So we all know that we at Surf Bunker love hand shaped custom order surfboards, that's no secret. As far as we see it, off the shelf surfboard purchases have limitations, and through our continuing quest to enlighten everyone in this topic and more, we decided to track a custom order from inception to riding the board in the water. We asked one the most respected shapers in Portugal (and beyond) if he would mind being the subject of our voyeurism into the custom order world.
Dan Costa shapes from scratch by hand, he glasses and finishes all the orders himself and the finished product is amazing. If you want to know more about Dan then check out this previous article we produced on his shapes here.
On with the story, so we had to find a person who was a surf addict, someone who had bought 'off the rack' and had also a fetish about custom boards being ordered. As luck would have it a long time friend (Pascal) contacted me to ask if I knew anyone that could shape him an Egg and it was an easy recommendation, I had seen, touched and surfed Dan's surfboards and they are of immaculate pedigree to say the least.
A little background info on our lab rat for this article, Pascal: Like all Dutchmen (folks from the Netherlands) Pascal is not small in stature and has always preferred a decent size wave and with that a decent amount of foam to paddle in early. He surfs in the Netherlands (a little crazy) in waves that are essentially wind swell and have close period with little power, the water is freezing and the air is not much warmer. In short he is dedicated. He likes to holiday in Portugal which is a family/surf holiday. In other words he is surfing, and when there is no surf he spends time with his family (standard). He is also married to an Australian lady and has in-laws that live very close to Bells Beach. Needless to say a lengthy trip to the in-law's every year is not a hardship for Pascal.
So to sum up, Pascals requirements for waves are a little unusual and he has different surf boards for different locations and quite a few of them (oh if only I could use that excuse). What Pascal wanted was a go to board, one that would rule them all, one that was made properly and one that (as he is a goofy) would go well on his back hand for Bells or most of the right hand point breaks in Portugal. I knew Dan would be the best shaper locally to shape him the 'Lord of the Boards'.
The plan had been hatched and the dates set. Pascal would fly into Lisbon airport at the end of September, I would meet him there and drive with him down to the Setubal peninsula to collect the finished article from Dan Costa. I knew that Pascal had asked Dan for an Egg of sorts but beyond that I did not know what to expect.
Pascal is someone who had made more than a few board purchases, off the shelf and custom orders. I asked him what made him want another custom order as opposed to walking into a surf shop and picking one out which surely is easier. Surprisingly he said that it was a quality issue firstly. Especially as with surfboards that are made for you, when the shaper gives you the surfboard personally, you can see how proud they are of their work. The boards he has had shaped last longer and are far superior in build quality.
Fast forward to the day of Pascal's arrival. We rendezvoused with the Dutchman and his family in Setubal and met Dan who lead us out of town to his workshop which is based a little in the country and surrounded by green. Although I have previously written an article on Dan Costa which I have linked to above this is the first time I had visited his place of work. For geeks like me it was a rare treat to take a visual trip around different types of boards that Dan had shaped and listen to his take on surfing history and surfboard designs from the past. Dan is a unique person and puts his whole being into shaping boards, he has very interesting views on how things should be done and what influences him in the design and fine tuning of different models and shapes that are his own.
Now it was time for the unveiling of Pascal's Egg. Drum roll...
Now I have seen a lot of surfboards, I mean a lot. As I have alluded to in previous articles I am a little obsessed and any chance to look at a surfboard I can get, I will. They are a constant mystery to me that needs solving, to understand every slight nuance in the shape and try to identify what difference it will make in performance. It is a lifetime's pursuit and not always a healthy one as my wife will attest. My point being that I have a fairly good first impression validation and what I saw was not what I expected. Not at all.
My experience of Eggs is that they are a functional go to board, they do most things really well, they have stocky kind of look and they look, well kind of egg like. In my view, they are beautiful but not as mouth watering as some shapes out there, they are highly functional and I love to surf them. What Dan had made looked wanton and seductive. It seemed to have lines and curves so subtle as to show a hint of sauciness that had never seen in a board with an Egg template. It appeared to have less width than I thought but still carried the volume and the thickness was not overcooked. The finish on the board was one hundred percent as good as I have ever seen on the best board, the whole package reeked of Dan's almost obsessive attention to detail. In short, I wanted it. A lot.
So what did Pascal think? The answer is that I had rarely seen his eyes wider, I believe it was love at first sight.
The proof of the pudding however is in the eating ( to quote a famous fat Englishman ) and we needed to surf the board and see how it fared. We both had no doubt that had it passed the aesthetic test. First we needed some fins as Pascal had requested a tri Future fin setup and he did not have any fins of that ilk with him. Time to go fin shopping. Pascal asked if I knew a good surf shop to purchase said fins. I had an idea about some special new fins I had heard about but not ever tested. We said thanks to Dan for his undoubted skills and left Setubal for the hour's drive north to Peniche in search of the fins in question.
Peniche Surf Shop that is in Baleal is a cool little surf shop and have most things you would be looking for surf hardware-wise including custom fins designs and (this is what we had come for) Marlin Surf Board fins.
Marlin fins are made out of recycled plastic, they look amazing and have a marbled effect from the mixing of the different plastic colours. Sounds cool huh? Recycled is good, but that is not everything, the man who makes them is a plastic moulder and in his day time job makes parts for car engines out of plastic.
This type of plastic has to be able to resist a certain heat and is engineered with different flex properties in mind. His daughter surfs and he started playing around with fins, focusing on getting the plastic engineering correct and using existing templates that where proven. Not only that but a set of tri-Futures cost only 24 euro.It was a no brainier, Pascal bought a set and we stuck them in. The forecast looked good really early the next day for a little right hand point I knew. Due to tide and wind variations it was a first light surf.
We all had a few glasses of beer and wine that night just so it would make getting up early in the dark that little bit more difficult. It was a clear but bitterly cold morning, the wind was blowing out of the north and was biting through my inadequate clothing, bringing water to my eyes. The point looked okay, a bit lumpy bit okay, there where two others in the water. It was go time.
My perspective of how that surfboard changed Pascal's surfing was almost the same as how he told me it surfed. The Egg looked like it knew what it was doing and was trying to tutor Pascal instead of the other way around. The waves were average that morning but there was nothing average about the board. We both liked it. A lot.
I did not get a chance to ride the board that day but will get a go at some point in the future and will keep you up to date with Pascal's thoughts on how well it works at the famous right hand point in 'Straya' (Australia).
If you want to get a board shaped by Dan Costa I would recommend the experience, the quality, the design and the finish. Merci, Dan and Pascal for your time with us.
Note: Keep and eye out for a more in depth article and test feedback from the Marlin Fins range coming soon.