Last year I was incredibly fortunate to be sponsored a set of amazing tools by Triton power tools. I’ve been using these tools for the last year and they have been wonderful partners in building some beautiful wood boards, and have been extensively used by people building wooden surfboards with me on the courses that I run. Thank-you Triton! The Triton team also visited me and made a short video of the wooden surfboards that I make. Check it out below:
Triton Tools power up Burnett Wood Surfboards
This is a story about a man who asked a man about another man. The asked man phoned a third man that he knew, who just happened to be with the man that the first man was asking about. The two men spoke. They arranged to meet and the man drove in his car to go and see the man that he had been asking about.
Okay, the point I’m trying to make is that it might not have happened. Without a network of people who knew other people, with different timing and a whole range of other factors, if there had been a break in the chain above, perhaps things wouldn’t have come together like they did. I’m glad that they did.
After that initial meeting, the man went away. A while later, another man came along and had a look at my workshop and what I’m doing making hollow wood surfboards. He asked a few questions, went away and then a few weeks later another man arrived in a car packed with boxes, which he handed over to me.
Between 9-14 December 2013, Burnett Wood Surfboards hosted five people, who all built their own hollow wood surfboards in the space of six days. One of these people was Liezel Gous, the first woman to sign up for a Burnett Wood Surfboards course and possibly the only woman in the country to have built a wood surfboard (please let us know, ladies, if you’d like to challenge this claim). After the course Liezel answered some questions about her experience..
Click HERE to find out how you can build your own hollow wood surfboard.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: What got you interested in building your own hollow wood surfboard?
LIEZEL GOUS: I have always liked doing things with my hands from a very young age. For many years I have been saying that I regret not taking woodwork as subject in school and that I would like to someday do a woodwork course of some sort. So the year before last year, after watching many surf movies, I decided to give surfing a try and loved it. Then last year one day, browsing the internet, I noticed a link for building your own wooden surfboard on FB, with a picture of a gorgeous wooden board. I thought this was the perfect thing to do, combining my new hobby with learning some woodwork skills, so I signed up.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: Many women might think building a wood surfboard is a ‘guy thing’. What do you reckon, having done the course?
LIEZEL GOUS: Not at all! Anyone that likes working with their hands can do this. To be honest, some of the guys were at times a bit heavy handed, like with the glue….
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: Ha! What do you feel that you learnt from building your own surfboard from start to finish?
LIEZEL GOUS: I thought woodwork was something really complicated and it was something I was always a bit scared of trying, but now I reckon I can attempt other woodwork projects as well, it is not the rocket science I once perceived it. The most informative part for me about building a surfboard was the shaping of the rails. I feel that I know a little more about surfboards now and would be able to make a more informed choice when I buy another board.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: What was the hardest part? Best part?
LIEZEL GOUS: I don’t think anything was really hard to do. I did struggle with using the plane at first, but as experience grew that also got easier and even fun. The best part for me was putting the top on and it started to look like a surfboard, but the vibe of working with the others, all of us being excited about our boards in the making, made the whole experience really great.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: You picked up your board on Saturday after it had been glassed. On Sunday you were in the water for the first surf on it. How did it feel to surf on a board that you knew you had made yourself?
LIEZEL GOUS: I was not fortunate enough to have the best conditions to surf in on Sunday and it was more of a kite surfing day, but I was determined to give it a go, even if I only got one wave. I had more than one wave and the first one was the best, because I did not really expect to be able to get up on the first one that I caught! When I finally got home, I was tired but so stoked and totally in love with my board. This is going to sound really cheesy now, but on my way home the song “Flying without wings” played on the radio and I thought, yep that is what I feel like now.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: The board you made was a classic 5′.8″ fish shape. How did it go?
LIEZEL GOUS: I expected it to be very buoyant, but was still surprised with how much, and it was not heavy at all to handle in the waves. I almost did not put wax far enough to the front as I did not expect to have to be that much to the front on the board (and not nosedive!). This board gave me longer rides than I had with my other board, I can’t wait to gain enough skill to really do it justice.
BURNETT WOOD SURFBOARDS: Thanks so much Liezel – it was a pleasure having you on the course. Stoked!
