A Martin Shapes Custom Board

I make boards to order. If I am making a board that's destined for a surf shop or my online store it's the same deal. There's always the rider in the equation when I shape a board. It's a real satisfying thing to build a hand shaped, made to order, custom product. There's not much of that kind of merchandise out there these days. If you've got the bucks you can hire a contractor to build you the custom house of your dreams. You can still in some cases (sorta) order a car built to your specification. However, for the most part you need to hunt down the painters, potters, photographers, jewelers and a portion of the surfboard industry to get a one of a kind, made to order, product that's in the realm of what most of us can afford. There's other artists out there too, but those just popped into my head right off the bat. As far as surfboards are concerned there is a small price, if any, to pay for the difference between a machine cut board and a hand shaped one.

photo by: Karl Garrison during July '15 issue Locale Magazine interview 

I'm not saying that the production oriented machine shaped board is an inferior product. It's most definitely not inferior, but it is different. It is not what it "used to be". It is not a practice of the tradition of truly hand sculpting a surfboard. Some may argue that essentially the computer shaping program and CNC machine is basically doing what a hand held planer does and better. I agree, it is real accurate and precise. I promise you, my arm does not follow the same exact path up and down a board, like the cutter head on a shaping machine. As far as the machine goes though, I find it's missing a portion of the real deal when it comes to the practice of what I call hand shaping a surfboard. It's for me the difference between sitting in a flight simulator or just simply flying the plane. Both are fine but I'd just much rather fly the plane. I really appreciate God given and exercised skill. Right out of high school I went and apprenticed for a well known potter. I'll never forget seeing him put 50 pounds of clay on his wheel, center it, and proceed to throw a huge urn. The urn became so tall that he couldn't reach the bottom with his inside hand when pulling the sides up. He stood on a step ladder and used his shop broom stick as an extension of his hand to continue throwing the pot up to 4 1/2 - 5 feet tall. It was amazing to watch. I guess from a practical stand point that pot made in a mold vs. a hand thrown one serves the same purpose, but I'd buy that hand thrown one any day and happily pay more for it. To me it's the real deal and I'm buying a product that required the exercise of skill at a level I dig more.

photo by: Jorge Salas

If you order a board from me it usually includes a discussion with a little bit of my history. How my dad was a surfboard shaper for 60 years. He shaped over 80,000 surfboards by hand. Yes, I had a really good teacher, but then it usually heads into what an unreal dad I had and why.

If you don't already know exactly, we'll talk sometimes at length about what kind of board you want. How long, wide, and thick it will be. On occasion, I get asked about the volume measurement of a board. I don't know how the heck to calculate that and frankly don't care to learn if it's even possible. That's a fairly new unit of measurement within the surfboard world as far as I know. It's a number the computer spits out. I have a hard time relating to it as I prefer to trust my eye. Besides, some of the best surfing I've ever seen was on not more than a piece of plywood. Not sure if volume matters much if all at that point.

Unless your having me build you a wood board then we'll need to order a blank. We'll have a discussion about different densities of foam the board could be made from. How that may affect the finished weight of the board or how long it might last. We might discuss the differences of EPS vs. Polyurethane foam. We'll decide how many (if any) wood stringers will be in your foam blank. What kind of wood and how it may affect flex, strength and weight. It's a real privilege to have US Blanks so close. These guys are direct descendants of Clark Foam. Over 50 years of building surfboard blanks. They will build a single blank to order with custom stringer arrangement and choice of rocker usually within a week or two. We will also discuss if you want any colors/ art incorporated into your finished board. A full range of possibilities exist when considering colors for your board. Plane jane strictly function clear glass job to a board exhibiting the best traditional resin art. I am fortunate to have relationship with some of the best glassers in the business.

Greg Martz is one of those glassers

We'll need to decide how many fins? Will the fin or fins be glassed on permanently or fin boxes be installed. Maybe we're building you a hot curl that has no fin! Lots of options. Do you want a leash attachment point and what kind? Plug, drill box or...

traditional resin loop?

I try and always make it available for you to be present when I shape your board. If time permits we might talk a bit about the tools I make or maintain and are used in shaping your board. We may touch on when I started shaping. How my first job was in the late 70's at the Hobie Factory in Capistrano Beach as the shop clean up kid. We'll talk about my shaping room. Why it's built the way it is. How it helps me shape you a better board. How I knew how to build it the way I did. We discuss traditional surfboard building materials like Balsa Wood, Redwood, and water proofing methods. Maybe a little tail block talk or what certain clamps are used for. Why do I have long pieces of inner tube rubber laying in the corner? How come I buy a gallon jug at a time of Elmer's glue? Do I buy pre-made outline templates from the hobby shop or make them myself from door skin plywood?

There is lots of good stuff that happens for the mind when you participate in watching your board be made. We can make adjustments on the fly. You are able to see and hopefully understand why we're incorporating certain design elements. All this will hopefully help you communicate better what changes you might make on your next custom board. I'm always aiming to make you exactly what you want, but I find that as a surfer progresses in his or her surfing, his or her boards need to follow (or even lead) that progression. I enjoy sharing my craft. I enjoy making you happy in the water.

Please visit my online store ( to view boards I have available. The site also incorporates a method of contacting me via email or shoot me one direct at ( to order your custom board today. -Joshua Martin #lovewhatyoudo

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