Ordering a new surfboard is a very personal thing. I think from the beginning of surfing, back to the Ancient Hawaiians, it worked in much the same way as it does today except that it is much easier now than ever before. Generally the surfing experience happens something like this…a person catches their first wave and it stirs something deep within them that compels them to keep trying to recapture that feeling. Eventually they get their own first surfboard and begin to spend a great deal of their free time, maybe all of it or in many cases, every single waking moment either physically or just in their mind, pursuing their new endeavor. Surfing has a bad, or maybe it’s a good, habit of becoming an obsession in a person’s life often to the detriment of the other parts outside the surfing thing. There is a determination to raise the skill level and improve their surfing game that is all consuming and slowly for most, although sometimes quickly for a few, the ability to ride that surfboard continues to rise…to a point. And in this, I believe it was no different back in the beginning than it is today. That surfer, through observation of other, more skillful surfers or perhaps just self-reflection, starts to see that his own surfing has reached a point beyond which it cannot progress…unless he has a more progressive surfboard than what he is currently riding. Some surfers constantly analyze their equipment, thinking of how their surfboard will improve their surfing and working with shapers to do just that. All surfers do this in some degree but many simply rely upon their surfboard builder and trust them to produce the means to the end that really never is ending but simply draws one deeper into their surfing experience. In simple terms, a surfer gets a surfboard, learns to ride it and his skills get better, to a point…to go beyond that point, he needs a better surfboard.
There is what Grubby Clark of Clark Foam and I always referred to as the ‘sophisticated buyer’ for a new surfboard and it really doesn’t matter how long one has been surfing or even how skilled they are at it to become, more or less, sophisticated about getting a new board. One type of ‘sophisticated buyer’ is the guy who walks into a surf shop, knowing in general what he is looking for and goes through the racks looking closely at and feeling each surfboard that is within his criteria. Eventually he finds a board that looks and feels right and buys it. The other type usually works with a shaper in varying degrees because he has some idea for what he wants in a surfboard. Neither method is better than the other and some surfers use both to get new boards. Most of the top surfers find a shaper or sometimes several whom they work closely with to get their desired result. One of the cornerstones of advancing one’s surfing technique is confidence and that confidence begins with the surfboard. Without feeling confident about the surfboard one rides, the surfer’s mind will constantly be an obstacle to improving his game. Understand that all surfboards work, oftentimes they may not work according to our expectations and hopes but there is a way to ride that surfboard. And surfing on any level is just that… figuring out how each surfboard rides best.
A surfboard builder relies on information from the surfer to give him something that he interprets to create a surfboard that is a balance between what the surfer wants and what he needs. This is an important part of the process and the better that communication, the more certain that the end product will be the improvement the surfer is seeking. Some people are obsessed with minute dimensions and while they are a good starting place, sometimes they can hold back progress. Not long ago in surfing’s history, a surfer owned a surfboard…one surfboard that did it all. When the boards went from long to shorter in the late 1960’s, the concept of different shaped boards for different waves became valid. Today, a single professional surfer’s quiver of boards is usually more than the entire inventory of most surf shops. That may seem ridiculous but all surfers intimately know their equipment and whether or not one has a hundred or just one surfboard, the intricate natures of those boards have been revealed in a greater or lesser degree and continue to do so every time they go surfing regardless of what the waves are like. A surfboard, in my opinion, can be built to effectively ride any kind of a wave for any size person of any skill level. Besides waves at the beach, there are standing waves in rivers and canals, wakes behind boats, man made wave pools and maybe some I haven’t heard of yet. Communicating what kind of waves one hopes to ride along with information about what their present surfboard is, how they hope to improve on it as well as the individual’s ability level and body size are all key points in giving the shaper a better idea on what the new surfboard should be. Surfing is all about freedom and that means being free about what surfboards work best for each particular surfer. Do not be so locked in to what the mind says it wants in a new board that it blocks out the importance of what is really needed. Oftentimes there may be a great disparity between the two and this is a great part of the shaper’s job to find the balance that gives the surfer a board that will take his surfing to new heights.
There are many aspects of a surfboard that all add up to the sum total of each surfing experience. How well the board paddles is obviously a key aspect in whether or not the catching the wave part of the experience will be easier or more difficult. One is not able to ride a wave unless they can catch it. What one discovers about different surfboards is that smaller, thinner boards are easier to control, seem to turn better and go faster…once one is up and riding on the wave. However, if that board is too small, the frustration of missing most of the waves may become the biggest part of the experience and take it from someone who has been there, this in not fun. I always preach, one should not ride the smallest board they can but rather the biggest board that still allows them to do everything they want to do. Surfing isn’t being bummed out because one can’t catch the waves; it’s riding as many waves as one is able to try to figure out this tricky surfing thing. Think about how much time one spends out in the water, paddling around, chasing waves and often not connecting in comparison to the actual time spent up and riding a wave. So until one has the wave catching part of the experience down to a fine art, it often makes sense to incorporate more paddling ability into the new board rather then less.
The dimensions of a board are a good place for a shaper to start but if the surfer is not sure whether those numbers are right for him, it’s important to let the shaper know that. We try to make dialing in a new board easier by offering a few different models and brief descriptions to see if the aspects of a particular model appeal to or fit what the surfer is hoping for. Just remember, more information is good. I’m in the shaping room trying to think like you while I’m doing your board so anything you can tell me helps me get you the board you’re looking for.
Tail shapes are always a matter of personal preference; I will give a general summation of my opinion about the differences although they may not be what all shapers think. A squash tail is what evolved from the original square tail shape or perhaps from the diamond tail that was popular in the 1970’s. There are stories that a diamond tail was dropped and that was how the squash tail came to be. Whatever the case, the squash is a softer version of the square and offers the most tail area on all the tail shapes. This is a good thing if one’s riding is off the tail and involves quick direction changes. It is a very forgiving tail but lacks some holding power if that is what one is looking for. A round pintail takes area away from the tail area; however, it is always thought to be the smoothest and loosest riding of all tail designs. Riding the round pin well will smooth out one’s style, rounding the turns into smooth arcs. A swallow tail also takes some tail area away but gives one a sharp corner to pivot their turn from. For a surfer who doesn’t rely on power in his style, the swallow may feel stiff and tight. It does work well with a very wide tail by giving some positive holding-in feel to a tail that naturally wants to slide because of the width. All these tail designs work but depending on one’s style, how they like their board and their surfing to look or just to give something new a try, carefully consider which tail is right for you.
Rockers are usually left up to the shaper but generally speaking, a flatter rocker paddles and goes faster than a more curved rocker. More curve translates into greater control and easier turning and being under control is often the better way to maintain speed and go faster. It’s a complex and intricate balance of what exactly is the correct rocker curve for each type of surfboard shape. By lowering the nose rocker, ease of paddling is increased but the chances of pearling the nose on vertical maneuvers also increases. So unless one is very certain about altering rocker curves, let the shaper worry about this.
In regards to finishing the board after the shape, generally on boards under 7,’ we use 4oz, two layers on the deck and one on the bottom. On bigger boards, we use 6oz. We can customize your lamination but let me repeat a request about glass jobs I’ve heard ever since I began building boards 45 years ago. “I want my board strong but light,” is an oxymoron, I only bring it up because it’s funny as well as ridiculous. It is impossible to have both. If it’s a strong board, it will be a little heavier. If it’s a light board, it will be fragile. Lighter weight enhances performance and will improve the handling of a board of mediocre design. A well-designed and nicely shaped board will not suffer from extra weight, more fiberglass will be stronger and make it last longer. Any surfboard is a delicate, finely built piece of equipment and requires an active maintenance effort to keep it in top shape. Always fix any dings, big or small, as soon as possible. Letting water get into a board will cause unsightly browning, could lead to serious delamination or, if in a critical spot, can compromise the structural integrity enough to result in a broken board. One little ding in the rail, mid-board, left unfixed is all it takes…so fix those dings right away.
When you get that new surfboard and are very anxious to get it in the water, remember to always Surf with Aloha, surfing is supposed to be fun…that’s why we do it so always try to share that fun and spread the love when out in the lineup. Keep paddling.
While these shapes were the state of the art in the 70's, now they are collector items. Own a piece of history with an original replica of the first board to successfully ride the tube at the Pipeline.
These boards take us back to exactly what I rode in the 1970’s whether it was at the Pipeline, Ala Moana or wherever the person who gets one wants to go with their memories. I still have my original templates and rockers so the boards are exact replicas of the original shapes. They are glassed how they were 30+ years ago using tint or opaque laminations, glassed on single fins and no leash cups. The finish work is the same Lightning Bolt insignia I always used and the glossed finish is buffed to that same shine all the boards in our racks at the old Bolt shop on Kapiolani Blvd. had. Very few of the hundreds of boards we sold have survived the years but one of these will bring back those remembrances with a smile about the good times. Every year one of these boards is presented to the winner of the Pipe Masters and has become the premier trophy for a professional surfer to have.
The downside is a reduction of paddling ability. Thickness and width can be added but that generally results in a loss of performance. Most shortboard surfers have an ideal thickness that works best for them and a range in personal surfboard widths depending on the particular type of shape they are riding.
Our high performance small board with any choice of bottom shape…single to double concave, double concave or single concave, any choice of tail shape and anything in particular to customize this design so that it is a perfect fit for the surfer’s needs. When ordering, be as specific as possible with dimensions as well as desires of where you want to go with this board. For most surfers, this will be their most frequently used surfboard.
This is our version of the modern Fish shape with more paddling built into a small wave short board with a pointy nose. Single to double concave bottom shape, a progressive rocker and any variation of tail shape to suit the rider…be it swallow, squash or round pin, make a nice combination for small to medium size waves of any shape and high performance surfing.
This board grew out of the Cheater in the search for more high performance without losing the paddling power. The Little Darlin’ is just that, a sweet, quick, easy riding board that can take it to the juice with confidence, knowing it will catch most any wave and still handle late take offs, steep drops, and fast, hollow sections. A single to double concave gives the Little Darlin’ speed and holding power when the juice comes down. Sizes run from 5’-10” to 8’-4”, widths from 20” – 22” and thickness 2 ½” – 3” or whatever the rider feels will fit him best.
The Tita Moana is for the water girl who is looking for something more ladylike in her surfboard. Rounder Curves in the plan shape, thin soft rails and a progressive rocker with extra lift give this board sassy slashing moves with very friendly manners. Tita Moana drives like a dream and can be the one-board-fits-all in the 3'-6' surf range.
For Indo, Hawaii or anywhere 4’-8’ waves are pumping, the Pocket Rocket would be the main battle board in one’s quiver. Again general dimensions and tail shape are necessary to dial in the fit so it will be perfect. This will be a very personal board that will be called on often to deliver when it starts to get hairy. In those kinds of situations, one doesn’t want a board that is only just cutting it but one with extra speed, maneuverability and control to make riding the edge a whole lot of fun and not a white knuckle, barely hanging in there exercise. In general, the Pocket Rocket would be anywhere in length from 6’-4” up to 7’-4” depending on the rider and where he surfs.
The Swoopa developed out of trying to get more paddling into a typical pointy nose short board like our Pocket Rocket. By making the nose slightly wider, we were able to accomplish just that. Of course, anytime the nose area is increased some of the vertical performance ability is compromised but this is always the trade off to get addition paddling. On the Swoopa, however, one will notice the better paddling before any lack of performance. This is a fun, easy riding board with some legs to take it bigger and further than one might expect.
Back in the early 1970s, Steve Lis created a surfboard design that has endured through the decades and is as valid today as it was almost 50 years ago. The Fish design has gone through just about every permutation and probably most shapers. My son, Alex tried an old Lis board and it was love at first wave. Our Something Fishy is inspired and oftentimes shaped by Alex. It is a blend of the old template and our take on rails, bottom shape and rocker. We like how it works and, if you are a Fish lover, think you might too.
This is another design inspired by Alex. It seems his tastes in surfboard shapes are more open then my own. This is a good thing because it makes me go back, look at what we used to do before he was even born and bring some of that past into our boards for today. By factoring in all we've learned in the process that brought us to the present, we create a new thing. The single fin idea had a lot of validity and in some applications remained more appropriate even after multi-fin designs took over. The Now Then is a combination of an older style, wide point forward, fuller nose template and low entry rocker combined with modern rails and a variety of more current bottom shape tweaks. Single fins go faster than multi-fin boards simply because one fin has less drag. Single fin boards are very fun to ride and put you into a new headspace every time.
