Knowing how to order a custom surfboard is key to getting the surfboard you want.
Some surfers order their first custom surfboard aged 8, some at 28, but no matter what age, the experience is profound.
Just like getting barrelled, ordering a custom surfboard is one of the unique charms of surfing, something that most sports just don’t allow for.
And thus the act should be similarly cherished and savoured. Even the act of picking up your new custom, including pre-collection recces (forward slash pestering the factory staff) are all part of a ritual at the very core of our cultural identity.
But there are also so many ways custom surfboards can go wrong. Did the shaper nail exactly what you wanted? Has spray guy been on the ‘shrooms again? Should you have ordered thicker? Heavier/lighter glass? So many banana skins…
To avoid disappointment, there are a few things to consider before submitting that order form for your next custom surfboard.
Commit Pen to Paper
Whether it’s the shaper or the shop owner taking your order, make sure the details are clear and precise.
When the form is filled in, read it again, as if you had no prior knowledge of the surfboard. Is there enough detail?
As your surfboard gets built it’ll be passed around the factory from shaper to glasser to sander to sprayer etc, so the order form must be clear.
Be open and honest about how rad you are(n’t) when discussing exactly what you want.
A statement full of heartfelt candour like ‘I just want to catch waves, go fast, have fun, man… I’ll probably not be doing rodeos’ will probably see you getting a better surfboard than any silly faux posturing as the second coming of Gabriel.
You might even get a hug.
The standard unspoken consensus among custom orderers, espesh in the intermediate space is pretend to slightly better than you are, thus getting an ‘improver’ shape for the surfer you hope to be.
A better idea would be a shape for the surfer with the higher wave count you hope to be.
Whose Fricken Board is it Anyway?
If you really want a particular shape, don’t let the shaper talk you into their latest wacky whimsical creation. If you want a a single fin, don’t let em talk you into a bonzer. Or vice-versa… Reign them in.
Listen to their advice, and sure, there should be wiggle room, but stick to your guns. It’s called a ‘custom’ and you are the ‘custom-er’. Be firm, without being a bell end.
A friend used to order boards from a well known Aussie shaper who used to be based in Hossegor back in the day and say “I’d like a square tail…” before being interrupted.
“Mate, you don’t wanna square tail mate… I’ll make you the best round tail you’ve ever seen…”
Even if the shaper’s second supposition was correct, the first wasn’t.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
On the other hand, don’t go experimenting with your own dimensions too far outside the standards for a particular model.
That particular surfboard has been designed to have that form. The shaper’s job is to know what width and thickness suits what length for what board.
Let them advise you here, they know their own models.
What They Hate Almost More Than Anything in the World
Is when you take a board and ask them to copy it… an old fave perhaps, one that takes you to all-time high levels of shred consciousness.
If it’s one of their’s, it’ll be less of a slight against them, but they still won’t appreciate being asked to make a replica. Either way, one of two things will then happen.
They’ll be visibly annoyed and talk you out of a copy.
They’ll seem vaguely fine, but then produce something different entirely, anyway.
Sure, you want it to look great, but keep it in perspective; functionality over aesthetic – the real importance of a custom board is how it is feels under foot, not looks under arm.
On the other hand, if it looks pants, you might find it hard to love it. And we all want to love our boards, right? If you really can’t decide, but want something customised colour-wise, especially on a non lightweight high perf shorty, don’t overlook the white pigment (as opposed to tint). It’s inexpensive, and your board will stay nice n’ white, for like, ever.
Be (a bit) Patient… Then Don’t
Give the board a chance once you finally do get in the water. Try to avoid making that first surf in shite waves… if you can.
Many a magic stick hasn’t feel good immediately but unleashed its magical power after given a proper chance in a range of conditions.
However. At a certain point, if it still doesn’t meet your expectations, or to use the generic term, ‘go’, be ruthless.
Sell that thing, trade it back in, get rid. Your surfing days, indeed life itself, is much too short to persevere with a board that doesn’t love you like you deserve to be loved.