... if you work WITH a shaper and are involved in the process , the result can be outstanding.
That's the key. You have to know what you want out of your board, and be able to communicate that to your shaper. This is where the process often breaks down. If you think you're Slater, and you're not, you're gonna have a hard time finding a magic board no matter what you do. Show your shaper what you ride, tell him where you surf and what conditions you want the board to work best in, and most of all, tell him what the board you're riding doesn't do that you want your next board to do. He should be able to give you some options, each with a compromise. Choose the compromise you're willing to live with in order to get the performance you're after.