Building a Cedar Strip Stand Up Paddle Board
March 08, 2012
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 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.
Really informative post. Spent a great deal of time reading your blog. keep up the good work
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Posted by: Account Deleted | March 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I notice you fiberglass the outside of the SUP but not the inside. I know it would be difficult to do but wouldn't it provide greater strength if you hit a rock or something while out paddling? Has this topic been discussed on any SUP Builders Forums?
Posted by: D | February 01, 2014 at 02:19 PM
You can choose to fiberglass the inside of the board but I chose not to because of the difficulty as well as the added weight. The board is heavy enough as it is and the extra weight would really make it difficult to carry. One thing we noticed was that the board surface will become slightly uneven over time and I think it is because the strips absorb moisture on their untreated inner surface. There are no leaks and we took great care not to get any moisture inside while paddling, so I think the moisture comes from condensation.
Posted by: aelizaga | February 23, 2014 at 11:27 AM