“Surfboard Grade” paulownia planks

Surfboard Grade paulownia planks

What is “surfboard grade” paulownia?

Get a FREE sample of this product! Email your sample request and we’ll get it right out!!

Surfboard grade paulownia is the currently available grade of clear, dry paulownia wood available from China. This is the grade I use for all of the Clearwood Paddleboards built projects that you see here on the Clearwood Paddleboards website. The planks are typically made up of two strips of paulownia glued into one plank, and all of the strips that I mill for customers come from this stock. In a perfect world we would have material that is not created from glue ups, but even with the glue ups this is super nice material that will yield a great finished product.


Paulownia is “the” wood to use if you want to build a strong, light surf or paddleboard. This material is slightly heavier than balsa but considerably stronger. It is actually the highest weight to strength ratio species available and typically weighs in the range of 13-18 pounds per cubic foot. As a comparison, red cedar weighs in the range of 26-30 pounds per cubic foot. What this means in terms of finished board weight is that when using paulownia wood and using my system of building your finished board will weigh no more than, and often less than the weight of production glass and foam board.

The surfboard grade paulownia planks that I sell can be milled into strips with very little waste. I use the best strips on the deck and rails with the “downfall” going into the bottoms. You will need to plan your milling strategy thoughtfully as with any material milling process. All of this material has been stored in a heated woodshop prior to being shipped to your door.





Randy Bogardus riding his own handmade ocean surfboard SUP

Standup Paddleboard Building Tutorials

Standup Paddleboard Building Tutorials

We don’t want summer to end too soon but we do want to plan for the inevitable change of the seasons. The fall season here in the Northern Hemisphere is when many woodworking enthusiasts are planning winter projects, and building a hollow wood SUP (standup paddleboard) or surfboard is a great way to spend some of those long, dark nights and wet, cold weekends…and you’ll end up with a beautiful new board to use when you are finished! When we launched Clearwood Paddleboards in the fall of 2013 we had built quite a few strip planked hollow wood boards and we shared our knowledge of the process with our customers and others interested in hollow wood paddleboards. Much of the process remains the same for us but some things have also changed.  We’ve a learned some new tricks and ways of creating these watercraft and want to share that knowledge. The best format we’ve found for standup paddleboard building tutorials is a series of video, times lapse sequences and still images with text overlays that highlight the entire process, start to finish. We’re going to make this information available through our website and our YouTube channel, and are nearly ready to publish our first few episodes in the series. 

A photo of a standup paddle surfer on a wave

SUP surfing

Learning any new skill takes commitment. So, for those of you with some woodworking experience who are unsure if you have enough to build a strip planked SUP or surfboard, this series will provide you with an overview. I have always said to potential builders that these projects can be challenging, but with basic woodworking skills and commitment to the process you will succeed. That being said, we know that there are times when it would be good to have a technical mentor and we also provide ongoing builder support via email or phone.

Paulownia plantation

Building a Lightweight Board

Building a Lightweight Board

Building a lightweight hollow wood board of any style can be a challenge but, in the end, not that hard if you choose the “right” materials. The very best wood for building hollow wood boards is a species of wood called paulownia tomentosa. Pauownia t. has the perfect blend of weight and structure. Availability of this species in North America is limited but it is available on a limited basis (I import and resell paulownia t. on my website at I always have it available for those hollow wood board builders that value a lightweight board. Paulownia tomentosa is approximately 2/3’s of the weight of many other commonly used species for strip planking hollow wood boards.

paddleboard construction tool closeup

Tool Requirements for Strip Planking

Tool Requirements for Strip Planking

Tool requirements for strip planking a paddleboard are simple; a basic set of hand tools and a few basic power tools are all that is required. The enhancement of our woodshops with a more diverse set of tools is something most woodworkers strive for, but strip planking is simple and the tools that you need to perform most of the strip plank build tasks are as well. What’s the most important tool in the wood shop for strip planking you ask? I’d say the sharpening stone! Block planes and chisels are used extensively in strip planking and sharp tools are a must. Hand tools such as a Japanese pull saw, a low angle block plane and a basic assortment of decent bench chisels will go far in getting your strip planked board built. The ability to keep your plane iron and chisels sharp is the key to success with chisels and planes, and there are many simple and inexpensive ways to accomplish this task. Dull tools don’t perform well, aren’t fun to use and can be dangerous.

building a strip planked paddleboard

Board Construction

Semi-monocoqueHollow Wood Paddleboard Construction Techniques

Hollow wood paddleboard construction techniques are common to many different hull shapes. The build method for all the boards I design is strip planking. Strip planking, for those not familiar with the process, is the application of strips of wood to a framework that is in the shape of the board (or boats, among other shapes). Many rowing shells were built before the advent of epoxy, fiberglass and carbon fiber technology in this fashion and were “state of the art” until modern plastic technology became the norm. The basics of strip planking in the case of paddleboards is slightly different than kayaks or canoes in that the entire framework stays inside of the board. The structure of a strip planked paddleboard is semi-monocoque, or in other words, a “torsion box” type of structure. A “skin” that remains attached to a subassembly, such as a light framework, is incredibly strong…think aircraft wing.