August Odysseys – Custom Boards
I thought I was a surfer but it took a group of ladies to point out that really…I am a walker.
A few years ago some ladies were in my studio for my shaping demonstration at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. One of them asked me, “Robert August how many miles do you walk when shaping a board?” I of course had no idea.
A week later they came back with a pedometer. Turns out they organized walking charity events and asked me if I would wear it while shaping. At the end of shaping just one board, I had walked over 2.5 miles. It made me think, and I started to calculate, over the past fifty years of shaping and documenting the boards, I have shaped over forty-one thousand boards. So with the above number, it works out to about 102,500 miles. That is over four times around the world at the equator. I’m kind of a skinny guy, so my take on this is, if your shaper is an overweight guy he probably hasn’t shaped many boards.
If you want a custom board from me, the process begins in my office or maybe at the bar… hopefully at a table with an ocean view. I meet with the client and fill out the paperwork and start writing down the numbers. I ask what they like and how they surf. I’m try to get them the best design for their surfing ability, so they can just go have fun and be stoked!
A surfer generally wants something that is super fast and responsive. But these two concepts work against each other. Therein lies the art of shaping. I like to make a flexible board that achieves a level of speed with maneuverability. So when I’m speaking to the client, and learn the conditions he/she plans to use the board in, that’s how we decide what the board will ultimately become.
Having shaped 41,000+ boards in my in my life, each board is made by hand. I only use the highest quality foam from US blanks. The blanks are meticulously marked for the specifications laid out in our first design meeting. Then I begin the shaping process.
I use the old trusted shapers’ tool of choice: the “Skil 100”. The Skil 100 power planer is no longer in production, and is highly sought by knowledgeable shapers.
Shaping boards is still lots of fun for me, as each board is different. Surf boards can be very detailed in their “Custom Design”. As the word custom says, every aspect of the board is discussed and then prepared and finished to the specifications of the end user.
The work of shaping begins on one side of the board. Shaping the rails and rockers to be symmetrical on each side is essential. If it is not symmetrical, the shaper, to say the least, is not good.
While shaping, your hands and fingers are just as valuable as your eyes. They are very sensitive; the human touch is the most telling. You run your hands on the board constantly to discern the variations or uniformity.
Generally these days, I produce about three boards per week. I still really enjoy shaping boards, but I love meeting the people who come to the shaping demo I do weekly.
Shaping demonstrations are Wednesdays in Robert’s Shaping Studio. They are booked at the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp front desk.