Building a SUP paddle can be one of the most rewarding parts of paddling your own hollow wooden paddleboard. The paddle gives you the drive and is your second connection to the water. Building and paddling your own hollow wooden SUP and driving it with your own handmade wooden paddle is an AWESOME experience!
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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.
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.
We decided to go back to the roots of paddleboarding for this design. With the ongoing growth of all paddle sports, it isn’t surprising that prone paddle boarding has seen a resurgence. Many people involved with paddle sports paddle more than one type of craft, and even though prone paddling doesn’t involve a paddle. it’s still paddling. Prone paddleboards were the first “paddleboards” to be raced in the modern era going back to the first Mainland to Catalina race that Tom Blake won on his chambered wooden board in 1932. A lot has changed since 1932 but one of the things that has not is the pure fun of paddling. Paddling a light weight hollow wood board combines the best of both worlds; beautiful wood watercraft and modern building techniques. Prone paddling is another great way to get on the water. Prone paddlers that also surf traditional surfboards get the added benefit of paddle fitness when are hitting the waves.
Paulownia wood for strip planking is a topic important for building strong and light boards. We have discussed paulownia wood for strip planking hollow wood SUP’s and surfboards in the past and now I want to make a few more points about how perfect this wood is for strip planking. I should first make it clear that I sell paulownia lumber on my website, so I obviously have a stake in promoting the use of paulownia wood for strip planking. But the reason I sell paulownia is because I believe that paulownia is by far the best wood available for strip planking hollow wood SUP’s, surfboards and kayaks.
The “The Beach House” was always a magical place for me and my brothers and nephews. On the windy dunes north of Lincoln City, Oregon, well before there were many houses, and near what is now Roads End State Park, we ran wild (outdoors where the grownups wanted us!) through the dunes on family “beach house” outings. The line we couldn’t cross when it was just the kids playing, however, was the trail down to the beach where we were told there were “sneaker waves”. I never quite figured out what those sneaker waves were all about until I got serious about spending time in and on the ocean. I just heard the stories that my Grandmother used to tell to scare us kids into not going onto the beach without an adult. As a surfer and sailor with decades of time spent around the marine environment, a lot of conditions regarding Mother Ocean have become much clearer. Sneaker waves can be seriously deadly if you aren’t playing by the rules Mother Ocean lays down. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand those “rules” and how to work with the ocean and the other aquatic environs.
I’ll never forget the “old school” coastal tugboats that used to ply the Pacific Northwest Coast. I didn’t make it onto a tugboat, or any other boat for that matter until quite a few years later, but there was always something about those images of the far off ships and tugboats that seemed adventurous, wild and engaging.
The obsession with small boats, and now wooden paddle and surfboards, started in our family garage where my Dad and brothers and I built a small wooden sailboat. We learned a lot and got a fun toy out of the “deal”, which we enjoyed for years. Later, after being discharged from the US Army, the building of a boat I could travel on and that would lead to an adventurous lifestyle was a high priority. I built the boat, a very bare bones but strong boat, and had some great adventures for a few years.
My own 32’ blue water sailboat solved some of the wanderlust in me. I learned the ways of the sea building and sailing that boat and along with crewing on sailboats in the South Pacific and running my own commercial fishing boat for a couple of seasons I learned much about the sea and life on the waterfront.
Even with my heavy attraction to the sea and live aboard/traveler lifestyle, life ultimately presents many possible directions to pursue. Building anything of quality has always held attraction for me. Whether it was the complicated silkscreen prints I made as a college student or the estate level residential construction that was my long term career, I have always gravitated to quality built watercraft.
Building and paddling hollow wooden paddleboards and surfboards has taken center stage at this point in my life. The boards are interesting to build, look beautiful and perform great. I look forward to engaging with this process every day. But the most satisfying part of the experience is mentoring other builders. I meet so many interesting and accomplished individuals and get to share my hard won experience and knowledge about watercraft and the art of building them on a daily basis.
The Rogue 8′ 4″ performance surf sup has been an interesting adventure for me. My first surfs on it left me a bit confused about what I had just created. It took a number of sessions to figure out that the Rogue isn’t a longboard style ride!
My experience with short boards is quite limited so the idea of riding a board off of my back foot was something I needed to almost learn from scratch. Previously I had to move around on my boards to be on the sweet spot. When I started riding the Rogue the way it was intended to be ridden, off my back foot, the board came alive.
When first learning to ride the Rogue it was too easy to just pull out my previous “go to” board and just paddle out and have fun. Then a big problem turned into big plus; my old “go to” ride developed a crack around one of the fin boxes and got pretty wet on the inside so I had to retire the wet one for a rebuild and was “forced” to ride the Rogue. How fortunate I was to have this “problem”!
