The great thing about being a shaper in 2018 may not be the pay packet, but the choices available to a surfboard manufacturer. Of course, nothing beats a good old Skill 100 planer and a few other trusted tools. Indeed, hand shaping is not being abandoned and is increasingly becoming a sought after skill after many surfboard shapers have ditched the planer in favour of automation and CNC machines.
Today’s modern age is a great time to be a shaper with an abundance of high technology materials to choose from: carbon fibre, kevlar, high tenacity tapes, EPS foam or PU foams not to mention the use of more eco friendly materials and wooden retro boards coming back in fashion. Hand shaping techniques are certainly not dying out and it all depends on the scale of operation you are running. If you’re knocking out a few boards a week hand shaping is perfectly apt for this end. However, for larger scale operations invariably machine design and automation will be used to keep up with shipping deadlines.
It also largely boils down to the consumer. Of course mass market big brand such as Hayden Shapes, DHD, Al Merrick, Firewire will always have their place. But for many, these boards are a one size fits all approach and lack the personal relationship that using a local shaper offers. After all, a local shaper will be able to spend time with their customer getting to know the requirement and crafting something that will suit their style of surfing and ultimate enhance it. Whilst surfboard models such as ‘The Sub-Driver’ from Matt Biolos may be forgiving to someone who perhaps doesn’t have quite a good skill level, a custom shape crafted by a well respected shaper will ultimately feel a lot better under a surfers feet than an AKU batch made board.
If you do go down the custom board route, it’s a good idea to chat to your shaper about what materials you want to be used in the construction of your board. If you’re after a lot of strength, reinforcing with kevlar, carbon fibre on key areas of the board such as on the rails would be a good idea. Shapers are always experimenting with new materials that offer good flex and strength, and are best placed to advise you on what will be suitable for your board manufacture.