Katya and I caught up with Joe Greenley of Redfish Kayaks at the annual Redfish Wooden Kayak Rendezvous and talked to him about his cedar strip SUP. The Rendezvous is a casual event where local wooden kayak builders gather on the Fort Worden beach in Port Townsend with their kayaks. Instructors give presentations on range of different kayak building techniques including cedar strip building, stitch-and-glue, traditional skin-on-frame, and even folding kayaks. Although we were hoping to bring and show off our own SUP, it still needed a few finishing touches including one final coat of varnish before it was really ready to display.
Joe’s board is typical of his design skill and expert craftsmanship -- simply gorgeous! I was a little surprised when he told us it was 14 feet long. I think the tapered nose and tail make it look shorter. It looked like it was about 30 inches wide and 4 inches thick, very similar to our own board. The rails are softly curved. The transition from the deck and hull to the rail is smooth and seamless because they are stripped as part of the deck and hull.
Joe said that the method of construction is the same as his kayaks. He uses 3/16th inch thick strips, some as much as 3 inches wide. He mounts cross-sectional forms on a strongback and builds the hull first, including the fairing and glassing. Then he removes the assembly from the strongback, turns it over and builds the deck. The hull and deck are then separated from the forms. He glasses the inside as well. He then joins the hull and deck by securing fiberglass tape along the inside joint. He lays the board on its side at an angle, and, working through the tail which is still open, uses gravity and a foam brush attached to a long stick to spread epoxy over the fiberglass tape along the inside seam. A layer of fiberglass covers the seam on the outside. He then finishes the ends with nose and tail blocks. There is also an internal structure composed of three longitudinals and a few frames supporting the area in the middle of the board where the paddler stands. A small hatch by the nose gives you access to the inside for limited storage and for allowing the interior to dry in case of leaks. The fin is made of wood and permanently mounted.
Joe couldn’t tell us exactly how much his board weighs but we estimated it was about the same as ours, a little over 40 pounds. He said he could have made it a lot lighter. He used 6 oz glass inside and out, and could have used 2 or 3 oz glass for the inside. He plans to eventually sell it as a kit.
Although I haven’t been on SUPs enough to really be a discriminating judge their performance, I was impressed with Joe’s board and thought it was the most comfortable board I've tried so far. I suspect the weight gives it a lot of extra stability compared to the lighter foam boards and is a difference you will really notice in any kind of chop. The varnished deck wasn’t slippery and I think applying board wax might not be necessary. Unlike the foam boards I’ve tried in the past which couldn't go straight, Joe’s board tracked well even with a light breeze and I didn’t need to switch paddling sides at all. Although in the video I mention that the tracking is stiff, I discovered that shifting your weight more aft makes the board very maneuverable. And by standing on the very back of the board and lifting the nose up you can really swing it around quickly.
After seeing Joe’s board I would definitely strip the rails in a single layer as I stripped the hull and deck. The Orca kit that Katya and I have been building was meant to have Balsa or Pauwlonia rails 1 1/2 inches thick. Although we choose to strip it in only two layers, it still added a lot of extra weight. Stripping the rails in a single layer would require modifying the frames to have rounded corners and some fancy stripping work to get around the tight bends and compound curves of the bow, but it would definitely save quite a bit of weight.