We’ll be at the inaugural Wavescape Fish Fry at the Bluebird garage in Muizenberg on Saturday 30 November. The unique combination of surfboard fish and real fish comes from a collaboration between the Wavescape Surf Festival, WWF-SASSI and the reality TV series Ultimate Braai Master in a day of entertainment in the historical heart of surfing in South Africa, Muizenberg.
The first day of our May board-building class began Monday 6 May at Imhoff Farm Village in Kommetjie, Cape Town. Four guys, surrounded by paddocks of bleating goats, neighing horses and cool-looking camels got to grips with their chosen shapes – an 11′ longboard, a 6’4″ fish and two 6′.4″ eggs. Wood surfboard decks and bottoms where laminated, profiles cut and frames built and laminated to the wood. The consensus was that four very beautiful boards are going to come out of the workshop by Saturday when the course ends. The guys were stoked.
Tomorrow is a rail building day and it looks like there will be time for course participants to surf in between the glue drying. Yup, apart from building boards in a rural spot surrounded by mountains, we’re also close enough to cooking waves to allow for a surf in between the work.
Here’s some great shots of a 5′.8″ twin keel that was finished a few weeks ago. Looking beautiful, top and bottom. Thanks to Byron Loker for the pictures.
There are over 60 pieces of wood in the 5’4″ twin-keel hollow wooden fish in this video. This means that, at a minimum, over 100 cuts were made with different varieties of saws to get those pieces of wood to the right length and width. That’s to say nothing about planing the wood to the correct thickness, edging, hundreds of individual clamp applications, hand shaping of the rails, sanding through numerous grits of sandpaper, glassing, more sanding and final polishing. Take all of that graft away though, and essentially this surfboard was once a collection of rough planks on my workshop floor. And before that it was a tree, swaying naturally in the wind. Watching Alan and Simone Robb get to grips with the flex and flotation of wood, it seems like the timber’s memory of swaying in the wind has been given new life as the sway of the wind becomes the flow across the wave face.
For nearly a decade, The Empire in Muizenberg (check out website and facebook links) has been an institution, serving delicious chow and drinks to hungry surfers, tourists, bohemians, yuppies, locals, grannies, grampas and basically anyone who walks through the door.
Lately, there’s been a hollow wooden surfboard hanging on the upstairs wall, complementing a longboard downstairs with a stunning resin tint and made by ‘berg shaper John Bramwell of Evenflow Surfboards. (It’s not only surfboards on the walls, by the way – there’s also stunning local photographs and interesting light hangings to have a squizz at while you enjoy your coffee kick).
Anyway, I’m stoked to have a board on the wall, but unfortunately it’s an order that’s awaiting pick-up and so I’m making a new board that owner Dave wants to have as a fixture on the wall, but also wants to take down from time to time for a paddle at Surfer’s Corner, a stone’s throw away.
Hard to imagine that the above pile of wood – recyclable off-cuts and near-rough pieces of different varieties of locally grown timber – is going to turn into a surfboard, but in about a month’s time it will be a 6’4″ quad fish with amazing wood grains to oggle. I’ll post pictures as it all comes together.
Just finished the woodwork on these two fish shapes. The one is a 6.0 and the other is a 7.4 – an interesting interpretation of the fish shape. This is the funny fish, destined for the stage with comedian Mark Sampson but also certain to see some water time, knowing Mark’s enthusiasm for surfing. Mark, if you’re out there somewhere, there ain’t no surf in JHB dude!
Here’s a selection of hollow wooden surfboard shapes, from a 5.6 egg shape that is just about finished right through to a 9.6 gun. It’s a good time to post a picture showing all the boards together because this website was two years old in August and my journey in wood surfboard making is now four years old.
It seemed crazy to start making and riding wood surfboards and four years later it still seems crazy, but maybe a little less so. The greatest thing about making hollow wooden surfboards has been the people that I have come into contact with. From the countless people who have stopped and asked about the boards at the beach and taken the time to chat about surfing waves and life in general, to those who know more than me and have offered advice and encouragement along the way (Annabel, Milan, Byron, Ralph, Wade, Robin, Patricia, Cees, Anja, Cath, Fred, John, Mark, Mike, Ray, Kev, Steve, Spike, Adrian, Chris, Andy, Lee, Justin, Kelly, Peggy , Stefan and many more) to those that have taken a leap of faith and actually bought one, I’m really, really grateful. Thank-you!