Where To Buy A Surfboard | Ordering A Custom Surfboard

The pros and cons of buying a custom surfboard from a surfboard shaper

Buying a surfboard off-the-rack at your local surf shop is quick and easy and instantly gratifying, but nothing quite compares to picking up your new custom surfboard and finding on the underside of the stringer, written in pencil next to the very dimensions you specifically requested, the beautiful words: for Gerald/Tiago/Barry etc.

Ordering A Custom Surfboard: What?

Most surfboard shapers will have a series of standard surfboard models that are available in a range of stock dimensions. Buying a custom surfboard might mean simply ordering one of these standard models because you can’t find the size you want in stock. Alternatively, it might mean tweaking a standard model slightly to suit your purposes, or working closely with a shaper to come up with something completely new that is the product of your combined experience.

A custom surfboard’s all about the customer… and the shaper of course. Christiaan Bradley and grom at the Euroglass Factory. Photo: @euroglass

Ordering A Custom Surfboard: Where?

Custom surfboards can be ordered in person at the factory, over the phone, on the internet, or via a surf shop that has a relationship with a particular shaper or brand. The importance of having an actual conversation with someone about your new board depends on whether you already know exactly what you want, and on whether what you want can be easily communicated in writing. The larger the brand, the harder it’ll be to talk directly to the shaper himself, but even the best known UK surfboard shapers are generally available for a chat.

Ordering A Custom Surfboard: Why?

The benefits of a custom surfboard are obvious: you get the exact surfboard you are after, from the shape to the size to the artwork right down to the heaviness of the glass job. And if you’re going to fork out for a new surfboard, there’s little sense in getting something that you know beforehand doesn’t quite meet your requirements. Generally speaking you don’t pay a premium for a custom surfboard — it’ll cost the same as a new surfboard bought off-the-rack.

‘From Bob McTavish for Jean Paul…’ Legendary shaper Bob McTavish signs off another custom order. Photo: @pukassurf

By developing a rapport with a local foam guru, you’ll become more involved in the surfboard-making process, learn more about surfboard design, and ultimately end up with better surfboards. You can tell him what you liked and didn’t like about your last surfboard, and discuss exactly what you want your next surfboard to offer you. Ideally he’ll be familiar with the waves you tend to surf and maybe even with how you surf them, allowing him to fine-tune your new board even further.

Ordering A Custom Surfboard: Why Not?

Downsides? You’ll have to wait a while to be able to pick your surfboard up — usually around 4 to 6 weeks but often more. And if you’ve just snapped your old board and don’t own a suitable stand-in, that’s a long time to wait. For this reason you might choose to pre-empt an existing surfboard’s demise and order a new one in advance. If your old surfboard’s still intact when your new one arrives, you can sell it secondhand; some brands will even let you trade it in at the factory in part exchange for your new board.

Very occasionally, something gets lost in translation and the surfboard you get back isn’t quite what you had in mind. If the error’s at their end, no worries, they should rectify it for free, but that’ll mean more waiting.

Top Tips For Ordering A Custom Surfboard

  • Be honest with yourself and your shaper about your ability.
  • Get all the specific details written down, and be precise. This way you make sure you get back the surfboard you envisioned, and if by chance something isn’t as you asked for it then you have a kind of insurance.
  • Listen to the advice of the shaper, who will know much more about surfboards than you, but don’t let him steer you down some obscure back-alley of alternative surfboard design if you’re not comfortable going there.
An army of EPS foam blanks stand to attention at Pukas Surfboards’ Olatu factory in the Basque Country. Photo: @pukassurf
  • By the same token, a shaper’s standard models are as they are for a reason, and he will know them well. The different elements of a surfboard are designed to complement each other and work in unison; the further you deviate from the shaper’s specific recommendations re: dimensions, tail design, etc., the greater the risk you take.
  • Just picked up your new custom sled and it goes like magic? Etiquette dictates you drop a crate of beer round the factory.

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