Standup boards are simple to make right? A little foam, a couple layers of fiberglass, some sandpaper, you’re good? Not even close. Tim Stamps has been shaping surfboards, and now standups, for almost 25 years. In that time he’s made 16,000 rideable pieces of art. When SUP magazine’s Rob Zaleski mentioned he needed a board, we solicited the help of one of the best board builders alive. Little did we know there are more than a dozen steps involved as a board goes from foam to finish. Here’s an abbreviated explanation as Stamps takes Zaleski through this highly refined craft. –Dave Costello
Not many boards are designed by hand anymore--even custom ones. Nowadays, shapers generally use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to help them find those perfect lines. “There’s a lot more to it than punching in numbers though,” Stamps says. “CAD actually nurtures the creative aspect of shaping, encouraging experimentation, because you don’t have to cut another blank each time you want to try something new. ” Zaleski wanted a 9’2,” that was 29.5″ wide with 4.125-inch rails so he could ride a variety of waves and still have enough speed and stability to paddle flatwater.
Cutting The Blank
Once you’ve decided on your shape, the CAD file is uploaded to a machine that automatically cuts out the foam blank. “It pretty much comes out looking like the board you want,” says Stamps. “At that point, it just needs some additional hand tooling to smooth things out.” What Stamps calls “additional hand tooling,” Zaleski calls “careful sanding, tweaking and re-measuring that results in a blank sculpted by two decades of experience.”
As great as computers are for designing boards, fin placement will always be a human art. “If the boxes are off by even one-degree, the board’s going to react funny,” Stamps says. And knowing where to place them on a custom board can only come from years of experience, and a lot of trial and error. The fin boxes are first drawn out on the blank in pencil after being meticulously measured. Then, the boxes are routed out using a special metal template overlaid on the blank.
The next step is to send the blank off for color. And that’s usually done with an airbrush. After it’s got some “sweet graphics,” the fin boxes get placed and glassed-in. Then the board is ‘glassed, which consists of draping a single layer of fiberglass cloth over the blank and covering it with epoxy resin. “This adheres the ‘glass to the foam,” Stamps says. After the glassing process is done to each side, the board must be left to cure. Finally, the board is sanded and you’re ready to either apply wax or install a deck pad and go rip.
This piece originally appeared in the Fall issue of SUP magazine, on sale now.
Video edited by Scott Klingner