms of human endeavor and an ongoing conversation with bespoke wood and skill.  And it will drive you to care about your part in it for good reasons.

So then guitarists bang on about strings, pick-ups and set ups..  then styles.  Boring as.  All of it.  We work it out for ourselves, cloaked in a silent journey of wonder.  I like musos and surfers.  I like them.  If they have that hood of mutual respect and silence, horses for courses, each man's journey.. love of the song of the sea..

If I travel, I try not to take a guitar, I'll buy one over there, and if I like it, bring it home, if not, pass it on to someone who needs it.  Same with boards.  I guess it's the dif between thinking your time and journey is so important, and you are so dialed in, you need to spend months locking it all down like a hardcore 4WD dude.  Instead of someone who reckons it'll be ok, and the worst that can happen, if you fail, is have a giggle and a weird one, meeting people who do their darndest to help you while you make new friends.  Funky quivers with stories ensue.

Obviously, I get those that travel differently.  Especially with those with epic skills that I don't have.  I liked @indo's advice a while back, take your fave board, and another if you have room.

swellnet has helped people buy vintage boards, recommend computer boards, locally crafted boards, even to be patrons to the friggin genius, tiger.. seems okay.. lotsa options..  better than what sits in the average guitar shop.. and a big difference when a thing is built for local by a bloke who knows its nature intimately.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 11:28am

“At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will be living in a world in which the greatest generation of handshapers that ever lived is no longer able to contribute to the craft. To be clear: As a discipline, handshaping itself isn’t going anywhere. While mass-production handshapers have been replaced by machines, a new breed of boutique board builders continues to connect surfers to our lineage of craftsmanship, even in the Costco era.

“But handshaping is a different game now, with different incentives, and it produces both different boards and different board builders. Never again will a shaper need, or want, to produce 40,000 surfboards by hand in their career. So how will our craft culture change when this motherlode of experience is no longer there to be mined?”

&

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 2:13pm

Fark, imagine shaping 40000 surfboards then deciding you're gonna shape your last one. What a bittersweet moment.

Schreinermeister's picture
Schreinermeister's picture
Schreinermeister Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 3:00pm

Surfer board timeline

Kook - mate's board
Semi kook - brand new rack board with way too much volume
Intermediate kook - visit all local underground shapers and talk BS for hours and pay for an overpriced pig.
Intermediate pest - order a custom with horrible dimensions off a big name shaper and pay for an overpriced pig.
Advanced intermediate pest - twin fins. many of them.
Getting the idea - rack shortboard that works
Jaded semi pro - rack shortboards, plus maybe something shaped by a master with a little too much rocker for when it gets bigger.
Injured dad - soft top longboard

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 3:00pm

Wizz must be getting Close to that Figure .

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 8:26pm

Yeah, look, I've read this twice now and I'm internally debating whether to take the bait or simply acknowledge an old man yelling at clouds. The rotten apple analogy alone could be taken back to day one, when some peripherally sighted individual realised a buck could be made from surfing. In short, I'm not buying this tripe.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 at 9:56pm

Yeah, me too

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal Friday, 12 Jul 2024 at 7:42am

I do agree that all boards should always come with at least a basic set of fins, though.