I've started a new project: building a stand up paddle board (SUP). Actually, I know almost nothing about stand up paddleboarding. I took a short lesson one spring and really have only been on an SUP a couple times. It was fun but I didn’t consider it something I would seriously get into. I didn’t think of it was a very effective way to get around on the water, until I saw how fast some of the SUPs were going during the Deception Pass Dash. I recently was inspired by watching SUPers play in Crecent Bay. Having the advantage of both a paddle and a board, they were catching a lot of the small waves that kayakers and surf boarders couldn’t ride.
Despite the growing popularity of stand up paddle boarding in the Puget Sound area, I have yet to see a lot of homemade wooden boards. This is a real shame, because, compared to a kayak, construction is relatively simple. It’s shorter, so you use less material, and can build it in a smaller space. There is also great potential for showing off a lot of fancy woodwork and artwork on both sides of the board. It is basically a floating canvas!
I searched the internet and bought a basic kit from Wood Surfboard Supply. It is the Orca model, 12 ft long and 29 1/4 in wide -- plenty of stability for a beginner! The basic kit consists only of four 8 x 1 ft plywood panels with the forms for the frames and center longitudinal cut out by a CNC router. You still have to punch the forms out and clean up the edges. The instructions are emailed to you as a generic 70 page Wood Surfboard Kit Manual pdf that is used for all their kits.
A couple minor criticisms of the kit so far. 1) It takes a bit of time to unpack the panels because they are all stapled together. You can order the pieces precut out of the panels but it costs a little more. 2) There are a lot of fine points on technique (stripping, dealing with epoxy and fiberglass, sanding and finishing) that are incompletely covered in the manual. For a first-time builder, I highly recommend consulting a more comprehensive book on strip construction.
I am trying to be more cost conscious for this project. For instance, I decided to make my own strips from locally available Home Depot wood instead of ordering finished strips. The wood is sold as 12 ft 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 clear cedar paneling. Ricardo and I dropped by the Bates Boatbuilding program and ran the planks through their planer then table saw to rip the planks into strips 1/4 in thick x 3/4 in wide. It turned out to be really beautiful, fragrant wood, varying in from pale tan to a darker chocolate color. We cut enough for two boards because Katya wants to make one too. The strips came to about $1.90/12 ft strip. Finished red cedar strips can cost up to $0.45/foot, or $5.40/12 ft strip.
The manual recommends that the first thing you do is prebend the strips. Wood that has not been given a curve prior to planking the board will try to straighten out when the clamps are removed and can actually pull the rocker out of the board. I think it’s probably more of a problem with shorter boards with a lot of rocker. In any case, we placed the strips leaning against the wall of Katya’s garage to bend them with gravity for a few days. They also discuss options such as steam bending or soaking in water. I plan to cover the bottom of my board with plywood instead of strips and will have to prebend the plywood as well.