Dr. Strange Rail: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying, And Shape My Own Board
Shapers Studios makes shaping your own board too easy and damned fun.
Walking into Agenda yesterday, guests were immediately confronted with Stab 30‘s neon-lighted hanging geometric tunnel, celebrating thirty cultural needle-movers yet to hit the big 3-0. Two of our favorite champagne flutes, Kassidy Ramirez and Nicole Castillo, walked guests through the installation, whereupon they’d find themselves staring at a man quickly approaching his mid-30s inside a glass windowed trailer like some sort of neanderthal specimen, clumsily hacking away at a surfboard blank.
The truth of having never really shaped my own surfboard, never taken the time to deepen my life-long love affair with board design, history, and culture, despite the near constant open access and close proximity to friend’s shaping sheds as well as generous shapers’ bays… well, it’s embarrassing.
So when I was asked if I would be down with shaping a board at the Shapers Studios booth at Agenda, I sheepishly admitted I hadn’t so much as picked up a surform in over a decade.
“Even better!” Chris from Shaper’s Studios said, before grabbing me a fish template from Stab 30 design freak, Ryan Burch, putting in an order for a featherlight Marko Foam EPS* blank, with a fire engine red high-density foam stringer.
Walking into their mobile shaping bay yesterday—the trade show vibes very high indeed, bro-hugs and cold brew coffee being doled out freely—I was quite thankful to find a case of Slow and Low whiskey in the bay, basically an old fashioned in a bottle, and just the creative lubricant to loosen up and have-at the gorgeous little Marko blank.
While I had an idea of the specific steps shaping requires, Chris and Grey were terrific with truncated and precise explanations, walking me through positioning the board on the blank w/r/t rocker, marking and lining up a template properly, and literally holding my hand as I hand-sawed the outline, offering equal parts encouragement and critique as I crudely skinned the blank, even generously helping me take out some volume in the nose with 1/8″-deep cross passes before letting me surform and block-sand it into something resembling a surfboard again.
Stab’s Editor in Chief, Ashton Goggans, really trying to look like he knows what he’s doing.
At a certain point I was left unattended, flattening out the deck and thinning out the tail and nose with the surform, block, and screen, falling into a near-hypnotic state making passes, finally understanding the meditative aspect of which shapers speak so fondly. We took breaks every once and a while for whiskeys or photo ops, as cops and models and bros on bros on bros poked their head in to see just what, exactly, I was doing to that poor blank. At one point I found myself crowded into a corner as three leggy blondes took turns taking passes with the block, unfettered by the near irremovable dust settling into their shimmering hair and sundresses.
By 3pm I was nearly finished, razor focused despite being six whiskeys deep, and aside from having literally the most fun I’ve ever had with tools in my hand, the chunk of glorified styrofoam that I’d carried into the bay was looking pretty damned close to the Ryan Burch sidecut fish I’d imagined emerging from the Marko blank’s pure white potentiality. Grey and I had chimed the rails heavily, and somehow even managed to keep the sidecuts and hips fairly symmetrical.
Wanna see her? Oh, she is not a perfect surfboard, but she is mine. All mine.
With Numero Uno under my belt and on its way to the glasser, today I find myself doing a mental inventory of the shaping bays I can sneak into in Los Angeles, along with figuring out when’s the next possible moment I can slither up the coast to my brother’s shaping bay north of San Francisco.
If you are in Southern California tomorrow, Saturday at Agenda Fest will be a damned good time. Don’t miss Fidlar’s performance, nor my sit down with our Stab 30 star, the unflinchingly original Kai Lenny.
Carissa Moore is now two heats away from her 6th World Title, btw.
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