Sep 082011

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!

Jul 302010

In between one day of blissful and glassy surf and three days of a snorting south easterly wind blowing into a solid swell, work began this week on the next batch of hollow wooden boards. There’s two fish models and a 9.0 longboard coming up in this batch, although I haven’t started on the longboard and am still toying with the idea of making an 8.6 gun instead. Pictured here is the cut wood for the first fish.  It’s hard to imagine, but in a few week’s time this is going to be a very beautiful surfboard.

The first day of building did not go smoothly. I neglected that golden rule of woodworking – measure twice and cut once. The result sent me back the drawing room.Then I bust a router bit, then a bandsaw blade and finally the belt that drives the bandsaw motor. And to top it off, the fruit smoothie machine refused to work. Sometimes it’s like that, but everything is still on track.

Apr 092010

Here’s a shot of the latest fish model. It’s a 5.9 and although I haven’t weighed it yet, it’s very light for a hollow wood board. It was great fun on four foot reef waves earlier in the week.

Jan 162010

[vimeo][/vimeo]Up for the dawnie this morning. Started out on the Oregon pine fish in some 4-5 foot conditions, then onto a 6.5 Oregon and Saligna single fin and finally finished up on a 7.8 Obeche and redwood mini-malibu. About five hours in the water and great to surf the different boards and appreciate the different way they respond to conditions.

The fish is of course super fast – it’s amazing how it cruises around the sections. The single fin lovely and stable on the take off and drop and great to lock into the pocket on. A six-foot pointbreak and it’ll be a dream. And the mini-malibu, as my mate Byron calls it, the grand ‘ol daddy. But it sure is fun dropping into a ledgy 4-5 ft wave on a mini-malibu and then getting the rail in the face and cruising down the line.I’m definitely starting to appreciate the skill involved in walking a board and keeping it in the energy pocket of the wave for the duration of the ride.

When it comes to making boards, all of this got me thinking about the balance between speed and control when it comes to short boards and how this applies to different waves. The fish for example is super fast and it will generate momentum even in the smallest of waves, but sometimes you feel like you almost want more control ‘cos you are often past a tube section before you even knew it was there. On the single fin, with its thin tail, there’s a lot more control, but it doesn’t have the playfulness of a fish. It’s definitely a horses for courses kind of situation, to use an old cliche. More speed, less control. More control, less speed. So at least some of the process of making boards is about understanding that balance and then crafting a relationship between these two elements, speed and control.

Oct 182009

On Wednesday I took collection of a wood order that will give me enough to make three boards. Now this isn’t just any wood. There’s a context to this wood and it’s been quite an emotional ride ordering it and then picking it up and driving home with it.

Wood is not cheap you see, and there’s a point when a hobby just becomes too expensive. And times are tough. So to stomp up a few thousand rand to buy wood to build surfboards can either be seen as foolish expenditure or an investment in a passion.

I wasn’t quite sure which it was myself.

But when I laid out the wood on my kitchen floor – the kitchen floor is where I lay out wood because its got a nice flat lino surface and the parquet flooring in the rest of the house is off-limits for surfboard manufacture by order of management – I knew I wouldn’t regret buying that wood. Even if it has cleaned out my bank account and I don’t know what’s going to come next.

It’s funny how times of uncertainty can bring on the greatest moments of certainty.

When I saw that wood laid out on my kitchen floor – the clear, yellow grain of Obeche contrasting with the fine, dark red grain of Californian Redwood – I could see the 7.8 mini-Malibu I’m going to craft out of that wood as clearly as if I had already done it. And it’s a beautiful board. You won’t be able to find one like it anywhere in South Africa, perhaps anywhere in the world.

Oct 122009

All the materials are just about together to begin production of a 7.8 mini-Malibu and a 5.9 fish.

The 7.8 is going to be first on the construction table and it is going to be a beautiful, beautiful board, built with alternating strips of Obeche and Californian Red Wood. It really is going to be a one-of-a-kind, collector’s item board. I’m expecting it to be finished in early December, just in time for some fun summer surf at Muizenberg. Any takers? If you want a beautiful and unique surfboard that rides well make me a cash offer and the board could be yours.

The second board, which I’m also hoping to finish in early December, is the 5.9 fish. It will also be built with alternating strips of Obeche and Californian Red Wood and based on the successful fish design I’ve already built and tested. This is also going to be a really beautiful surfboard – just take a look at some of the pictures of the fish I built out of Oregon pine. Same deal with the 7.8 – if you want a unique and beautiful surfboard make me a cash offer.

Oct 012009

Just back from my favourite left point break up the West Coast. Solid swell and not the best it’s ever been it must be said, but some good waves on offer nevertheless and I was keen to try out the fish on some long, racy walls.

Given the size of the swell (6-8 foot on the point) and the amount of wind the wave faces were very choppy, which didn’t make for much stability on a 5.9 twin fin. It was on the cleaner waves that sucked up over the ledge that the board felt good, although even on the bigger ones it made the drops comfortably and handled well as long as there wasn’t chop.

When the swell dropped we missioned further up the coast and surfed a right reef at about 3-4 foot which was really fun on the fish. Loved the smooth lines it draws and the speed glide it gets going, even through flat sections.

Photo: Byron Loker

Sep 222009

Saturday was a slow kind of day, but we took a drive to look for waves and found our favourite reef showing itself well enough for a paddle. There was a lunchtime glass off and some really good waves started coming through, jacking over the reef and shooting off onto the inside.

I wasn’t sure how a fish would go on these waves, on how much I could push it over the ledge, but towards the middle of the session things started clicking.

What really surprised me was how well the board responded on some pretty steep drops and handled critical bottom turns coming out of the drop without losing its line. And of course once on the open face it felt so fast.

There’s definitely a bouyancy to wood boards which translates into a smooth paddle in, while the extra weight actually helps on the take-off and drop rather than hinders. On the wave, I think this translates into a stability and smoothness of ride, but with a fish shape the board is still super maneuverable.

Flat spell for the next week, but looking forward to the next groundswell, which is due to come into town Saturday evening for Sunday and Monday.

Photo: Byron Loker

Sep 182009

Wood is such a beautiful medium to work with. So far I’ve experimented with Saligna gum, Meranti, Obeche and Jelutong, but this 5.9 fish made out of Oregon pine is in my opinion by far the most beautiful. Part of the reason why its been so satisfying to make this board is that it is 100% recycled wood – all the Oregon on this board came from old pieces of floorboard and in parts you can still see the holes were the nails were. I think its awesome to take something old and turn it into something beautiful – and the bonus is that the board really surfs well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best type of wood to use in making surfboards. It seems to me the two main factors that you want to consider is weight, although the technique you use for building the boards can allow you to experiment with different varieties; flexibility in that this has performance implications and you don’t want to be working with wood that is too brittle in nature; and the natural beauty and contrasts obtained by mixing different woods.

Sep 172009

Second session on the fish was a blast. So stoked. Three to four foot waves and I don’t think I’ve ever done so many floaters and re-entries in a session. The board totally exceeded my expectations, generating so much speed over the face and seeming to have its own instinct to finding the lip. Bring it on.

Photo: Byron Loker