Why I won't shape your surfboard yet...

Posted by Gillian Grove on

It's the ultimate high when I get your messages asking if I would shape you a board :)

I started my blogging last year when Covid hit hard and I stepped into the shaping bay for the first time. It was the steepest learning curve I have ever been on. I had no idea that so much went into the making of our boards and just how important it was to get the right board fitted to the right person.

I bought a shit board - actually reframe - I bought a great board for the wrong surfer at the beginning of last year. It was devastating to get it into the water and then feel like my surfing had taken a 2 year backwards step.

I just thought I wasn't a good enough surfer. I put my new board aside and went out and bought a 9ft foamie. Foamies are the ultimate illusion in surfing - you can feel like you are a shredder because you can catch every wave. 

What I didn't realise back then is that a super easy beginner board like a foamie can actually handicap you from getting better. You stay on that thing too long and you will miss out on the chance to progress your surfing.

There's nothing like hitting the right angle on the rails of a board and feeling it take off beneath you - a foamie wont do that - most of them don't even have rails! Well mine didn't.

So when I hit the shaping bay and my brain exploded so much it hurt from information overload, I realised something very quickly...

This was going to take a long time to learn and understand.

There's a reason apprentices take 3 years to hone their craft....good skills take time. 

I have learnt the art of shaping from scratch using hand tools. Not only have I had to wrap my head around 65 plus dynamics that can get customised to someone, I have had to learn how to bend a hand saw to cut out a shape, how to use a planer like a sculptor, how to use a surform hand tool to make lines exactly straight and then how to sand within an inch of my life so that not even a hair width measurement is out of place.

My hand shaping skills are going to take a lifetime to master, but my board design skills and knowledge are layering up fast.

I can listen to your pain points in the surf and take a pretty solid guess at what you might need to change in your board. I see many of you surfing on the wrong boards when I am in the surf.

There are some things that just aren't possible as there's a lot of give and take in the designing. For example, did you know that a board that nose rides well is very likely not going to turn as well? Go and watch those videos where the surfers are throwing their boards around and then watch just how many get to the nose for longer than a tap. Not many!

Alternatively, go and watch a beautiful nose riding board rider - are they whipping the board around whilst they are on the nose? No. Why? Because the board has to be held steady for you to be on the nose and for that to happen, the water has to wrap around the tail of the board and hold it steady - along with a good fin. It can't be holding you steady and turning at the same time!

These are all things I've had to learn the hard way through designing and shaping boards and then testing them in the water and chatting to Harvs.

So when someone comes along and says to me "Gill - can you shape me a board?" I need to be able to ask you the right questions and know 100% what kind of surfer you are to know which of those 65 things I will be tweaking to make sure you look better in the surf, not worse!

I want my boards to be 110%, not 75% and for that I need time.

So be patient with me whilst I get through my learning months and send me an email to be on the wait list to get notifications when I get started.

Thank you so much for supporting my journey and keep surfing!

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