Surfboard Shaping Guide: Getting Started

Shaping your own surfboard is something that can blow the roof off of your overall surfing experience – it can get you thinking about design elements and performance characteristics you’ve probably never thought about before.

Shaping a surfboard can be fun, challenging, frustrating, and messy.

And it can be extremely rewarding to surf something that you’ve built yourself – regardless of how ugly it is or even if it’s a total dog.

It’s relatively easy to shape a surfboard that will float – it’s more difficult to shape a surfboard that perfectly matches the vision you have in your mind that surfs exactly how you want it to.

With that said, this page is designed to serve as an overview of the surfboard shaping process – from idea to surfcraft – to help you, the aspiring backyard shaper or first-time garage-hack, decide whether or not you really want to shape your own surfboard.

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What Materials Do You Need to Make A Surfboard?

If it’s your first time making a surfboard, you really don’t need all that much.

You probably shouldn’t spend a fortune on the best shaping tools, outfitting a shaping bay, or the best materials for your first few boards.

It’s probably wise to get a few under your belt to see if you’ve caught the surfboard shaping virus (a variant of the surfboard-buying virus).

If you’re looking to shape a foam and fiberglass surfboard, at a minimum you’ll need:

That’s really all you need assuming you’ll be glassing on your fins and building your own leash loop.

All of those materials can probably be sourced for around $200.

For your first few board, you can also get away with minimum tools, which would include:

If you don’t have any of these tools laying around already, they can probably be gathered for around $100.

As for a workspace, you’ll need:

  • Something to shape, glass, and sand the board on.
    • This can be a homemade shaping rack, saw-horses, or even an empty trash can.
  • A space you don’t mind getting extremely messy and will be able to clean up.
    • Shaping a blank outdoors is not the environmentally conscious thing to do.

To be on the safe-side, you should also have:

  • Eye-protection.
  • Respirator/face mask.
  • Gloves.

List of Surfboard Shaping Tools & Equipment

In addition to your surfboard planer, your sander/polisher, and your epoxy resin, there are a handful of other things you’ll need to shape a surfboard from start to finish.

We’ll cover most of the basic tools, materials, and equipment you’ll need.

1. Cordless Compact Router for Fin Boxes

The Makita compact, cordless router is a solid choice for working on your surfboard.

A compact router will be used for:

  • Making accurate holes for your fin boxes.
  • Adding a hole for a leash cup.
  • Making chambers or routing patterns if you’re making a wooden surfboard.

The Makita XTR01Z Battery-powered compact router is a good choice for any surfboard-job.

Light, small, and easy to use. If you’ve got other Makita cordless tools, you’ll already have the battery too.

2. Fiberglass Cutting Tools & Tape

Quality cutting tools and good tape is key to a proper glassing job.

The sharper your cutting tools, the less you’ll need to deal with stray fiberglass strands and the cleaner your laps will be.

Good quality tape will also help with cut laps and any inlays or color work your plan to do.

To work with fiberglass (or hemp cloth) for surfboards, you’ll need:

3. Materials & Equipment for Mixing Epoxy & Glassing

If you’ve never worked with epoxy or polyester resin before, it can be messy and a bit intimidating. Make your life easier and get all the proper equipment for measuring, mixing, and working with epoxy.

To measure, mix, and work with your epoxy, you’ll need:

Measuring cups can be used to mix and measure your epoxy resin and hardener together in the correct ratios.

These can be reused by allowing the leftover resin to cure and popping it out of the cup.

Flexible squeegees are useful during the lamination stage to help the resin fully saturate the cloth and to laminate the rails around the board.

These can be reused as well.

A chip brush is the most effective way to lay down your hot coat.

Pull out any loose bristles before you get started.

Cut off a little bit from the tip of the brush for a stiffer feel.

Using a digital scale is the most accurate way to measure your epoxy and hardener ratios.

Refer to your epoxy manufacturer’s weight ratio recommendations, measure out your resin and hardener and mix away.

4. Sandpaper & Sanding Pads

A variety of sandpaper grits will be used throughout the entire shaping process. It’s always a good idea to stock up.

Hand sanding is recommended for working on the rails, any tight spots, or any areas of your board that require some finesse.

For your shaping and sanding phases of the build, you’ll need:

80 grit to about 320 grit will come in handy for shaping your blank and taking a first pass on your hot coat.

320 grit and up will be used for getting your shaped blank ready for glassing and to finish up your glass job.

Sanding blocks come in handing when shaping your board as well.

These are available in various grits.

5. Hand tools for Shaping a Surfboard

As you’re shaping your surfboard, you’ll need a few different hand tools as well.

These will come in handy when cutting your outline, taking the stringer down, or working on any bottom channels.

Hand tools you’ll use when shaping a surfboard include:

6. PPE & Safety Equipment for Surfboard Shapers

Shaping surfboards is nasty, dirty business.

There’s going to be a whole lot of dust, particles, and fumes that you really don’t want to get in your lungs or eyes.

If you want to be able to enjoy the board you’re working on, it’s best to protect yourself.

When shaping a surfboard, some good PPE to have include:

How do You Shape a Surfboard?

Shaping a surfboard really boils down to only a handful of steps. Patience, preparation, and attention to detail will make each step go more smoothly.

Making a surfing involves:

  • Planning & Design – You can design a board from scratch, copy a board you like, or work off a pre-existing design.
  • Transferring the design to the blank.
  • Shaping the blank.
  • Glassing the bottom.
  • Glassing the top.
  • Glassing-on the fins and leash loop.
  • Hot coating the top and bottom.
  • Sanding.
  • 2nd hot coat, if necessary, and finish sanding.

If you simplify that a bit, building a surfboard is design > shaping > glassing > sanding. 4 major steps.

After that, you’re ready to surf your creation!

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