On The Water – Surfboard shaper – a passion for the sport

This post is also available in: Spanish

By Ilene Little

A surfboard shaper is a perfectionist who can change your surfing experience. Juan Jimenez, owner of BOA Surfboards, is one such perfectionist who has been shaping boards since his teens. Jimenez, who has two sons who often go surfing with him, is widely accepted as the most knowledgeable individual in Panama on building boards for surfers of all ages.

Jimenez arrived here when his father was a consul to Panama during the Canal Zone years. Like many “Zonians,” Panama is now his home.

Jimenez’s uncle bought him his first surfboard in 1974 when he was 13. He started surfing in Rio Mar. “After my first wave, I was hooked,” he said. “As I developed in my surfing, I realized I had an eye for surfboards. I liked specific designs and shapes, and could visualize what I wanted.”

Jimenez worked in Panama for three years after high school, learning about building surfboards from Kiki O’Brien, but it was in Virginia Beach, a thriving surfing community in the U.S.A., where his career designing surfboards really took off.

Choosing a surfboard – three important factors

I’ve built boards for pretty much everybody in Panama who surfs,” said Jimenez. “From a shaper’s perspective, you choose a board based on body weight (a flotation issue), physical condition and surfing ability.”

Body weight

“The most important factor for an avid surfer who is a weekend warrior is weight,” explains Jimenez. “You could be a good surfer who weighs 120 lbs. or a surfer of medium skills who weighs 180lbs; you don’t use the same boards for those two individuals. If you’re struggling with a board that won’t float your weight, you’re not going to catch any waves, you’re not going to enjoy surfing, then you’re not going to be back to buy your next board from me.”

Physical condition

“When you’re physically in good shape, you can better compensate for any lack of floatation,” said Jimenez. If a person is not sure about their fitness level, Jimenez recommends opting for a board that can float them.

Surfing ability

Jimenez tells people who are ordering a board from him to “keep it real. If you’re not competing for a world title, you can’t ride what the pros are riding. Good surfers are riding paper-thin, small surfboards. A guy like me, who’s a weekend warrior, I ride something that, most important of all, floats me.”

Progression is perfection

According to Jimenez, “the whole idea is to progress. Get a board that is adequate for your weight, a board you’ll be able to paddle around and catch a wave on.

“As your surfing progresses, you’re going to realize, ‘I can move this board, I can put this board on a certain part of the wave that really gets me a lot of speed.’ Your ability to execute more demanding maneuvers is what will make surfing a more pleasurable experience.”


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