What Are Surfboard Templates?
Surfboard templates are a great help to board shapers, allowing them to not have to overthink the build. They already have a ready-made mold that can take them as far as they want to go.
Surfboard templates are the bread and butter of every board shaper out there. The trade requires an understanding of how different shapes and weights will perform even before the pen meets the paper.
This all depends on the build really. In some cases, board shapers are able to follow the template through and make a classic board design, or they can deviate from it at any point and arrive at a completely unique design that is based on a classic design.
The surfboard industry has made a living on providing surfers with new, exciting, and yet unseen boards that perform differently. And then there are trends.
Any way you want to go about it, it’s essential for a surfboard builder to have a lot of templates at hand so that they can provide the best product to their customer base.
The outline of a board is the part that is the most noticeable even to the untrained eye. The outline is simply the way that a board looks. Is it thicker at the nose part? Does it feature a narrow tail? Most of the time, the outline features precise dimensions and proportions of the tail of the board, the fin setups, its length and width, etc.
The outline precedes the template, and it can be as specific or loose as you’d like it to be. In some cases, the outline is just a rough sketch of how the board should look and what its surface area should look like.
As you probably well know by now, the smallest change in design can lead to huge swings in performance, so to say that the outline is the be-all and end-all of the template creation would be overstating the case. However, all ideas have to take shape somehow, and the outline is the first step towards a fully functional board.
When creating an outline, you should not be shy in adding details if you already know what you want the final product to look like. Still, it’s a good rule of thumb to start with the more basic features and concentrate on the basic shape and fundamentals before going into details.
Usually, when an experienced surfer or designer creates an outline to base their template on, they are looking to improve or change something in the design of their board that will give them an edge on the performance side of things.
The overall distribution of the materials and proportions is of utmost importance, so even though you don’t have to go in-depth with measurements and dimensions, make sure that you’re never writing down things just for the sake of it.
Parallel Curve Outlines
Outlines that feature parallel curves are usually the designs that are most prominent on surfboard templates. This is because they can be modified down the line if there is a need for it.
You can almost always cut things off from a surfboard, but once a part has been shaved off, it’s very difficult to add without sacrificing performance.
That being said, if you decide to roll with outlines that are perfectly parallel you will almost certainly have problems with it down the line. You see, a surfboard is not a plank that has to float on the ocean's surface—it has to mold with the ocean and become one with it.
You can go with a parallel design in the outline at the widest point of the board. However, always consider when and how much the board should narrow on both ends as you are moving more and more towards the outer ends.
Usually, semi-gun boards and mid-lengths are the go-to designs on templates that mean to match the curve section on both sides. Parallel outlines are also prevalent when it comes to longboard templates.
Nose Rider Boards
Nose rider boards and pig boards are the designs where the parallel outlines are most prominent. While this is great for overall stability, it doesn’t go well with contemporary and extreme surfing maneuvers.
Smooth curves found on shortboards are usually the templates that pro surfers gravitate towards.
Continuous Curve Templates
Continuous curve outlines feature smooth and elliptical lines that run consistently throughout.
They can be found on everything from shortboards to funboards and semi-gun boards.
The rocker on continuous curve boards is usually more relaxed than you would typically find on a shortboard or even a hybrid board. Surfers that are into carving at tight turns usually go for this type of template because it allows them to have smooth transitions of movement.
Hybrid Outline Templates
Hybrid templates can be found on boards that are meant to combine elements from both parallel and continuous outlines. The tricky part is to get the distribution of each just right so that you get what you need of both and leave out the rest.
This makes for a great variety of designs on hybrid boards. Because they are so personal when it comes to the build, hybrid board outlines can be found on all types of boards.
Board shapers have to be good at matching curves in order to get the desired result.
It’s a coming together of the designer, the surfer, and the conditions for which the board is made for. Hybrid boards tend to be one-trick ponies that excel in defined conditions.
