980
8 min 24 sec

Surfboard Shaper Boards New Wave

When longboard surfboards went out of style in the 1970s, thousands of them were selling at just $10 apiece. This aspiring ‘shaper’ knew it was a wave he had to catch a ride on.
Arts & Crafts Manufacturing Reselling Retail

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What It's About

For over 40 years, a surfer rides on endless stoke shaping boards.

Business Model
Reselling
Skills Required
Woodworking
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

If you're thinking, "what school do I need to attend to do a job like this?", here's what Luke advises, "There is ZERO formal training or apprenticeship to become a shaper. My best advice would be to get a job at one of the factories in California."

Fun Fact

Luke had itchy arms a lot as a kid, and he didn’t realize why until years later: it was all the fiberglass he was sanding off old boards without physical protection.

Notes from Chris

Episode 980
Luke Alvarez loved surfing as a kid. It was his favorite summer pastime, but the passion never quite felt complete. He had a dream of shaping his own boards someday. Shaping is essentially creating your own board from stock plywood: applying your own design and adding subtle curves and grooves—but it was a hobby that required money, because boards weren’t cheap.

In the early 70’s, surfing underwent a massive shift. Ten-foot longboards fell out of style as shorter, six-foot boards crested a new wave in popularity. The shift brought thousands of new surfers into the sport—and left thousands more with old longboards they no longer wanted. Luke realized it was his chance to get into the business without crazy startup costs, because by 1972, fully functional longboards sold for $10 or less—he didn’t have to search for trashed boards anymore! It seemed almost too good to be true. His base product was at clearance-level prices, and all he needed were fin boxes, fins, resin, and fiberglass. So, he got to work. He shaped and sold his first few boards that year for $100-300 to people in his network. It became an annual side hustle. Every summer, he’d go find unwanted longboards, shave them down, reshape them to meet the more current designs, and resell them for a nice profit.

A full decade later, he was shaping and selling at least 30 boards annually, priced between $200 and $500 apiece—all from word of mouth. There weren’t any more $10 boards laying around, but Luke reached out to wholesale surfboard manufacturers in California and Mexico to get the best prices he could find. So while the margins weren’t as great as they had been—now somewhere around 25-30%—the higher prices he sold his finished product for made it worth it.

In Luke’s mind, he’d done it. He’d accomplished his dream of being a skilled shaper and was making real money on the side from it. So he just kept it up for years and years. It was extra money with no pressure. At some point, he got the itch to do something new. He began spending his summers not only shaping boards, but teaching kids how to surf and shape their own. He loved passing on his expertise to younger generations—which is also what drove him to become a 7th-grade science teacher a few years earlier.

Luke is still making between 30 and 50 boards each year, and with a 28% net margin on average, it’s a notable side hustle income. But while the money’s great, the more rewarding part for him—decades in the making—is seeing his students fall in love with the sport and craft of shaping boards, just like he did forty years ago.

 
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Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"The best part of building surfboards is the relationship I have with a company I donate adaptive surfboards to be used to take people with disabilities out to surf for a day. It is very rewarding."
—Luke Alvarez #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau