You’re paddling out on your new board… You’ve had a few sessions on it and it feels GREAT! Paddles like a dream. It’s been 2-3 occ. 4ft and clean. The board just FLIES! Today is a different day. It’s offshore for the first time in 3 months. It’s closing out at the pier and literally spitting through the slats in the wood. You got lucky. Chanced it on a little known gem of a reef that only gets good when everything else screams broken board. Today it’s 4-5 ft with 6 foot sets and an occasional BOMB out the back that’s clearly overhead, and some. So far the board has been money, couldn’t ask for more. The first set rolls through and you let the other guy chomp at it, well aware something sinister lurks on the horizon… deep… dark… filthy… salivating yet? You should be. Surfers KILL for that feeling. The next guy bites on the second set wave, head high for sure. Now it’s just you, your board, and a wave lining up so damn perfect that you feel like you’re that 8 y.o. that scored the front car on the Matterhorn for the first time in his life. You paddle straight out for the shoulder, a moment of terror in your eyes… then you have that moment of clarity… this is what I was put on this planet for… just for this wave and nothing else. You spin… you’re scratching for shore trying to match the beast’s pace. 10 feet to the inside the lip begins to froth like the snout of a fire-breathing dragon only found in folklore… but it’s real… it’s coming for YOU. The bottom begins to drop out. The reef feels like it’s miles below you. You feel it begin to take you with it. You literally throw your board under your feet as if you’re jumping rope. You freefall three feet to the bottom of the face. You barely make it and hook your bottom turn just in the nick of time. A shadow looms high over your shoulder. Darkness. Time stands still. Dead silence. The beast begins to swallow you whole while you try like hell to get a pump or two in to stay ahead of certain peril.
IT’S TOO LATE. The foam ball grabs you from behind and spins you up into the roof of the barrel with the meanest, nastiest growl known to man. It’s over. In a matter of 1/10th of a second you went from getting SHACKED, to the inside of Posiedon’s washing machine and onto his washing board. Broken leash. Enjoy the swim in buddy, still a pipe dream. Too bad you can’t tell your friends how close you were to the ride of your life. Almost, in surfing, means you didn’t get her number, or a kiss, she’s gone from your life forever. You couldn’t close.
Why didn’t you make the wave? Simple. 1/8th of an inch. That’s IT. Had you had just a touch more volume, you would have been in a split second earlier, had your rail locked into the face and your bottom turn would have sent you screaming down the line with all the time in the world to drag a hand in the wall and let the dragon sit right on your shoulder like a loyal childhood companion. AN 8TH OF AN INCH and you’d never tell your friends how good it was. That wave would have been yours, and yours alone, there to repeat itself and every uniquely new sensation you felt, every time you closed your eyes. BUT. You went with a best-fit. We dialed you in and everything. You had the board under your arm as you walked out and went “I’m so insanely stoked I finally got one of these” ….. ONE OF THESE. Meaning… somebody else has your board too, and low and behold, it actually fits them just a touch better than it does you. You knew it wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to perfect as you could possibly imagine!
A one-of-a kind. Built for 1 person, YOU. Not the other 7-something Billion. YOU. Built by no mere mortal. Built by the hands of a true master. When Bill Minard listens to you intently and says “Try going an 8th of an inch thicker.” You listen. You say “Yes please” and “Thank you.. sir.” Because he’s about to change your life… forever.
Here in the shop, we get any pick of the litter. Here’s the thing though, given the resources available, picking the brain of a magician like Bill Minard, that alone is worth the price tag for a custom board. Allow me to explain why:
Surfers, like the boards they ride, are every bit as unique as the fingerprints in their wax. No two surfers can ever have the same experience in the water. That said, we do the best we can in creating an expansive board lineup so that you have a million options to choose from. Here’s the only downside to grabbing a board out of our warehouse: you have to take a best guess at our full stock to find what will work for you. This typically takes a couple of boards to dial in; that’s standard. If you score the magic stick on the first try, you need to come with me to Vegas pronto. Given that context, a custom Degree33 Surfboard actually saves you money in the long run while giving you a board that is built precisely for you and your favorite wave.
Brandon and I both took that gamble. As bigger surfers, we tend to have a slight adjustment in mind for all of our favorite Degree33 boards in all our favorite sizes. Brandon likes more of a challenge so that as he drops into a wave, he knows that the board under him is just enough board to do exactly what he wants. I’m the opposite, I prefer to slightly oversize my board volume so that I can still surf a shorter board while maintaining the float I need. We decided to try the same board design with our own custom specs in mind, just to see where each of us goes with it.
We took the Jack, moved the bumps around to fit a rounded squash tail which would utilize drive rather than fin release. Next, we adjusted the rocker so that the flip at both ends is more pronounced and breaks later (closer to the ends.) This is where the similarities end.
Brandon prefers a more aggressive wave than I do. That said, he widened the nose and tail curves just a touch so that it’d plane through flatter sections but remained narrow enough to handle a steeper wave. Finally, he’s always surfed shortboard templates as thrusters and chose a standard tri-fin fcs fin box setup. He basically took the overall game plan of the Jack and stepped up the performance characteristics to handle steeper waves.
On the other hand, I love long, lined up point breaks more than anything. I’d rather gouge a 50-foot cutback than blow my fins out through the lip. I want planing ability and drive more than lightning fast response. I widened the whole outline by an inch in the nose and tail and a half inch at the widepoint. I also bumped up the thickness to 2 3/4, that 8th of an inch adjustment mentioned earlier, as prescribed by Bill. He rolled the rails just right so it turns like a smaller board. As for fin setups… I LOVE quads. They provide hold, drive and produce less drag than thrusters. However, I also wanted to step up my vertical game. Solution? 5 fin boxes. I took the Jack platform and made it more advanced, then added some of the most beneficial elements of the Codfather and Bean to support my stature on a smaller board in softer waves.
We both wanted a go-to board that would eliminate the debate over which board to take out. Instead of having to quiver up 2 or 3 boards, all I need is this single, magic board. No more borrowing Luc’s shop boards and secretly hoarding them in my living room!
The Verdict: After riding it this morning for the first time, all my suspicions were deliciously met with my most aggressive hack off the lip to rail-grab gouge to date! I’M IN LOVE. I was able to paddle like the Bean, crack the lip like the Jack, and fly right through the flats like the Codfather. My custom just opened the door that I didn’t even know existed… and I’m excited to see where my surfing goes! For now, sad to say, my shorty and my fish quietly anticipate being traded to another team, and they’re OK with it. So am I.
So. Again. Why is spending 30% more for a custom board worth it?
In the long run, you’ll save at least $200 by going the extra distance and creating something truly unique to YOU, the waves YOU like, built to take YOUR game to the next level. You’d likely need to buy at least two stock boards to cover the range of waves that that a custom board can. Would you rather have a couple of awesome stock boards that cover all bases? Or. Would you rather have 40 years of brilliance built into a single magic board unlike any other board on the planet? The board that blows everything else literally out of the water. The board that stands for everything you are and want to be. The board that stands for the infinite possibilities in the universe… right there… right under your feet. YOUR BOARD.
It’s a no brainer.
Even if you’re on the fence about it, come spitball some ideas with us and comment below.