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.
Sometimes boards get sent so quickly after they’re finished that, after long hours of getting to know each other, there’s barely time for a goodbye.The board pictured here nearly didn’t get a mention, but it’s worthy of a post. The wood on the deck is a single piece of South African grown redwood. On the bottom is Japanese Cedar, also grown in South Africa, making it an all South African wood product.
The pictures here are two recent favourites. That’s my two-year old son, Noah, framed in the light. The 9′.6″ longboard pictured is made out of Japanese Cedar. The second picture below is of a 9′.6″ gun, also made out of Japanese Cedar. I love the goat checking it all out.
Both pictures were taken by Byron Loker on a beautiful Cape evening when we braaied in the golden hour outside the workshop. It was windless, warm and still; the evening that finally signaled the end of a late winter that had blessed us with an endless run of surging swells.
When I first started making hollow wood surfboards in 2007, some of the first boards were made out of a South African grown variety of Japanese Cedar. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best wood to launch out on because it has widely varying textures and often many knots, making an even finish especially tricky. But it really is a beautiful wood and I was entranced by it. Then it disappeared. You couldn’t have it for love or money, as the saying goes.
Word of a new batch coming through the system filtered through to me about a year ago and since then I’ve been asking my supplier about it every time I buy wood.
It takes a long time for a tree to be harvested, milled, dried and transported. Having waited for this timber for so long I feel like I’ve come to understand the process all the better. When it did arrive I was waiting in the yard and was the first buyer to go through the pallet. I wasn’t disappointed as I picked out lengths of timber with some superb grain.
Mat, who has since built an egg board with me on one of my courses and used this wood, had a good chuckle when I referred to its chatoyant features (chatoyancy is defined by Wikipedia as a finish that will cause the wood grain to achieve a striking three-dimensional appearance; this can also be called pop-the-grain, wood iridescence, moire, vibrancy, shimmer or glow.) In actual fact, chatoyancy is probably the wrong word to use to describe Japanese Cedar, but it does have some amazing visual effects and a fantastic blend of reds, browns, purples, pinks, yellows and whites that make it very interesting.
We’re running Saturday courses for the foreseeable future at our Imhoff Farm Village workshop in Kommetjie so if you’re interested in building your own beautiful hollow wood surfboard then we’d love to hear from you. It takes 4-5 Saturdays and you can do these consecutively or whenever you can make it.
Full time courses are scheduled for September, November and December. This is a great way to build a surfboard. You start on the Monday and finish on the Saturday. The next course is 23 – 28 September 2013, followed by 4 – 9 November 2013 and 9 – 14 December 2013. For out-of-towners, we can refer you to a range of nearby accommodation options ranging from budget to luxury.
Below are some of the board models that you can choose to build. Write to email@example.com or phone Patrick on 073 232 3043 for more details. You can also check out our Facebook profile for lots of pictures of our boards and course activities.
It’s been a great venue that has enabled me to expand and given me the space to experiment, learn and be creative about wood and surfboards. Plus it has been perfect for running wood surfboard building courses, of which I have held two and have more scheduled for the rest of the year.
I’ve got an open door policy to my workshop. If you’re interested in wood surfboards and how they are built, feel free to drop in and see my boards and have a chat. Drive past the farm stall, take a right through the gate towards the Waldorff School, then your first left following the signs that say ‘Green Space’. To your right is the house that I work from.
Pictured here is the front room of the workshop and three recently produced boards – an 11′ longboard, an 11′ gun and a 6′.4″ fish built by a participant on the June course. Many thanks to Tony Butt for these pictures.
Monday was the session. It was 10-12 foot at a Cape outer reef and the peaks were sublime. There was a whale lolling about in the channel so close at times that we had to paddle off the mark to avoid the risk of being tail whipped or have it land on our heads if a rogue 15 footer came through and cleaned us all up.
And then we got a beauty, two friends paddling in surrounded by mountains and sea and a faint mist. The wave grew as it felt the reef, we bottom-turned together and my 11’ hollow wood board found its drive. It felt alive under my feet and the rail took its line beautifully out of the bottom turn. Then I just stood there as the wave roared away its energy behind us and rocketed us out towards the shoulder. We grabbed hands momentarily as we slid off the back and then dived into the cold sea. Now that was something special.
Some boards aren’t just about one person, or the guy making it. There’s been a lot of people around this surfboard who have inspired me, encouraged me and advised me. To say thanks seems trite, but if there’s such a thing as meaning to be found in a surfboard then everyone who has been a part of the process has turned this into a very meaningful surfboard.
Hollow wood surfboards take many hours to make. But even by the standards of hollow wood surfboards, this 11’ gun is a project years in the making. The first hollow wood gun that I made was a 9’.6” single fin and I was so obsessed with strength that by the time the board came out of the sanding bay it felt too heavy and rigid. I surfed it once in 8-10 foot waves and then started to tinker with it in the workshop. Eventually I put it aside, unfinished, and stored the lessons it had taught me in the memory bank. That was about four years ago.