This is our most popular board because it makes surfing easier. The Cheater evolved from what we called a mini-tanker in the early 1980’s, just a shorter version of a long board. It kept being refined to add more horsepower to be able to handle a wider range of waves in size and juice. Today’s shape still has a fuller nose to maximize paddling while still having rails, edges, bottom rocker and foil to make it fast, steady, positive and maneuverable in almost any wave situation. Bottom shape is usually flat to vee running out the tail. General lengths run from 6’-8” up to 8’-4, widths between 20”-22 ½” and thickness anywhere from 2 ½” – 3 1/8” depending on rider’s height, weight, ability and experience.
Just like your hot dog board but paddles. With it's wider nose and lowered nose rocker, the Ala Mo addresses the main problem of the most small hot dog boards. The fact that small boards don't paddle that great. With the Ala Mo, paddling is increased by 50% without losing any of the rip-it-up characteristics of your small wave board.
A high performance long board designed for old style riding or modern day maneuvers, whatever one’s pleasure happens to be. This was always a favorite of mine when the modern long board made its comeback. Baby features a semi pulled in nose and wide hips ending in a tight squaretail making turns into carves instead of pivots. I’ve enjoyed this shape in most varieties of surf whether it’s small waves on the French coast, Oregon shores or Hawaii’s South Shore summertime surf and also found it worked very well even at the Pipeline and most of any Hawaii winter surf when I was in the mood for long board surfing. Lengths usually are 9’-0” and up, widths 22 ½” to 23”
Nothing feels better than to ride the nose on a long section with the toes of one or both feet curled over the tip. Any long boarder worth his salt needs to have this move in his repertoire and the Noserider makes it easier. The wide, full nose template gives one plenty of planing surface and room to stand up there comfortably. Some surfers prefer a squaretail while others favor a rounded pintail; I’ve found both to be effective since most of time is spent riding the other end of the surfboard. Board lengths run from 9-0” to 10’-0” and 23”-24” wide.
This is a long board somewhere between the Baby model and the Noserider. Named after Walter Hoffman, a surfer from the generation before mine whom I’ve always admired in the water and out for his style and grace. This shape is more of a traditional style long board that is as much fun to just paddle around a lake as it is to ride waves.
Waves above 8’ take on a whole new meaning. One’s surfing trends towards seriousness and the equipment must be on the same level. We take our guns seriously because there is nothing worse that to find one’s self in a hair ball situation and experience equipment failure … spinning out at the bottom of a big wave, the board tracking the wrong way on a critical backdoor section or simply not having the paddling power to paddle over the ledge on the wave of a lifetime. These are considerations we naturally build into every Mako Class gun we make.
Not for everyone but personally I’ve always felt my Elephant Guns were just as at home in 6’-8’ waves as they were in 15’-20’+ surf. Some surfers need to have a gun like this in their quiver even if they may only really use it a few times a year. Basically an Elephant Gun is a paddleboard designed for catching any wave, any size and still being able to maneuver and really ride the wave, not just go straight, hanging on for dear life. Now, boards in the 10’-6 and longer range are making a comeback. Funny how it all comes back around, at one time in my career, many years ago, the standard length of surfboards was 10’-6”. Of course, they were the old style long boards but that length and longer were what we all rode
Tow boards have been a specialty of ours since the beginning of tow-in surfing. We began with making all the boards for Laird, Darrick, a host of others and myself as well when this method of riding big surf started. Since then it has evolved into a fine art that is not limited to just big waves. Some tow boards are actually designed for smaller surf and some as a substitute for wake boards to leap the gap behind wakeboarding boats. These are very customized boards designed specially for each rider and exactly what application they have in mind. For a special wave like Jaws, for example, we add lead weights strategically placed to balance and weight the board to handle the vicious bumps and chops encountered there. For the big surf, a tow board is what makes riding impossibly huge waves a reality. Confidence in one’s equipment is paramount in making this happen.
Gerry Lopez Surfboards
P.O. Box 1202
Bend, OR 97709