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Randy Bogardus riding his own handmade ocean surfboard SUP

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!  http://clearwoodpaddleboards.com/why-build-hollow-wooden-boards/ 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 http://clearwoodpaddleboards.com/product/paulownia-lumber/). 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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Wood Leash Plugs & Vent Body sets

Free vent/leash plug set offer!!

Free vent/leash plug set offer!!

Free vent/leash plug set with the purchase of any SUP frame kit!!

Wood Leash Plugs & Vent Body sets

Vent/leash plug set

All hollow wood SUP’s and surfboards need to have a vent and a leash connection point. When we first started building hollow boards we tried a few different options for these components. We damaged one board after a GoreTex vent crusted over with salt build up and failed to release pressure quickly enough to prevent board damage. The damaged board experience convinced us that a mechanical vent, which would only fail if we forgot it, was the sure solution to venting a hollow board. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about the importance of venting hollow SUP and surfboards. Now, when you buy any SUP frame kit you will receive FREE a vent/ leash set with a value of $55.