Surfboard designers, also known as shapers, design and create the long
and short surfboards used to tackle ocean waves. Their medium is fiberglass,
and imagination is their only real boundary.
Measuring between six and nine feet in length, a surfboard may seem simple.
But tiny design differences set each one apart. They have names like Rocket
Fish and Noserider.
Gone are the days of Gidget, when boards were basic slabs of badly decorated
fiberglass. Modern boards have "skegs" or fins, to help them stay on a straight
course. Others have small channels -- "bonzers" or "zingers" -- that funnel
water away to make the board faster. And the graphics? Add up to a thousand
dollars to the price tag for these fine works of art.
Most shapers start out as surfers themselves. Floris Scheepers started
out off the shores of South Africa. Now, he is an industrious shaper with
little time to hit the water. He spends lots of time in the shop, even during
the winter months. "I haven't even snowboarded this year. It's a crime. [We're]
very busy," he says.
Once confined mainly to the West Coast of the United States, surfing is
now truly international.
Making a board can take several weeks, so shapers can be on a single project
for a while. Part of the design process is to try new things, and that can
cost you some time. "For us," says Scheepers, "everything is trial and error.
We know what will work, but we always try new stuff to better ourselves. It's
never the same and the more you do it, the better you get at it."
In addition to designing the boards -- still occasionally done on paper
-- the shaper actually works the board into shape out of fiberglass. Early
boards were redwood planks!
Some physical coordination and tool know-how is required for custom shapers.
Much of the heavy work in larger plants is done by machine.
While Hawaii and California enjoy year-round surfing, demand for boards
drops considerably during the winter months in other places. Many companies
make snowboards during the cold season.
A lot of the work is about making decisions. The bottom of a board can
be concave, flat or a reverse V. Should it have channels that move the water
along but make the board less flexible under the surfer's feet?
Once the size, shape and design details of the board are worked out, the
designer can truly have fun painting the surfboard and adding final touches.
Sometimes, a shaper will have a graphic artist who is responsible for adding
an eye-catching quality to the board. "We do all sorts of work and the graphics
are very exciting," says Scheepers.
Come up with the best board for the waves
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Commercial and Industrial Designers
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