The start up cost for surfing can be daunting. If you live in cold water regions (I do), you’ll probably want booties (check), maybe gloves (yup), and perhaps a hood (nope), in addition to a wetsuit (I wear a 3/2*). All that could set you back somewhere around $300-500 for relatively-decent new gear — and that’s not even counting the priciest, must-have item: a board.
I was lucky to get a 9′ loaner from a friend. Five months later, though I’m still a beginner, the time has come to graduate to my very own longboard**. New boards can be obscenely overpriced due to store markups. So I tried Craigslist. Some deals, some ripoffs, as usual, but the idea of riding a virgin board built with the shape, dimensions, feel, color and design of my choosing is too great to resist.
So I’m going DIWF.
Find out what I mean, after the jump…
*3mm thick on the body, 2mm on arms/legs. Other folks who surf Northern California prefer 4/3. I’m never cold (even in January) in 3/2 — though it’s worth noting I wear 5mm-thick boots and 3mm gloves. For more info, here’s a good guide to wetsuits.
**My reasoning for the longboard is that it’s more buoyant, doesn’t require larger waves, and I am old school.
photo by David Torch Do It With Friends
As we work out of his home studio, I’ll be posting updates for the next few months, or however long it takes. Though Elias will be doing all the real work (I want my board to be rad), I’ll be lending a hand wherever possible, learning whatever I can, and marveling at the art of shaping.
Step One: order a blank
There are numerous suppliers, and a variety of materials to choose from: polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, expanded polystyrene (EPS) or beaded foam, extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam, TDI polyurethane, fiberglass, epoxy, and green-er options, like recycled polyurethane blanks. There are pro’s and con’s for each: density, buoyancy, ease of shaping, resiliency, water absorption, availability. Surfer Steve (no relation) posted a good assessment and guide.
US Blanks offers many different sizes, densities, rocker, and stringer options. (PDF of catalog)… I get these types of blanks because they offer the most variety, and they are the most similar to the old ‘Clark Foam’ blanks in terms of the way the foam shapes. [ed. note: Clark ceased production
earlier this yearin 2005****]. These are also the easiest for me to get. In terms of the green options, the foam doesn’t work as well as the US Blanks.
To each his own.
In terms of density, US Blanks has options. The more dense a blank, the sturdier (and heavier) it will be. Since I’m far from a pro ripper, we will not be using a super low-density foam. Instead, we’ll be going with “Green,” the third lightest, which is about 4.5% – 6% heavier than the stock blank.
Step Two: determine shape
Next we’re going to head out into the water, chat about what I like/don’t like about the 9′, start sketching, and eventually come up with the dimensions. Can’t wait to get started.
***The cost to me will be in the neighborhood of $500-$600. Not cheap, but a lot of used longboards that require repairs cost about the same on Craigslist.
****Founder Gordon Clark’s farewell letter is worth a read. He says he decided to shut down due to economic reasons and pressure from the State of California, which was concerned about the use of TDI in Clark’s foam manufacturing.
image by Elias Crouch