Shaping an SUP
Any paddler would jump at the chance to shape their own board. But the barriers are significant: costs, tools, workspace and of course, time.
I'd wanted to shape a board for years but like most of you, lacked the resources. Then I met Christopher Clark, co-founder of Shaper Studios.
Shaper Studios, started by Clark and his good friend Derrik Kapalla, gives potential board-builders a place to hone their skills and a chance to shape their own ride. You can glass it too, or they can do it for you. With the instruction, it costs about as much as buying a high-quality custom (roughly $100 per foot). If you get hooked, it's $20 a month to use the Shaper facilities and their tools.
I took my time to decide what I wanted but in the end I went with a classic longboard shape: a thinned-out noserider with a pin-tail, perfect for small-wave days but also capable of handling bigger waves. But with my lack of experience, I set my expectations low.
When you enter Shaper Studios' shop in North Park, San Diego, it feels as if you've stepped into the 1970s. Wood paneling, retro motorcycles, above-the-knee shorts and long hair give the place a decidedly retro, mellow vibe.
Clark walked me through the process step-by-step, first showing me how to use the planer and then letting me mow the foam. We repeated this process with each tool. At first I thought I wanted to do it all myself but as I watched, I learned more from his movements than from his words. I also realized that this teaching style might insure the board worked once it hit the water.
We moved back and forth for a few hours and when I was happy with the shape, we repeated the same with the glassing, Clark again running me through the intricacies of the process and then letting me loose. The result was a solid glass job and a psychedelic resin swirl on the base that Jimi Hendrix would appreciate.
A few weeks later, I met Clark at a beach in North County San Diego to ride the new craft. It was beautiful: svelte, sleek and light. I slapped on a traction pad, threw in fins and ran down to the water.
"I shaped the board under my feet," I kept thinking as I paddled out.
I started catching waves immediately. The Psychedelic Pickle, as I dubbed it, rode, and rode well, letting me dance to the nose and then step back over the tail for biting cutbacks.
While I did mow a lot of the board's foam, it wouldn't have turned out the same without Clark's help. And it's definitely the best conversation starter in my quiver.
This article originally ran in our Fall 2014 issue as “Hand Crafted: A new board the old-fashioned way with Shaper Studios.”