“Daddy, where do surfboards come from?”

Silly question, right? Not really. Ask a guy who built his board, and most surfers will proudly point to the big name on the stringer as its divine creator. But the truth is these babies have more pops than a bowl of Rice Krispies, each of whom is an expert craftsman, relying on timing and organization — not mention miles of masking tape, 20 sheets of sandpaper and two ketchup bottles — to make sure the final product is work of art. “Everybody has to be cohesive,” says factory owner Chris Kaysen. “One mistake in the process and you ruin the whole board.” For the making of our 40th Anniversary “Surfboards” cover, we decided to build the ultimate riding machine, documenting each incredible step to illustrate everything that goes into making our favorite little miracles.

Nobody knows a surfboard’s exact moment of conception — whether it’s in your mind or the shaper’s — but there’s no doubt it’s his primary responsibility to make sure the end result meets everybody’s expectations.

Not only is this the first step, it’s also one of the fastest. A qualified shaper like Timmy Patterson can shape a blank from plug to perfection within 40 minutes, with the bulk of that time spent on the details. No sooner do we decide on a standard high-performance shortboard, Patterson gets to work. “How ’bout a 6’2″x 18.5″ x 2.25″? My standard team model?” Timmy immediately grabs a hunk of foam and an old Skil {{{100}}} planer. Relying on 20 years of experience — and a selection of rail calipers and t-squares — he can mow off the excess foam, handsaw the outline in a blank and even put in the concaves to create the basic shape all inside the first 15 minutes. The rest of the time is a combination of rough shaping — hand sanding the board to actually feel the flow of the foam — and fine sanding, using light-sandpaper and screen to put in every final touch. Or as Tim says, “Foiling the tail, making the rails mine — this where you put in your style.” Matt Walker