Welcome to Pondorozo,... "The Shape Shack"
Drive a mile north of where the Mayport Ferry docks on the western edge of the Intracoastal Waterway and if you don't blink, you may notice a small, unpretentious workshop set back from the road and shielded from view by natural vegetation. It's easy to miss. No signs, not even a name on the mailbox -- just some hand-painted artwork (it looks a bit like ribs or elephant tusks painted ocean blue) displayed in front of the shrubs bordering the gravel driveway. Look closer and you notice that these ribs are in fact waves created from foam, to which a small wooden surfer on a surfboard is attached. Surfing legend Dick "Rozo" Roseborough builds custom surfboards at his home workshop north of Mayport.
Rosborough gets as excited talking about fashioning high-performance surfboards as when he tells stories about testing his skills on Hawaii's biggest waves. "There's a certain point where your customers know when their equipment is holding them back and then it's time for a change," said Rosborough, who points out that most new surfers buy a machine-made board from a surf shop. "You know, you can play 18 holes of golf with one club, but how much fun are you going to have? But if you have a driver, a 5-iron and a putter, you have a game. It's like that here. You need to have a longboard to ride those little crummy days, then you need a shortboard that's fast and spunky, that's like a little sports car, for when it's good." Rosborough works with his brother, Tom Rosborough, to shape 200 boards a year, crafting them to individualized specifications that meet his customers' needs.
Better than a Machine
"There are a lot of design elements that go into shaping a board and Rosborough knows how to make every one of those elements right for me," says Mitch Kaufmann, who surfs exclusively on boards designed by Rosborough. "A machine can't even make what I want. A shaper can make subtle changes to a board. Rosborough, being a really good surfer, understands why a board works the way it does. I need Rosborough to make that magic board."
Dick "Rozo" Rosborough shaping a 10'3" longboard. Photos illustrate each step of shaping the foam surfboard blank: measuring nose rocker, tail rocker, sanding the rails, foiling the concave contours into the bottom of the board. If you get the chance, call ROZO for your next surfboard. It's an interesting process to watch first-hand, and you learn a LOT about the different elements that help create each boards unique ride. 904.251.3501
Feeling the Thickness of the Surfboard Rails
The rails of a surfboard are extremely important and can really make or break a board. Not only is it important to have the desired shape of the rails right, it is also extremely important that the thickness of the rails are right and that they match the rail on the opposite side of the board. There are many different types of rails that a surfboard can have, but the basic thing to know is that they are usually determined by being either soft or hard although there are also different variations of each. Soft rails do not react to sharp turns and are often found on older board designs and many longboards. If you have a more laid back style of surfing, this is the type of rail that you would most likely enjoy the most. Harder rails are typically designed to allow the surfer to turn and carve on a wave. The harder the rail is on a board, the easier it is for the board to cut through the water and allow for stronger, more powerful turns on the face of a wave.
Rozo Sanding the Rails on a 10'3" Longboard
This is done to even out the shape of the blank. After cutting the blank to the size of the template you sand the rails along the side to make sure they are at an even 90 degree angle throughout the board to prepare the board for the planer.
Measuring the Tail Rocker of a Surfboard
The tail rocker on a surfboard is the upward curve of the board at the tail. The more tail rocker you have the more maneuverable the surfboard will be. Boards with a lot of tail rocker allow the surfer to break the fins free from the water easier for more exciting turns and snaps.
Rozo's Longboard Templates
Each shaper has their own templates made up for different styles of surfboards that they shape. This is a template made for a 10’3” longboard. The template is place on the bottom of the blank, traced with a pencil, and then cut out with a hand saw leaving a ½ inch border around the traced line. This ½ inch border allows you to sand the rails to a 90-degree angle just in case the saw cut crooked through the foam.
Checking the Surfboard Curves and Rocker
Periodically during the shaping process the shaper will stop to make sure everything is going smoothly. Surfboard shaping rooms are painted a dark blue and have special lighting that helps to show every line and imperfection on the surfboard blank. After the main shape and thickness is determined with the planer, the shaper will use several types of light sandpaper to give the final look to the board before it is sent off to be fiber glassed.
Measuring a Surfboard's Different Sections
Foil is the rate of change of thickness of a surfboard from nose to tail. Surfboards are made with a foil that goes thin to thick to thin. By measuring out the three main sections on a surfboard, you can divide the foil of your board within the three regions for the desired performance affects. Custom modifications can be made using the foil of your board to emphasize different performance features. For example some longboards will have a concave foil in the nose that will allow the surfer to ride the nose of the board with ease.
Mowing a Foam Surfboard Blank
In this stage the surfboard is mowed down with an electric planer for a couple of reasons. Each blank comes thicker, wider and longer than the finished product will be. When you trace the template, cut it out and sand the rails to a 90-degree angle you have taken care of everything but the thickness. When you plane the surfboard you are determining the overall thickness as well as the concave of the bottom of the board.
Measuring the Surfboard's Concave Bottom
Each surfboard is designed differently to have different styles of concave on the bottom of the board. The concave of the surfboard will determine how the board performs on a wave. Single and double are some of the most common board concaves and each one will give the board a completely different feel when you surf it. Single concave provides the surfer with tighter turns on bigger waves and is also designed more for lighter surfers. The double concave, or more commonly known as single to double concave, is probably the most common surfboard concave today. It starts with a single concave towards the nose and at some point down the board turns into a double concave. This board better suits heavier surfers and the double concave in the tail allows for loose turns and easier maneuvers. Of course there is the option of no concave, which is basically something that you might find on a longboard because it fits best with large surfers and surfboards, like longboards, that are not looking for fast speeds and tight snaps on the wave.
Mowing Down the Foam to Create a Surfboard
Surfboard shapers use an electric planer to mow down (or cut down) the foam. This tool and a shaper's technique are what give each surfboard its unique ride.
Surfboard Nose Rocker
The nose rocker on any surfboard is very important. The bigger the nose rocker, the less likely you are to bury the nose into the face of the wave. This doesn’t mean that having a huge nose rocker is the best thing to do. Usually you will notice that big boards have big nose rockers and smaller boards have smaller nose rockers. Big wave guns usually have a decent amount of nose rocker as well as longboards. Smaller shortboards and fishes usually have very minimum nose rocker.