Surfboard shaper: hands that make waves

Surfboard shapers are the guardians of surfing. The surfboard revolution has always started in the shape room, with the major inputs from the world's greatest surfers. One surfboard can change your surf forever.

The first surfboard you ever own is responsible for bringing you to the sport. With the right combination, a relationship between board and rider will spark a love affair with surfing that will last a lifetime. Sadly, many beginners lose interest in surfing early on because the board they are using is not the correct one for those first waves.

The best surfboard shapers of all time have produced thousands of great surfboards. Each design is unique and serves a specific function. Old school surf; classic and smooth carving; vertical turns; off-the-lip adventures; super speed surf lines; tube riding; or aerial antics can all be strongly boosted and improved by tweaking and tuning the foam in the surfboard through a process called hydrodynamics.

And surfboard craftsmen do surf. The rocker, the tail, the rails, the bottom contours, the fin setup, the glass and polish process; they all come to a final, stoke-worthy, rideable fruit. Each surfboard has its dimensions: length, width and thickness are not random variables, or "feel". This is ocean mathemathics at work; perplexing equations that can only be solved by the hands of experienced surfboard shapers who know what it feels like out there on the waves.

These surf artists work in special environments. The ideal shaping room is around 16'x8' (9,6 x 4,8 meters), with bright, horizontal fluorescent lights mounted on each side of the space. Standings on which blanks are shaped should be fixed to the floor; aligned with the adjacent lights. As any shaper can attest, great lighting is one of the crucial elements of any shape room.

They allow surfboard shapers to correct any design imperfections detected in the initial blank. Accuracy is compulsory in hydrodynamics. An imperfect board will be hard to ride at best, and break or cause injury to the surfer at worst.

The best surfboard shapers in the history of the sport have developed their own techniques and skills. Over the last 50 years, an elite group of ultimate surf shapers has been working meticulously in garages and stuffy, poorly-ventilated rooms, defining the future of surfing. The names are well-known, mythical, inspiring.

Al Merrick is one such name. Since 1969, his Channel Islands Surfboards brand has defined modern and high performance surfing on the competitive scene. Then there’s Jeff Bushman. The custom surfboard world wouldn't be what it is today without his Hawaiian feel. His famous big guns have passed the most demanding tests out in the waters of Oahu's North Shore.

The creative and cutting-edge personality of Simon Anderson brought us the thruster surfboard. Equal size fins and a balance between maneuverability, stability and drive were the ingredients which Anderson used to revolutionize contemporary surfing.

The thruster is still the industry standard today. And decades before the computer-shaper, Rusty Preisendorfer was already bringing surfboards to life with immense quality. This legendary surf craftsman started shaping at 16 and before long was bringing innovative ideas to the shape room under the Rusty Surfboards trademark.

Bob McTavish, Eric Arakawa, Gerry Lopez, Hobart Alter, Tom Wegener...the list is short but growing, small but mighty. Men like these have been shaping the best surfboards in the world; whether single fin, twin fin, thruster or quad. Surfboard manufacturers make dreams come true. All you have to do is add your stoke.

Discover the legends of surfboard shaping in "Boardroom".

The Best Surfboard Shapers of All Time:

Al Merrick
Allan Byrne
Ben Aipa
Bert Burger
Bill Riedel
Bill Stewart
Bing Copeland
Bob McTavish
Bob Pearson
Bob Simmons
Bruce Jones
Chris Jones
Dale Velzy
Dick Brewer
Dick Van Straalen
Donald Takayama
Drew Anderson
Eric Arakawa
Gerry Lopez
Greg Bennett
Greg Noll
Greg Webber
Hap Jacobs
Hobart Alter
Iñigo Letamendia
Jason Stephenson
Jeff Bushman
Mark Neville
Matt Biolos
Maurice Cole
Mike Diffenderfer
Murray Bourton
Nick Uricchio
Owl Chapman
Phil Byrne
Reynolds Yater
Robert August
Robert Weiner
Rusty Preisendorfer
Simon Anderson
Skip Frye
Terry Martin
Tom Wegener
Wayne Lynch