How surfboards are made – a visit in shaper’s workshop

Lufi Bento shaper

I felt like a child in a candyshop or even better a chocolate factory! To see a renown shaper in his workshop and follow live the process of making surfboards is an amazing experience for any surfer. I’m so impressed with the skills of Lufi Bento, whom I had the opportunity to see at work and ask like a million questions;)  

MAGIC happens here

Lufi not only showed us how he designs and makes his surfboards but also told us many super interesting stories connected to them. For example one of his flagship models is called Magic Model and that is for a reason. Each time when a new pro rider starts competing with it, he or she wins. Is it really magic or just a very good board?

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop
Lufi & his beauties

 

Lufi Surf House

Lufi has also been a wonderful host as I had the pleasure to stay at his house during the Caparica Primavera Surf Fest. The house as you can imagine is 100% aloha & beach style. You can spot surfboards everywhere as some old ones are used as decor on the walls and ceilings (e.g. as lamps!). Even the shower on the patio is made from an old broked board! But what makes it really full of positive vibes are the people who live here – Lufi, Tanya and their big surf family. The good news is that you can also experience it and listen to Lufi’s stories while having dinner on the patio. From this year on the Lufi Surf House is open to surfers from all around the world. And if you’re not a surfer yet, then you can book a special accomodation + surf lessons package.

 

surfboard shower

 

I also had an opportunity to ride one of Lufi’s boards (a beautiful red & yellow 6”8 – yes, the color matters, I’m a woman!;) and see a pro surfer winning a WSL competition using a longboard made by Lufi.  Rodrigo Sphaier, team rider and a world class longboarder whom I met personally at Lufi’s house, triumphed in the  Caparica Longboard Pro.

No wonder that Lufi’s boards are well known internationally and used by top riders such as Victoria Vergara, Timothee Creignou, Joao Dantas and the before mentioned Rodrigo Sphaier

 

surfer longboarder Rodrigo Sphaier
Rodrigo Sphaier

 

Shaper’s workshop

The process of making a surfboard consists of a few steps:

  • forming the foam core – yes, that’s what’s inside most surfboards – foam, polyurethane foam to be more precise
  • adding a stringer – a stiff, thin, vertical slat, usually made of wood running from nose to tail. It’s purpose is to increase the board’s overall strength and so make it less easy to break
  • shaping the blank – cutting the final shape of the board. This can be done manually all way long (this is how Lufi makes his Classic boards) or with the help of a special machine and a computer software (used by Lufi for his High Performance boards – see the picture below). In any case the last finishing touches need to be done by hand.
  • laminating – covering with fiberglass and resin to form the hard, outer shell of the surfboard. This step takes the longest as each time you need to wait for the layer to harden, then flip it over or put another coating. Some boards might also be painted before adding the laminate.

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop

 

how surfboards are made shaper's workshop

 

So this is a very short insight into how surfboards are made. The whole process usually takes a few days, but most of this time is waiting for the laminate or paint to dry. In the meantime, the shaper  repeatedly checks for any weak points. Finally the board is polished and is ready to use like the one in the picture below:

 

beautiful green surfboard Lufi

 

(ahhh isn’t it beautiful… now I know what some girls feel when in a shop full of Chanel dresses or Tiffany’s jewellery;)

 

I have to mention here that there are also surfboards made from other kinds of material. Originally wood was used (and there are still wooden boards on the market but they’re usually very expensive and not so popular anymore). Moreover, we have mass production of  so called pop-out boards, made from plastic or epoxy. The good thing about them is that their practically indestructible. Well, there are even boards made from recycled trash from the ocean, but they’re still a niche thing I guess. Surfschools in turn use soft top boards for beginners. I’ll write more about different kinds of boards in another post though.

 

Custom made surfboards

OK, but why should a surfboard be custom made and people are willing to pay more for that than just buy a ready one in a store? Well, if you want a really good board, it must be good for you specifically. Every one of us is different (bodyshape, riding style etc) and so are the waves and surf spots around the globe. Pro surfers have more than just one board and alternate them depending on the competition venue and current conditions. However, not all of us can afford to have several boards in our quivers. But then a good shaper will make you the best possible board for your needs.

So how do you know who’s really good? Lufi says, that a good shaper travels a lot, watches and surfs different kinds of waves himself and never stops learning.

That is exactly why Lufi travels for the most part of the year. You can ask him about his experiences in Brasil, China, Mozambique etc. Obviously he surfs himself and used to be a pro competitor. And it all started when as a young boy he made his first surfboard, tested it in the water and decided that it was far from perfect. So he started experimenting and looking for better and better solutions and found his passion in it. And it already lasts for 30 years.

 

If you want to know more, you should ask Lufi yourselves;) You’ll find him in Costa da Caparica, Portugal. For more info on his work you can also check out his website Lufi Surf Co.

 

What if I’m a beginner who wants to buy my very first board? Chill out, you don’t need a super duper custom board just yet. First, take some lessons, get some basic skills and maybe rent and test a few boards suitable for beginners. It’s like with your first car, it doesn’t have to be a Ferrari straight away;) At the beginning a pop-out epoxy board is a good choice (the indestructible one;), at least until you learn how to take care of it properly, After some time, when you can already feel that you need something more, you may get your Ferrari. But not until you can notice and appreciate the difference;)