Firewire Goes Custom

Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL
Taj Burrow. Photo: Bielmann/SPL

Ordering a custom surfboard has long been an inexact science. Whether it’s telling a shaper dimensions over the phone, or filling out a custom order card, you hope what you’re conveying makes it accurately to the foam. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, happy accidents can be beautiful things. And hell, custom board ordering has worked well for ages. Could the process be improved? Yes.

Firewire surfboards is unveiling a new software program built by ShapeLogic which lets you custom order many of their models online. It’s probably more accurate to say you can tweak dimensions, as it’ll only allow a certain amount of change. It’s a cool idea with some other interesting facets, but what really sets the software apart is how it creates a precise 3D PDF of the board. You can view the board’s outline, bottom contours, and more via the PDF, and the program will tell you the overall volume of the board, a measurement that’s gaining more traction. The amazing part of it, and the part that will get tech geeks fired up, is that the PDF actually creates the CNC tool paths. We’ll let Firewire’s Mark Price explain more of the technical stuff below.

What’s got my inner surfboard froth going though, is the possibility that in the future, using this type of software surfers could have a very precise digital history of their boards. I think back to some of the first boards I ever owned, which are long gone, and how neat it would be to have a 3D rendering of them, and be able to compare and contrast them all.

More immediately though, the benefits of being able to compare boards in a digital format sounds pretty cool. Here’s a quick Q&A with Firewire’s Mark Price.—Casey Koteen

Run us through the basics of the program.
CBD (Custom Board Design) allows you to take an existing Firewire board, one that is closest to what you’re looking for and tweak the critical dimensions to suit your individual needs, including length, width, nose and tail width and thickness. If you’re more comfortable just adjusting length and width, the program will automatically scale the outline for you. You can then superimpose the stock model over your design and see the differences, and generate a 3D PDF file, which allows you to view the completely foiled board from any angle.

I think this program will also serve a greater purpose. Anyone can login and design and save some boards in the system. You don’t have to give out all your personal details unless you actually order a board. I think that surfers are going to have fun experimenting with the design process and in doing so, they will learn a great deal about board design. That will elevate the entire dialogue around surfboards and what makes them work—something that is long overdue.

Firewire's Mark Price showing off the CBD at Sacred Craft. Photo: Koteen
Firewire's Mark Price showing off the CBD at Sacred Craft. Photo: Koteen

What’s the turn around time for a custom board?
Twelve weeks delivered to a retailer closest to you, or if you live hours from the nearest Firewire store, you can have it delivered to your house for a FRT surcharge.

This does more than just make a cool looking 3D model, right? It actually creates a CNC tool path. Tell us in more basic terms what that means.
Absolutely. Almost anyone can build a front-end program that morphs the outline of a board as you type in dimensions – you could do that using Flash. The real genius is in the back end of CBD, which Bruce Pettibone from ShapeLogic has created. ShapeLogic’s program updates flexible parametric CAD files directly from the data entered which only require a five minute overview by our CAM guy before being sent directly to our CNC operators. So you can rest assured that what you order is what you are going to get.

The comparison tool was cool, as well. It also will show you the overall volume measurement of the board, which is something I think more people are going to be paying attention to. What else is unique about the comparison tool?
The 3D PDF’s are remarkable. Not only can you visualize your fully foiled, custom board from any angle, but the 3D PDF also calculates the volume of your custom board. So you have a very useful basis to compare your potential custom board to other boards you may own, all before you even have to order it.


Go to for more info, and to check out the CBD in action.

Now on to the part where you can win a free custom-made board from Firewire.
All you have to do is correctly answer this little Taj Burrow trivia question, and here’s a hint: it’s a musician. We’ll choose a winner at random from all the correct answers.