Get a Custom Surfboard Shaped or Buy one Off the Rack?

The pros and cons of custom surfboards

“That’s not the right board for you.” I had just bought a secondhand surfboard that morning and was proudly displaying it to my local surf crew at the beach.

“Really?” I asked. “How can you tell?”

“I shape custom surfboards for this break. I’ve been surfing this spot for over forty years. And I’ve been watching you surf all winter. If you want, I’ll shape you a board you’ll really love.”

Oh my, that new board was like magic! I swear it was Harry Potter’s wand. I could catch everything on it. There is something about a custom surfboard!

Monique Rotteveel Surfwear
Tom Ezell shaped this custom One Eleven for himself but after riding it we noticed it was a bit narrow for me. He then knew exactly what he needed to make for me. How I love my pink color schemes! Rocking the Monique Rotteveel Surf-kini

But I’ve had other custom’s that just didn’t work the way I wanted them to. So is it worth it to get a custom board? Let’s take a look.


The Pros


It fits you perfectly

If the shaper knows you, knows how you surf, and frequently shapes for the break you will be surfing, then you are likely to get something truly epic. A lot of underground shapers are out there who simply love seeing people enjoying their works of art. If you hang around at your local spot long enough you are going to run into the shapers.


It’s easy to get what you want.

Getting exactly what you want is as easy as bringing them a board to copy or giving them dimension. You don’t have to run all over town looking for what you need.

Custom surfboard glassing
Talking color schemes with one of the best Glassers in the world, Jack Reeves
Getting what you need for a surf trip

If you are going on a surf trip to an area where the waves are very different than your home location it might be hard to find the right board. Getting one shaped is a good solution. Also, look into ordering one before you go from someone who makes boards in the area you will travel too. This will save you on bag fees and often you can sell if before you go.

Custom artwork

I once told the glasser I wanted the most girly-girl board possible. I ended up with soft pink and a princess riding a unicorn jumping over a rainbow. I loved that board!

Custom surfboard
I was sad to outgrow his shape because I loved the hand painting done by Cher Pendarvis
Getting to see the process

There is nothing like watching a clunky piece of foam being turned into your new whip! Most shapers will let you watch them do the rough outline. Most glassers will let you take a peak while the board is in process.

getting a custom surfboard
Alan Sitt and I discuss how wide we should make the board. We consider factor like my skill level and the size of waves I want to use the board in.
Relationship with your shaper

It is wonderful to have surf mentors. Often the people who shape for you will become pseudo-coaches, offering tips and advice. They tend to be the older crowd and have lots of stories to tell about how it was back in the day. This is priceless. The more you work together the better suited for you the custom surfboards will be.

Alan SItt surfboard
What an honor to watch this Sunset Beach legend make my new toy!




Not getting what you want

Shapers have go-to templates. If you ask them to make something very different than their norm they may still go back to a familiar outline. Be specific and get to know their work before you order a board. Be sure your shaper loves to make boards like the one you are looking for. Custom surfboard


Getting custom surfboards is a notoriously long process. Although it can technically be done in 2-3 days, that isn’t likely. The board has to be shaped, go through a couple different stages of glassing, fin boxes, then sanded. Almost always this will involve multiple people. If one of them has a backlog then you will be at the end of the line. I once got a board 17 months after I ordered it. By that time, my surfing had progressed and I no longer wanted the board. But there are shapers out there who only take a week. Ask first!


A shape can cost anywhere from $150-$500. The glass job starts at $300 and goes up to maybe $600. The blank ranges from $150-300. Often you can buy a brand new board off the rack for a similar amount or less than a custom.

Environmental impact

Epoxy boards are cleaner than traditional foam. But either way, every time you buy  a new board as opposed to used one, you are contributing to greenhouse emissions. Greener resins are available but even still, new surfboards always have an environmental impact. Not to mention disposal of them when they’ve reached their life span. Check out this article on how to find a greener surfboard.

Broken surfboard in the trash costco wavestorm


Thinking of getting a custom surfboard? Let us know how it goes for you in the comments. 

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


  1. Recently got a custom from my favorite shaper but he’s in FL and I am in NY. I wanted to love it so much but it’s not the magic I hoped for (and the color is not that close to what I wanted either). Now what?


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