Ask the Expert: Order A Custom Board With Rusty

As part of our Ask the Expert department, I recently had the chance to talk with the legendary Rusty Preisendorfer about ordering a custom board. Mr. Preisendorfer, always an endless well of surfboard knowledge, left me with twice the amount of solid material that we had room to print in the magazine. Thankfully, we have the internet! So here’s the extended version. Enjoy and order away.

Also, if you think of any more tips, post them in the comments section below…

Order a custom board.

1. Provide basic information: your weight, height, age, foot size (believe it or not this a real consideration), and your experience level (be honest and realistic)?

2. How often do you surf? Where do you surf? What is your style? Give your shaper some background on what you’ve been riding, your last few boards—things you liked and didn’t like. Go back a few boards if you have the history.

3. Where do you want to take your surfing (figuratively)? Where do you want to take this board (literally)? Is this board for a trip? If so, it’s always good if your shaper has first hand experience with your intended destination, or at least has some history with surfers that have taken his/ her designs there and has had feedback to work of off.

4. If you’re getting a board for a specific purpose, commit to it. I have people that come to me and say, “I’m going to Indo, or whatever, I want a board geared for those types of waves but I’d really like to be able to ride it when I get back (to my cold, marginal, everyday surf at home).” Get a board that will maximize your travel experience and if financial considerations dictate, sell it when you get back.

5. Are you still growing? When ordering a new board I find a lot of times a younger surfer tends to err on the small side of things. If you are still growing, be open to your shapers recommendations on length, width, and thickness. A slightly bigger board may take a little adjustment but more often than not I find the customer will grow into the board and get more enjoyment out of their surfing.

6. Ironically, some surfers that are hitting their late 20s/ early 30s still try to hang on to the past and tend to order under volume as well. If you are experiencing life changes such as work, metabolism shift, gaining a few pounds, etc, a slight bump in board length and volume will probably bump up your wave count with less effort. That alone will make it a lot more fun. You’ll probably end up surfing more and those 10 pounds will melt away.

7. Talk to your shaper. If it’s your first visit to “The Factory” be respectful of his time. 15 or 20 minutes should be enough to cover most of it. If you order a board through a shop it’s important to convey as much information about you and your needs as possible. Put it in writing and ask that a hard copy or email make it to the shaper with the shop’s order form so nothing is omitted or lost in translation. Put your personal contact info, email, phone, down on the order so if the shaper has questions, they can reach you. I do this from time to time on shop orders. A 5 or 10-minute phone conversation can make a world of difference.

8. Don’t go overboard. From time to time, I get customers that are very specific and have their next board mapped out in detail. While it’s good to try and know your numbers, shaping still has an art element. Be flexible and trust your shaper to put the curves together based on his experience.

9. Don’t ask for a deal. In fact, if you are working directly with someone, when you pick up your board, consider giving your shaper some additional token of your appreciation. People automatically tip a waiter/waitress they don’t know and may never see again. Why not take care of the person capable of bringing you great surf happiness? This will go a long way towards expediting future boards.

10. Follow up with honest feedback and make any criticism constructive. Sometimes something as simple as changing your fins can make a significant improvement in performance. No matter how long a shaper has been doing his craft, a pat on the back always goes a long way. Sometimes the magic doesn’t always happen on the first board. If the board didn’t meet your expectations, most shapers would like the opportunity to try and make the next one closer to what you are after.