Our board is totally finished now and we’ve had the opportunity to take her out on a few casual trips. Isn’t she just gorgeous? My first impression is that she’s a little heavy -- at least 40 pounds! Factory manufactured boards seem to run anywhere from 28-45 pounds so she is at the upper limit but not far out of range. Be warned that if you decide to make one of these you may grow to envy those dudes who can carry their boards to the water across big parking lots under one arm without breaking a sweat!
Unlike a sea kayak, which has a cockpit and perimeter lines, a paddleboard doesn’t have a lot to grab on to, so hand carrying and cartopping a slippery, heavy board can be a serious issue. I forgot to mention that we cut a notch in the middle of the deck to use as a hand hold. This helps a lot, but what really helps is to use a carrying sling. The sling consists of a couple adjustable wide strips of nylon webbing that snap around the board with quick releases, and another adjustable padded strap that clips in between the other two that you wear over your shoulder.
I think the weight is actually real advantage on the water though because she feels very solid and stable, even in a rough chop. The extra inertia seems to help when paddling with a headwind too. We were concerned that the varnished deck might be slippery and even bought a few cakes of board wax, but it turned out not to be an issue. I felt like I had a good grip on the board with neoprene booties on, even in rough water when the deck was awash. I noticed the hard varnished surface was slippery and not very comfortable when kneeling on my bare knees though. The deck might feel slippery paddling barefoot.
The deck of a sea kayak typically does not see as nearly much wear as the hull. Unfortunately, the deck on a paddleboard is constantly exposed to the sand and pebbles stuck on the bottom of your feet and booties. I bet applying board wax might actually make the situation worse by making the sand stick to the board. I suspect our meticulously finished deck is going to look pretty scratched up before too long. Annual revarnishing is probably indicated. Wood Surf Board Supply sells a transparent traction film that protects the deck surface and provides a nonslip surface. Another thought is to use a matte rather than a gloss finish, which would hide superficial scratches. A matte finish would give it a hand-rubbed oiled look.
One small modification we definitely plan in the future is to install some simple deck rigging, probably just of a length of bungee crossed over the deck by the nose. This is primarily to hold a pfd on board when we don’t feel like actually wearing one on hot sunny days!
As I mentioned before, I haven’t been on a lot of paddleboards, but I can say that this board so far has been the best I’ve tried! Tracking is great, yet she still turns easily. Compared to Joe Greenley’s cedar strip board, she’s less responsive to changes in trim (adjusting your position fore and aft), which makes sense because she has a more volume at the ends.
Anyone who has built a wooden kayak is familiar with hearing plenty of compliments from admirers, and then getting into long conversations with people on the beach about boatbuilding as they are about to launch. Katya has been getting her first taste of that, sometimes talking so long she hardly has any time to paddle! So one final tip: give yourself some extra time when planning trips to field those questions, bask in the admiration of strangers, and share the joy of boatbuilding!