A thick layer of white dust coats every flat surface of the room in the Craft Center where foam boards of all shapes and sizes stand vertically lining three walls.
Each student covers his or her nose and mouth with a white mask as they gently glide a planer with the precision of a seasoned carpenter over white foam as the curve of a surfboard begins to take shape.
“I love surfing, so I decided to try and make my own board,” David Humphries, 18, said. The mechanical engineering freshman has been surfing for about three years and enrolled in the surfboard shaping class in the University Union earlier this quarter.
The class, taught by students and faculty alike, has been offered at the center for years, but boasts a bigger workspace after the center’s remodel. The surfboard shaping room has six bays equipped with shadow lights and racks, and a separate room and overhead racks for board storage, Craft Center employees said. There are eight sessions Monday through Thursday available to students and nonstudents this quarter. The class costs $150 for students and $190 for nonstudents, and sessions last from two to three hours.
“I teach it because I’ve been shaping boards since I was in high school, and I would like to show others how to shape boards, too,” Tim Sleeper, 22, said. The industrial engineering senior has been teaching the class for nearly four years.
“It’s cheaper, and you can get exactly what you want when you’re shaping a board yourself,” he said.
Most short boards can average between $500 and $600 in stores, Sleeper said, but students pay a fraction of that at about $375, including fees, foam and other equipment, when they shape boards in the class. Once they learn the skill, a board can cost as little as $170 to shape.
Eight students are enrolled, including San Luis Obispo resident Al Ferguson, 42, who has been surfing for about 38 years.
“When you buy a board, you just get on it and see how it rides. But when you’re shaping a board, you’re learning about all the elements that make a board ride like it does,” Ferguson said.
His favorite part of the class is “just watching (the board) take shape, and getting to see what the art of board making really looks like.”
Students use a Clark Foam 03 Planer, a tool that controls cutting depth, to shape the boards, and they later sand the boards by hand.
“There’s something special about shaping the board yourself,” Humphries said. “It’s something you’re building. Surfing is all about the love of nature. Why not go out and enjoy it on a board you’ve made yourself?”
Sleeper said the best time to register for one of the classes is one quarter before the class begins, preferably during dead week or the week of finals.