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Behind the Scenes: Surfboard Production and Why Our Stock Levels are So Low

Posted on December 17 2020

You may have noticed that our surfboard stock levels are not what they used to be.  We normally keep about 300-350 new surfboards in stock and available to buy at all times.  As I write this blog post, we have 46. 

What's up with that?  Are we going out of business? Absolutely not!  Are we lazy and don't feel like making more? Nope, not that either.  Why can't we just make more surfboards?  

Trust me, we're trying!  Our small crew has been pumping out 60-70 surfboards per week, every week, since the pandemic hit and the cancellation of team sports / closure of gyms caused everyone and their mother to take up surfing. 

Here's a little sneak peak as to what goes in to making a hand-shaped surfboard and why we can't make hundreds of them appear overnight.

Surfboard Blanks

Ordering & Cutting the Blanks

The first step in the life of any board (stock or your very own custom) is to order up the blanks and have them cut to the precise specs of that board.  Easy enough, but this pandemic madness has caused a global shortage of some of the key ingredients in the foam for surfboards.  That, combined with the fact that there are a limited number of skilled blank cutters who can only cut so many blanks a week means that a step in the process that used to take a couple weeks can now take as long as four weeks.

Geoff Madsen, Stewart Surfboards Head Shaper

Shaping & Routing

When the blanks arrive, they're shaped and the fin boxes are routed in to the foam by some of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the biz.  Our head shaper, Geoff Madsen, has been shaping our boards for 20 years, so he knows a thing or two about how to give a Stewart board that special magic.  That hand-crafted goodness takes time and although we tried to get him to set up a cot in the corner and work around the clock, for some odd reason he wasn't in to that.  Seriously though, our shapers are all grinding out as many as they can every day, but there's a limit to how many they can do and we've been hitting that every week since May.  Most boards spend about a week or two in the shaping/routing zone.

Bill Stewart shaping a Stewart surfboard

Paint & Resin Color

Next, we get creative with the paint and/or resin color, which requires the talents of some amazing artists.  These guys are highly skilled, amazing at what they do, and not easily cloned.  Pulling tape in a perfectly straight line following the curve of a rail and mixing paint colors by eye to match a specific Pantone shade are not skills that can be taught overnight. 

As much as we'd love to make twice as many boards in the same amount of time, we can't find enough talented artists who can do what we do to the level of quality that we require.  Only the best shall do for all you amazing Stewart surfers, but the best takes time!  Approximately one week for paint and up to four weeks or even more for resin color (which is done IN the glass, so it's kind of a combo color/glass in one step but it's such an art form I felt like I just had to include it with the paint, ya know?).

Airbrush painting a Stewart surfboard

Glassing

Last but certainly not least in the production timeline of a surfboard is the glassing, a multi-step process of applying resin & fiberglass, and sanding/polishing it to perfection.  Again, there's only a select few highly skilled craftsman who know the ins and outs of glassing a surfboard, and even fewer who can do it to our extremely picky level of quality standards. But, we've always considered quality to be more important than high-volume production, so we're willing to wait two to four weeks for this last step.  Although, let's be honest this step's gotta be the hardest -- we've been SO patient all these weeks and we're just dying to get that shiny new surfboard in our hands already!

Stewart surfboards on the rack at glass shop

 After all those weeks, all of those amazingly talented craftsman putting their absolute best into it, that beauty's done!  Yewww!  Typically, a board would last a few months in our shop before being sold.  Lately, that's been cut down to just a few days.  So, as much as we're trying to make as many boards as we can, they're selling just as fast as we can make them.  It's a bit like running on a treadmill, only to have someone keep turning the speed up.  

All this is to say that we really appreciate your patience with us as we sprint to get more boards in stock and to finish your custom orders as quickly as possible.  Your support of our family-owned, family-operated small business truly means the world to us!  Thank you!!!

If you can't find what you're looking for in our online inventory, give us a call in the shop -- 949-492-1085 -- and we'll see if we can hunt down a board somewhere in the production process and put your name on it.  Or, we'll be happy to write up a custom for ya!  Custom order forms can be found here and are running about 8-10 weeks to complete.  Again, THANK YOU for all the orders and support!