I love the new technology that's come to board building. The CAD programs, the cutting machines, the computers- they've brought a level of quantitative certainty to the design and build process. The advances are allowing shapers, and the surfers who go to them for custom boards, to track the evolution of a design idea and lock it down on the hard drive of a laptop. Work towards that magic shape and hit Save- that's cool!
This hasn't come without some due diligence on the side of the boardsmiths. Learning to effectively use a CAD program is a wee bit different then throwing in a brush rebuild kit on the ol' Skill 100. The programs are demanding- and the shapers that have retooled themselves to use them have worked hard to get there. The effort is one hundred percent worth it. The use of precision milling machines and the programs that drive them have changed the shaper-to-surfer dynamic. Ordering up a new ride just got really interesting.
For those of us who have ordered custom boards for decades, working with a CAD proficient shaper is a whole new ball game. Shapers may come to you with wire frame printouts (see graphic above) of ideas that you've communicated with them- files can be sent back and forth over the internet; a surfer in La Jolla could easily work with a shaper in Huntington exchanging ideas like email, refining a shape until it's ready to be cut. Take a look at the top graphic of a board designed for me by Tim Stamps, for this shape I was looking for a carve machine, something that'd handle a bit of speed and size. I didn't want to be submerged up to my ankles and I didn't want to worry about balancing too much on sloppy days. At my size, finding a board that'd come down a bit in each dimension while not getting ridiculously narrow, thin or lean is impossible. With a CAD build process you can see exactly what you're going to get. For example, I was really concerned with the volume number. If you check the new board design above you can see the overall volume will come in at just about 155L which is close to a 15L drop in volume from my previous board- an acceptable and predictable volume loss. I also like the width- I'm not afraid of a 29" belly, especially since I've got the gut to turn it (ah, the beauty of the custom board).
Shapers who will work with you through the CAD design process are the exception rather than the rule. The time required to work up your custom design, communicate changes and re-check for viability is considerable. I'm fortunate to work with a guy who loves this stuff. Tim Stamps sees where this is going and recognizes the benefit it brings to both shaper and rider- he's definitely worth contacting if you're considering a custom CAD stand up board. The guy knows his stuff.
There is one common theme when a new board is in the works. It's a gut feeling. Whether it's an emailed CAD workup or the first snap shots of the cut blank (see second photo) the new board magic has a visceral impact. Can you feel it? It's killing me!
Middle Photo: Fresh from the mill and ready to be finished out- lookin' really, really good!
Last Photo: Who da' guy? Stamps, taking a second away from scrubbin' one out to clown around- now get that thing done, I'm going nuts over here!