I’ve been in the market for a new surfboard for years now.  

After navigating the Huntington mush with both an 8-foot-6-inch log and a 6-foot-6-inch pig for years, I was ready for something smaller, more streamlined and less sluggish on turns for bigger days.  

Flipping through racks of used boards at local surf shops, I never felt as attached to any design as I did to my dad’s Infiniti board from the 1970s. It’s short but not too short at 6-foot-3-inches wide but not too wide, and front heavy in a retro way that you don’t see too much anymore.

It seemed like the perfect fun board to learn on as a kid.  

Probably designed in the 1970s, everything about it screams retro, from the stinger shape, to the peeling KLOS sticker, to the waterlogged turquoise underside.  

Unfortunately for me, it was also the one my dad abused after he bought it at a garage sale around 1982. According to him, it was already thrashed by then. This board, beaten to hell decades before I was born and laid to rest in the corner of my room growing up, was ideal to me.

I first heard about the Makerspace, a workshop on Orange Coast College’s campus, from a pitch in my Newspaper Production class.  The Makerspace offered a lot to talk about, with everything from woodworking to computer building to T-shirt printing, however the bit about surfboard shaping caught my attention.

I decided to tag along with Ashlee Owings, a fellow Coast Report staff writer who was reporting on the Makerspace, to see what the process would be to start shaping. Speaking with Garret Hill, the coordinator for OCC Makerspace, I expressed my longing for a board like my dad’s Infiniti, but updated to a more modern shape.  

He told me to bring it in to measure the dimensions and begin on the new board.

On Thursday morning I brought my dad’s board into the shop eager to start the process.  

We started by marking different segments from the nose and tail of the board.  We used what is called a shaper’s square, a clear type ruler for measuring the distance from the stringer of the board, as well as calipers to mark the width and thickness at each increment.  After that we used a level to measure the rocker of the board before turning to the computer.

Using Shape3D, a top-of-the-line surfboard shaping program, we plugged in the measurements and lined it up to a picture of the board to make sure the dimensions were accurate.  Hill walked me through each step in making the 3D surfboard precise.

With the easy part over, the hands-on creation of the board is an endeavor for another day.  Next week I will go back to the Makerspace to begin the physical portion of replicating my dad’s old surfboard.

A homemade board is a personal touch

By Ashlee Owings, Staff Writer

When I was scrolling through Instagram recently I came across a post about Orange Coast College’s Makerspace.

The post from @occmakerspace was about students being able to build their own surfboard on campus. In fact, the space now has a surfboard shaping machine students can use to make their own boards.

Surfing has always been on my to-do list and over the summer I got the opportunity to finally learn how.

Many people I know say they’re afraid of the ocean because of their fear of swimming in open water or their fear of sharks. I’m afraid of those things too, but I think the unknown has a certain appeal to me that overshadows that fear with joy.

It’s hard not to love it when sitting on a board, facing the open ocean and all that can be heard is the sound of the waves.

With all that in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder why I should build a surfboard when I could just buy one?

Well, according to 23-year-old marine biology student Zeke Firth, building your own board is more personal than just going to a shop and buying one.

An avid surfer, Firth said he had two boards stolen from him — one that can’t be replaced because it was unique.

“The board I want to build is not a standard board you would find in a surf shop,” Firth said.

Steve Fuchs, faculty lead of the Makerspace and professor of architecture, said his 35-year passion of surfing is one reason he wanted to bring a surfboard shaping machine to campus.

Fuchs and Makerspace coordinator Garret Hill said students interested in making a surfboard will have to follow certain steps.

Fuchs said the first step is for a student to come in and have an interview with either himself or Hill. He said this is to figure out what an individual’s vibe is and to know what type of surfer they are.

After a completed interview, the student will be taught the software side of the process.

Students who decide to go ahead with the process will pay an average of $75 for a surfboard blank that can be picked up from a local surf shop.

The Makerspace doesn’t glass the board for students. In making a board, after you shape a surfboard out of the polyurethane blank then you glass it with fiberglass and with a polyester resin. There are two layers of fiberglass on the top and one layer on the bottom. The student would have the board glassed somewhere else which costs between $150 and $200.

Fuchs and Hill said they want students to be fully involved but that they will be on hand to transfer their knowledge to the students.

This whole process on average takes about one week depending on how often a student comes in to work.

Fuchs said that building a board would be half the cost of buying a new board which can range from $550 to $1,000.

The Makerspace also offers low cost rentals for go-pros and other photography equipment, a podcast room, woodshop machines and 3D printers.

I knew college would teach me many things, but I never would have guessed that it would teach me how to build a surfboard.

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