Our journey in making hollow wood surfboards is driven by a love of surfing and the ocean and a passion for the beauty of nature that can be found in every single piece of wood. I’ve been making hollow wood surfboards since 2007 and I still get goose bumps over every single one. Each board has something unique. It might be the magic of nature found in the grain of a special piece of wood, the pleasing curve of a beautiful surfboard shape or the satisfying feeling of riding a wave on a board that I’ve made. But the goose bumps keep on coming.
Making wood surfboards has been a journey. In 2007 I was a journalist, sitting in front of a computer for most of the day. I had no woodworking experience to speak of, but an inkling that I wanted to work with my hands.
The boards started out as a hobby. A friend of mine was making model airplanes out of wood and selling them at craft markets. We started talking one evening about wing construction using a hollow frame structure and how the same technique could be used for surfboards.
At around the same time I was doing a lot of work for a magazine called Mind Shift, which focused on the environment. I was coming across many new inventions that did things in different ways in order to be more environmentally friendly. It seemed crazy that surfboards couldn’t be made in another way that would be better for the environment.
I went away from the chat with a determination to make a surfboard out of wood, but not really having any idea about how I would do that. On the internet, I found Jack Young, a wood surfboard maker in California who has produced a book about wood surfboards which was an amazing resource in getting me going. I was also surprised to find that there were people all over the world making wood surfboards.
Even after the first surfboard I was hooked. My partner Annabel has been amazing. I remember voicing a crazy thought to her after the first board, just asking, “What if I could make beautiful boards and sell them?” Her immediate response was, “Why don’t you?” It was crazy. There was no apparent market, no financial incentive and I had no woodworking experience.
I kept on building boards and eventually some orders started to come in. The car gradually moved out of the garage and the garage became the workshop. Then we renovated and I sneaked extra workshop space into the plans. And I started to feel like I was gaining the kind of skill and experience to be able to make the kind of boards that I could visualize in my mind.
What I did have in the beginning and still have in abundance is a love of the ocean and surfing. We’re blessed with an enormous variety of surf spots in Cape Town and some majestic natural surf locations. I’m really inspired by this backdrop. Being able to build functional and beautiful surfboards that connect to this natural environment is a real privilege.
These days I’ve moved out of the home workshop and have a workshop at Imhoff Farm Village in Kommetjie, Cape Town. This is where I build all my custom boards and run wood surfboard building courses. Anyone who is interested in wood surfboards is welcome to visit and share the stoke.
Patrick Burnett, Burnett Wood Surfboards