Surfboard shaping is something I have been connected to since I ordered my first custom board at 10 years old. I have always been actively involved in the process of designing the shape, glassing specifications, and color or artwork of nearly all my surfboards. I've spent time in the shaping and glassing rooms watching masters at work as they display years of experience creating the perfect wave craft... and yet, despite years of my own experience with fiberglass board and boat repair, I have never taken on the challenge of shaping and glassing a surfboard myself.
Whether it was the fear of "f!cking it up", the lack of the proper space, or just "adulting" in general, something has always held me back from taking on the challenge of shaping a surfboard. When April of 2021 rolled around I think I may have entered into a slight "mid-life crisis" (though I feel I still have a few years to go before my actual one starts). It was mid-pandemic, a majority of my friends and peers were collecting unemployment and living their "best lives", meanwhile I was completely overwhelmed with work and the general mental fatigue that came along with the pandemic. As selfish as it sounds, I really needed something for myself. Thats when I decided to shape myself a surfboard, but it wasn't going to be your typical modern board, it was going to be a wooden board, a "hollow frame" wooden surfboard to be specific.
The Hollow Frame Surfboard was developed in the 1920-1930's by the legendary Tom Blake. Though shapes and materials have been modernized over the past century by craftsman like Paul Jensen, the crew at Grain Surfboards, and Martin Stiphout at Ventana Surfboards (to name a few), the general construction remains the same. Consisting of a solid or plywood stringer and rib structure, an inner rail, and a top and bottom "skin", these boards are very similar in construction to an airplane wing. Rails are added in a number of ways from small strips of wood, solid wood, foam, or in my case cork. Though these boards can be simply sealed with oils or varnish I chose to glass my board with epoxy to ensure the best possible protection from moisture and use... oh yes, this board was intended to be ridden.
At the beginning of 2021 I came up on a bunch of salvaged old growth VG (vertical grain) fir and redwood that was being ripped out of a house on Front Street in Lahaina. As any woodworker knows old growth, VG fir, and old growth redwood is getting harder and harder to source, and as a result is also very expensive. Being able to salvage what nearly ended up in the dumpster and give new life to a material that already had quite a story was the perfect start. This material was also perfect for my surfboard due to its strength to weight ratio. Historically these two woods have been highly sought after for boat building.
With some help from another local craftsman and board maker James Wadsworth, we penciled out a design for a 5'10 retro twin-fin. I was able to recreate this classic shape in a 3d shaping program and transfer cross sections into Illustrator where I was able to detail each rib and stringer component. From there the files were sent to the laser and the frame was cut from 1/4 marine plywood.
I had to add a bit of flare so decided to do some solid ebony wood pin lines and a custom iwa bird pin-striping inlay that was inspired by the type of designs you would find on a vintage hotrod or motorcycle tank
When I was nearly finished with the 5'10 I was honored with a commission for an 8'0 single-fin "art board" that would be hung up in a local coffee shop here in lahaina called DRIFT. These two boards were an awesome opportunity to develop my own process and I am excited to build many more of these in the future.
The following gallery is a bit of a montage of those two builds.