If you are after versatility, this might not be the design for you. But then again, it’s all about how far you are going to push the outline. You can just slightly alter a certain parameter and have the board retain most of its versatility. The possibilities are endless.
Tail Design Outlines
The main element that influences how the board will perform and set to sea is the tail. All of the aforementioned configurations yield very different results when paired with a different tail.
So, let’s look at some of the most prominent and sought-after tail designs on the market to better understand which setup caters to which situation.
A round tail means that the board template will feature a full elliptical curve that will go uninterrupted across the tail of the board. This design is usually prominent in shortboards and smaller boards.
Much like round tails, pintails also feature an elliptical outline that goes all the way through the back, but unlike round tails, the curve is reduced, making the surface area of the board shorter and smaller.
This design is usually the preferred one for surfers that are looking for more control over their surf and moves.
Perhaps the most versatile design of them all is the squash tail design. It can be found on virtually every type of board out there. Everything from shortboards to mid-lengths and even on longboards.
The squash tail design makes for a larger surface, which in turn provides more lift, and it makes it easier for riders to generate speed easier. If you are looking for more drive and some extra acceleration, this is the build for you.
Swallow tails are basically squash tails with the full board surface area. Boards that feature this design are known to only have parts removed from the initial outline in the corners, along with an additional cut-out that makes movements a lot more manageable.
This design can be found on shortboards, as well as some semi-guns. The outline allows for a lot of control because the lift is balanced.
If you want to create your first board and are looking for some good templates that will get you started, you have a couple of roads you can take. However, it’s the journey that really leaves a mark on the board shaper when it comes to the decision-making and their style.
Nowadays, most boards are cut by machines. This is not the full process, but it greatly helps in terms of precision, cost-effectiveness, and consistency. Bigger companies that are renowned for certain builds have a clientele and market that expects them to deliver the same product on a day-to-day basis.
And while this was all but impossible in the early days, when surfboards were made by hand, today, it’s a lot easier to deliver a product that the customer can count on. Every shaper has their own templates that they gravitate towards. This way, they build their clientele around their build style.
Even though technology has come a long way since the early surf days, and today we have the means and templates to create a board in a machine from start to finish, custom surfboards are still very much a thing that riders from all over the globe want to get their hands and feet on.
Bigger companies that don’t want to bow down to the full machinal prices will usually have a dozen templates at hand that can be customized in any direction. The customer can choose how far the board will go with the template and when the shaper should take over and customize the second part of the build.
Operating a CNC Machine
The first thing you will need is a CAD file that will hold all of the information needed for the CNC machine to perform its task. So, unless you are an advanced machinal craver, you should go ahead and download a Shape3D ready-made template.
The great part is that once a board is done and the board shaper is happy with the result, they are able to scan the board with the CNC machine and create a new updated template for future use.
The fact that the CNC process allows for replicas of boards that are as close as possible to the original makes it a lot more convenient for the riders as well. If their favorite board gets damaged or destroyed, they can replace it with a clone. If their board has never been scanned by a CNC machine, they will have to settle for the next best thing.
While in the old days, your designs were safe and in line with your skills, nowadays, it’s possible for someone to steal your custom, ready-made CNC files and start mass-producing your design without much hassle.
It’s sort of like the comedy scene. Even though the jokes aren’t officially copyrighted, It’s an unwritten rule that you can’t perform someone else’s joke without their permission. If you do go ahead anyway, the community will ostracize and cancel you.
Getting to an outline or template for a relevant surfboard and then trying to customize it in terms of width and curves is no easy feat. In the past, you had to search for shipping options on a surfboard template and have it delivered to your doorstep, but now it’s all digital.
Regardless, there is an art to the outline, print, pin tail, and surfboard template. Although it took a while for them to develop, surfboard templates have come a long way. There is no doubt in our minds that the surfboards of tomorrow will give surfers even more options and avenues to explore.