I’ve done a fair amount of surfing in my life, and I can say that the board you select to ride is a very individual choice. Most surfers have many surfboards of different shapes and sizes, for the varied conditions that the oceans throw at you. Because of this, surfboards have remained a handcrafted product.
Surfers generally go into a surf shop and pick out a board that suits them, but very often one will be custom-shaped for them. While I don’t think the future will see any success in mass-produced manufactured boards of any quality, it looks like we could be seeing a change in how boards for water sports — sail, surf, kite, and paddle — can be custom-designed for individuals.
Chicago-based MADE Boards is introducing a high-tech method of board designing and making with their new Kickstarter project that promises to custom design 3D-printed sail, surf, kite, and paddle SmartBoards™ based on actual data derived from the buyer while riding their own boards in the water.
There are two parts to the process:
Design: First, the potential buyer uses MADE’s VOLUME mobile app that analyzes what shape, size and rigidity of board is best for them. You load up the app on your iPhone or Android, and then take it with you into the water. Of course you’ll put the phone into a waterproof container first (make sure it floats). Then ride. The app will track how you ride, capturing tons of data that will be later be analyzed to design your custom board — a board that best suits your individual style.
Construction: The process utilizes 3D printing, and judging from the Kickstarter page it sounds like their prototypes have been printed on a Stratasys printer. The board is constructed with an internal bridge made from ABSm-30, a high-strength and dynamic thermoplastic, put together in much the way airplane wings are constructed. This radically reduces weight, while creating a resilient and durable internal architecture. The board is then wrapped in bamboo underlayment and a fiberglass shell to stiffen it.
The prices are not cheap but they don’t really seem out of line with quality conventional boards either. Backers who pledge at least $799 can get a MADE kite board; $999 for a “series one” SmartBoard; $1,299 for a paddle board; and $1,499 for a sail board.
They are looking for $450,000, but unfortunately only have about $15,000 raised with 14 days to go.