Wood paddleboards and surfboards have a long history and they have been common in Hawaii for many centuries. The modern version of “woodies” however, is something altogether different than what ancient Hawaiians were riding. With the advent of waterproof glues and plywood which became available in the 1930’s, Tom Blake who lived in Southern California began constructing the “modern” “kookbox” type of paddleboard. These were common for several decades and used by the surf lifeguards on the beaches of Southern California.
Currently, highly refined versions of the “kookbox” can be built from scratch, plans or kits and come in many forms from surf style and flat water sup’s to straight prone paddle surfboards and builders around the world have taken up the challenge of building one or several of these craft for their personal quivers. There are forums online dedicated to this type of board construction with builders from many different countries contributing to an ongoing dialogue about all of the nuances of the building process. Some woods that can be sourced for hollow board construction will yield a finished board as light as or lighter than boards of equivalent size made of foam and fiberglass, with the added benefit that hollow wood boards can and do outlast many “boards” made of foam and plastic.
In the end, most builders don’t take on projects of this sort because it is easy. Building a hollow wood SUP can be learned by most people who truly want to learn the process but it is not a project for everyone. Certainly, previous woodworking experience helps. What I say to prospective hollow wood board builders is that if a board is “in you”, you will find a way to get it built. Most suppliers of kit components provide ongoing support during the building process, and as previously mentioned there are some great online resources for asking questions and gleaning insights into how the workflow should go. In the end, patience and commitment are the two main ingredients needed for you to finish a board and get it into the water.
A question many prospective hollow wood board builders ask is, “how long will it take?” There isn’t one answer to this question. It depends on the tools you have available, your eagerness to work on a woodworking project and the level of finished product you want to achieve. What can be said about building a hollow wood SUP is that it very well could be one of the most difficult but rewarding things you do in your life!
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