How To Shape A Surfboard - Green Iguana Surf Camp

How To Shape A Surfboard

Learning how to shape your own surfboard is an exciting challenge, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as riding the waves with a surfboard you’ve made with your own two hands.

It is a hard process that will take a lot of learning to get right, but it’s worth the effort to create a one of a kind board that is made just for you.

How To Shape A Surfboard

The first step in shaping a surfboard is to choose the wood type that you want to use.

There are many types of wood available, including cedar, redwood, mahogany, teak, hickory, poplar, pine, cypress, and more.

Each has its own unique characteristics that make them suitable for different applications. 

If you’re not interested in using wood, you’ll need to decide on what materials you’d rather use.

Foam is a more common option these days and is likely to be much cheaper and easier to work with than wood.

You can always add a faux wood veneer after shaping if that’s the look you like.

The next step is to select the size of the board you want.

You can buy pre-shaped boards from most manufacturers, so this isn’t usually too difficult.

However, if you’re going to be doing all the shaping yourself, then you’ll need to know what size you want before you start.

Once you have chosen the wood and the size of the board, you’ll need to decide on the shape.

This is where you’ll really need to do some research into surfing and learn about wave patterns, because not every shape works well for everyone.

The best way to find out which shapes work best for you is to go surfing and try different ones until you find the one that feels comfortable when you ride.

Once you’ve found the perfect shape, it’s time to cut the blank down to size.

If you’re using a router, you’ll want to set up a template with the measurements of the board you want to make.

Then, you’ll use the template to trace the outline onto the blank piece of wood.

After this, it’s a case of smoothing your outlines and rounding out the detailing in your board before making sure it’s fully waterproofed and rideable. 

Let’s get into some more detail!

Preparations Before You Start Shaping

Before you begin shaping your surfboard, you should gather together all the tools you’ll need and prepare everything properly. Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

Surfboard Blank – This is the main thing you’ll be working on. Make sure you get a good quality board that suits your needs.

Sandpaper – Use fine sandpaper to smooth rough spots and edges.

Glue – Use high quality glue to keep the pieces of wood (or otherwise) together during the shaping process.

Router Bits – Use these bits to drill holes through the blank and attach the fins.

Finishing Tools – These are used to polish the surface of the board after it’s been shaped.

Fins – Use these to give the board extra stability.

A Sanding Block – This is used to smooth out any sharp corners.

Plastic Bags – Use plastic bags to protect the finished board from getting wet.

Paint Brush – Use a paint brush to apply the final coat of paint.

Paint – Apply the final coats of paint to seal the board.

Face Mask – There’ll be a lot of particulate matter in the air during shaping, so make sure you have some good respiratory protection.

How To Choose Your Surfing Board Size

How To Choose Your Surfing Board Size

There are several factors to consider when choosing a surfboard size. Some people prefer smaller boards as they’re easier to maneuver around waves.

Others like bigger boards as they’re much easier to ride in general.

Beginners are best off with a larger board, while experienced riders will prefer shredding on a small board.

To determine what size board will suit you best, here are some tips:

Choose a board based on your height. Short riders may benefit from shorter boards, whereas taller riders might enjoy riding a larger board.

Look at the length of your arms. If you have long arms, you might benefit from a longer board.

Think about your feet placement. If you place your feet further apart than shoulder width, then a wider board may be better suited.

Think about your preferred style of surfing. For example, if you like to carve around the inside of the barrel, a narrow rail board may be better suited for you.

How To Cut Wood Using A Router

The first step in cutting your surfboard is to create a pattern. This can be done either freehand or by using a template.

Freehand Pattern Making

With a pencil and ruler, draw an outline of the shape you’d like your board to be. Draw lines parallel to each other to indicate where the rails will go.

Next, use a straightedge (such as a piece of plywood) to mark out the centerline of the board. Mark off sections along the centerline to make up the deck area.

Once you’ve drawn your outline, cut out the shape using a jigsaw. Be careful not to cut into the centerline.

Template Pattern Making

If you don’t know how to draw a basic outline, you can also buy templates online.

Templates are made specifically for surfboards and come in various shapes and sizes.

Use a router to cut out the template. You’ll need to set the depth of the bit to match the thickness of the blank material.

Then, run the router over the template to remove the excess material.

Cutting Boards

After you’ve created your pattern, you’re ready to start cutting your boards. The easiest way to do this is to use a circular saw.

Start by making a series of cuts along the edges of the board. Make sure that you keep the blade perpendicular to the edge of the board throughout the process.

Next, measure down from the top edge of the board and make another series of cuts. These should all be equal distances away from the previous cuts.

Now, it’s time to move to the table saw. Set the fence so that it’s centered across the entire width of the board.

Make one pass through the board, moving slowly. When you reach the end of the board, stop and check the accuracy of the cut. 

Once you’ve shaped your template, you’ll be ready to get onto placing the fin set up and rails.

Fin Set Up

After deciding where you want to place your fins, either by looking at existing boards or from your template, you’ll want to drill holes for the fin bolts.

Using a drill press, drill two holes on opposite sides of the board. Use a 1/2″ bit for the smaller holes and a 3/4″ bit for the larger ones.

Drill the holes close together but far enough apart to allow room for the fin bolts.

Once you’ve drilled the holes, insert the bolts and tighten them down with an impact driver.


For most surfers, the rails are the most important part of their surfboard. They provide stability and help direct the movement of the board.

The next step is to cut the rail pieces. Using a jigsaw, carefully cut the rails to length.

To determine where to put the rails, look at your template again and see which parts would best fit the shape of your board.

The most important thing is to make sure your rails are symmetrical on each side of your board.

Confirm this throughout your sanding and shaping process.


When you’re done with the shaping process, it’s time to take care of some surface imperfections. Sanding is a very important step in creating a smooth finish.

A belt sander will work well for this job. Start by running the belt over the board several times to get rid of any loose particles.

Next, use progressively finer grits of sandpaper to polish the board.

If you have access to a power sander, you may find that it works better than a belt sander.

However, if you’re not comfortable using a power sander, then a belt sander will work just fine.

Once you’ve finished sanding, wipe off the dust with a damp rag. This will prevent any unwanted scratches from forming.

Final Thoughts: Finish Your Board

After the shaping process is complete, you’re ready to apply the final coat of polyurethane.

Apply the first coat liberally to the whole board. Let it dry completely before applying the second coat.

Apply the second coat sparingly, ensuring that you don’t miss any areas. The goal here is to create a nice shine without making the board too slippery.

Apply wax to protect the new coating from water damage. Wax protects the surfboard from getting scratched and helps keep the board clean.

Now you’re ready to hit the waves with your new custom board!

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