SHAPING YOUR OWN BOARD MEANS BECOMING A BEGINNER ALL OVER AGAIN AND THAT’S PROBABLY WHY IT’S SO MUCH FUN.
Written by Alex Workman
If you’ve ever harboured the romantic notion of shaping your own surfboard it usually ends with the realisation that you don’t know where to start. Aside from the confusing and complicated process of sourcing materials, there’s the apparent sense of inadequacy you experience when you start comparing yourself to world-renowned shapers who have decades of experience in fine-tuning their craft. Similarly, you fundamentally want your equipment to work and probably have precious little faith in your own ability to make something that will perform better than your trusty stick. But forget about all that for a moment and think about how much fun it would be to have a crack at shaping your own equipment.
Enter the S-Lab shaping experience. An opportunity for surfers and non-surfers to step into the shaping bay and have a hands-on experience designing and building a dream board, under the tutelage of an experienced shaper.
By utilising 3D software and providing access to an expert shaper to bounce design ideas off, S-Lab cultivates a supportive environment that lets you play shaper. You might have a vague idea for a board you always wanted to ride but have never seen it for sale anywhere or perhaps you’re eager to try a twin fin or simply tweak your favourite high-performance shortboard.
When I arrive at the S-Lab factory I’m greeted by their International Sales Manager, Ryan Norrie. He tells me that the shaping experience packages they’re offering aren’t just for surfers. They’re also open and appealing to punters from all walks of life. “People who come to the Gold Coast know how huge surfing is to the area. They might be curious about how a surfboard is made or looking for a unique team bonding experience for corporate events or a perfect gift for someone who has always dreamed of shaping their own surfboard.”
Ryan then introduces me to shaper, Dave Verrall, from Diverse Surfboards who will be guiding me through the process of shaping my first surfboard. He provides a technical tour of the process beginning with an overview of the 3D designs of board files he has at his disposal. Dave details every step of a board’s journey before it glides into that first wave, before enthusiastically explaining the process of tinkering with the file and how it can be manipulated with the tap of a few keys.
I’m awestruck when I’m introduced to the 1978 World Champ and former CEO of the ASP, Wayne Bartholomew, who is an ambassador for S Lab. As an additional option to enhance the whole S-Lab Experience, Rabbit can be dialled in to help you select a board and tour the iconic breaks on the Gold Coast, or simply talk story about his illustrious career.
Other ambassadors include 1993 ASP World Champion, Pauline Menczer whose contribution to pro-surfing was recently re-visited by the award winning documentary ‘Girls Can’t Surf ’. Then there’s 2x WSL Longboard World Champion, Beau Young, who has always believed in riding a diverse range of craft. Son of surfing icon, Nat Young, Beau is passionate about surf history and relishes the chance to recreate many of the amazing shapes from various eras of design.
After a quick caffeine boost, it’s time to decide what kind of board I’ll be shaping. I must admit, it’s a little overwhelming as I paw over a rack of surfboards that reveals every flavour combination one’s heart could desire.
I settle on the idea of a twin fin, which has become de rigueur in recent years, in part thanks to the timeless lines drawn and tricks performed by the likes of Torren Martyn, Asher Pacey and Josh Kerr. I decide I want something that will connect Broken Point from way outside and traverse the flat spots before the wave steepens and slingshots into the hollow inside section that stretches out down the line. Given it’s a wave where I’m on my backhand, my instinct tells me I want a longer plane shape for that easy paddling, glide, and addictive speed that has helped twinnys come back into vogue.