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San Diego Surfing Home > Surfing School > Equipment - SurfBoards

Surfing School - Shaping - Shaping

Shaping is an individual skill and techniques are as varied as there are shapers. This section will describe a typical method of shaping close to that used by this author and several others I have been involved with over the years.

Starting with a new blank, cut the nose and tail off for the desired board length and rocker. Cutting close to the tail end saves more rocker through the board and will result in more lift from the tail. Cutting 6 inches to 8 inches back from the tail will eliminate much of the tail rocker. This is more desirable when shaping bigger wave boards.

Choosing the proper length blank to start with will allow enough room to vary board rocker until you are satisfied. Blanks should be at least 1 foot longer than the desired final length. After cutting the blank off at its tail using a hand saw, measure the desired length to the nose. If the blank's rocker looks good to you, cut off the remaining nose section.

The blank is now ready for planing. While almost any planer will work, the traditional planer used to shape is a Skill planer cut shorter than it comes from the factory. Place the blank bottom up on the shaping rack and starting at the tail end, make a 1/2 inch deep pass along the outside edge of the blank.

Continue the plane line going back and fourth (end to end) until you work to the middle stringer. Then go to the other side of the board and repeat the process. Take the large sanding block and make three or four passes end to end along each side of the blank until any remaining bottom ripples in the blank have been removed. Using the straight edge, check the bottom to ensure there are no dips or bumps needing removal. Some shapers will also make a light pass on the top of the blank at this time, usually about 1/4 inch deep mostly to strip off the blank's outer shell.

The blank's bottom is now flat and ready for the board's outline to be drawn with a soft pencil. Four measurements are required for the outline. The tail width is marked on both sides with a right triangle or L directly perpendicular to the stringer and approximately 1 foot from the bottom. The nose width is marked approximately 1 foot from the top and perpendicular from the stringer.

The next mark (the offset) relates to the board's maximum width. Place a small mark on the stringer at the exact middle of the blank. The widest part of the board is normally marked some inches above this point. Unless you are an experienced board designer, look at a board you like and take the measurement from it. You will probably need a large metal L or right triangle to ensure the marks are the same on both sides and perpendicular to the stringer.

Using the selected template for the nose you want, position it from the blank nose through the nose width mark and then down along the blank until you are as close to you can to the middle mark. Once set, put a small mark on the template's outer edge at the blank's nose mark so you will be able to repeat the position exactly on the other side of the blank.


Draw a line on the blank extending through the nose mark and middle mark. Flip the template over, move to the other side of the blank, and repeat the process. Hold the blank up by the front and rear and eyeball the lines to make sure they are identical.

Using the selected tail template, repeat the process at the bottom of the board, going through the tail mark to the midpoint mark on each side of the blank. If the midpoints where the nose and tail lines cross are not uniform, lay a template's midpoint between each line and find a position to draw where the lines will smooth out. Use this same location on both sides. The final lines and marks are shown in Figure 01. A professional shaper will have various size and shape templates, and can mix and match until obtaining the outline desired on virtually any size board.


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