But the desire to build a functional big wave gun out of wood kept surging to the surface and at the beginning of this year I finally launched into the project with a great deal of excitement – and trepidation. Winter was coming, after all.
Excitement because the thrill of making and surfing an 11′ hollow wood surfboard was real inspiration. And there’s a particular wave in Cape Town that a board like this is perfect for. Trepidation because the rules change for boards this long. Construction methods used for small hollow wood boards are very sound – these boards are almost certain not to break. But things need to change when you make a surfboard that is 11’ long and might take a 15-foot lip square on the deck. I didn’t want it to be too heavy, but I also didn’t want to spend so much time making a surfboard and have it break up the first time it encountered heavy water.
In the end it is a beautiful surfboard. It has redwood rails and western red cedar and obeche deck and bottom lay-ups. It has strategic reinforcements on the inside and is double glassed, but it is not too heavy and within the acceptable boundaries for a big wave board of this size.
Now for some more swell.
It was a great pleasure to work with another four awesome guys on the second Burnett Wood Surfboards board building course held in June. Dave, Damon, Lewin and Simon all put heart and soul into their creations and produced some stunning boards.
The workshops are a unique offering to the South African surfing community and have now become a firmly established feature at Burnett Wood Surfboards as we share the stoke that comes with building and surfing a wood surfboard – the green alternative to surfboard construction.
We’ve released a full course schedule for the rest of 2013, with courses in August, September, November and December. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Patrick on 073 232 3043 if you are interested.
We’ve also been accepting individuals into our workshop who can’t make the course dates, but still want to build a surfboard on their own time and with expert supervision.
At our workshop in Imhoff Farm Village, Kommetjie, we offer a fantastic rural venue to build hollow wood surfboards. Magnificent views of the Peninsula mountain range, farmyard paddocks with horses, goats, chickens and peacocks greet you every day. You can shape your surfboard outside with the sun on your back. And we are minutes away from the ocean and any number of surf spots.
Here’s a head’s up: there’s a new hang out in the village and the locals love it! Yup, Ours Cafe in Kalk Bay has been open for the last few months and has quickly established itself as the place to get scrumptious pastries, wholesome food and award-winning coffee.
The guys behind it are wonderfully committed – last year they opened up in a converted garage next to the old Dutch Reformed Church (now the Kalk Bay Theatre) and earned a reputation for pastries (I was especially partial to the bacon and sweet chilli sauce croissant) and coffee. Now they’re above the garage in bigger premises renovated with passion and innovation to create a stylish and relaxed feel. The indoor premises open up into a garden-style outside area with trees and views of the sea. Ours is open all day and also for dinner. When I saw Mr Chef himself swimming at Dalebrook the other day he got my mouth watering with the menu for the evening, which included fresh tuna just off the boat. Going home to baked potato and salad just wasn’t the same.
You’ll find them a short way up Rosmead Avenue’s cobbled street, next to Prince Edward Mansions. It’s a stone’s throw away from Kalk Bay Reef, which is fitting because it’s a surfer run establishment. I’m sure I’ve spotted some of the stoke that comes from being spat out of a deep reef pit in the passion of the place.
Of course, in the interests of full disclosure, there is one of my wood surfboards hanging on the wall, pictured here. It’s close to my heart to have a board displayed at Ours because I grew up, also a stone’s throw away, in the rectory opposite the reef and still spend a lot of time in Kalk Bay.
Here’s a mini-mal that’s just been finished and gone off to its happy owner. I love how the deck came out on this one – a swirl of red cedar, redwood and japanese cedar.
Umm, in this case – and apologies to the late and great Jimi Hendrix – it’s more like: ‘Excuse me, while I plug my surfboard’. Yes, have a look at the picture – it’s in a shop window, it’s beautiful and it’s for sale. Now go and buy it, potential customers.
Seriously, this is a one-of-a-kind, collector’s item surfboard. It’s a piece of art that’s functional too – a 9’6″ single fin hollow wood longboard. The deck is really special – there is a centre strip made of pieces of driftwood that I’ve picked up along the South African coast during my wave wanderings. This strip is framed by a stunning piece of kiaat which I found on a woodpile and the kiaat flows into some striking redwood. The bottom of the board, which you can’t see in this picture, is Western Red Cedar, a premium wood with a fine, straight grain.
You just won’t find a board like this anywhere. It’s a piece of art that took upwards of 60 hours to make. Where: Corner Surf Shop, Muizenberg. Price: R6,500 (this is a steal for a labour of love like this. Everyone’s telling me it should be selling for much more and they’re right, so before I change my mind go and buy it!)
PS…Other shops that have my boards are: Empire Cafe in Muizenberg, Pisces Divers in Glencairn and Pakalola’s restaurant and bar in Hout Bay.