Initially, the low volume 105 liter size was challenging, and still, when paddling into surf with a a side shore wind, the chop is challenging. But once on a wave I’m so happy to be riding the Rogue with its agility and speed out of the turns. Many of us with deep experience in the surf zone have had the good fortune to find a magic board in our years of surfing. I’ve had the good fortune to have a few and my Rogue is the latest.
Would I do anything different if I were to make any changes? I might, but it would be limited to tail configuration and fin set up. I’m so stoked to be riding the Rogue!
Generally speaking, in hollow wood SUP and surfboards the loads are such that a fairly light internal frame can be used. High quality marine plywood is a good example of an engineered composite material with a very high weight to strength ratio and is the typical material used for the internal framework on most hollow paddle and surf craft. The skin to frame attachment is critical to maintaining the integrity of the structure; as long as the skin stays attached the structure will maintain its form which is why most hollow boards have added gluing surface attached to the perimeter of the plywood frames.
The performance of semi monocoque structures can be enhanced in a number of ways. Point loading such as that produced by a paddlers feet or the impact from going down hard on your knee(s) can be resisted by decreasing the span between the frames or by increasing the strength of the skin or both. Heavier paddlers and riders or those wanting to maximize the overall strength of the board often fiberglass both sides of the deck panel and install the panel in one piece. When single panel installations are not practical the deck panel point load resistance can also be increased by fiberglassing between the frames on the underside of the completed deck panel.
In my years building hollow wood paddle and surf craft I’ve seen many overbuilt and unnecessarily heavy boards due to a misunderstanding as to the nature of the structures involved. An over built board may not last any longer than one built to suit the loads and may not be as much fun to paddle or surf (or carry!)
Building a hollow wood SUP can be a great way to build a board with a low carbon footprint. Tom Blake started building hollow wood paddleboards in California the 1930’s and they were the standard surf rescue craft for several decades. The good news is that hollow wood SUP’s are now available to paddlers inclined to build their own board and they have become much lighter and more durable as a result of the use of epoxy resins, fiberglass cloth and paulownia timber. Hollow wood boards can now be built that weigh no more than, and in many case less than, fiberglass covered foam boards.
The SUP’s we ride when we go paddling are made in several different ways, typically involving fiberglass covered foam but the boards we ride on any particular day are probably not something we give a lot of thought to in terms of how they are made. Board construction methods and the question of sustainable construction is typically not something most paddlers think about. The idea of sustainability in the construction of SUP’s has been in the mix of industry topics for years, and now with the huge numbers of SUP’s being built worldwide, it might be something for us as to consider. Should we, as SUP paddlers be concerned about this?
Although not a practical choice for everyone, many paddlers have embarked on the path of building their own hollow wood board from paulownia timber which is plantation grown in Spain, New Zealand, Australia, China and many other countries around the world. The carbon footprint we leave in our wake can be reduced, and for paddlers wanting to build their own board, building a hollow “woody” is a viable option for limiting our carbon footprint. Paulownia timber for those of you not familiar with this species of wood, it is the wood of choice for building hollow strip planked SUP’s, and it is now available in the UK from http://www.ipaulownia.co.uk/. Paulownia timber is the wood of choice for several reasons; it is plantation grown and can often be sourced without being shipped great distances, it has the highest weight to strength ratio of any hardwood on the planet and has beautiful grain character. Paulownia timber is also “reluctant” to absorb water and grows to maturity in approximately 15 years.
What makes a hollow wood board a “sustainably” built board? Most of us that live around the sea have seen and appreciated the classic wood boats we see that are still in good shape after decades of use. Wood SUP’s are similar; hollow wood boards can be used for years if properly built and maintained. Of course board shapes change, but quality designs with a fit paddler aboard will perform well and look great for a very long time. Plantation grown timber combined with some of the new epoxy resins such as “Super Sap” made by ENTROPY RESINS will produce a beautiful board with a low carbon footprint that is fun to paddle. Paddlers that are interested in building a hollow SUP have numerous resource available. Online forums such as http://www.grainsurf.com/forum/ are great sources for information on how to build a hollow boards. There are also teaching environments that are dedicated to the craft of building hollow boards.
Paddlers interested in building their own board but who are not ready to take on a project of this nature without guidance can now do so via several schools scattered around the world that have been set up specifically for the purpose of teaching the skills and build methods necessary in crafting their own hollow wood SUP. In the UK, James Otter at http://www.ottersurfboards.co.uk/about is now offering classes for SUP builders as well as Patrick Burnett in South Africa at http://burnettwoodsurfboards.co.za/. In New Zealand, Ben Godwin is setting up a school environment for building hollow SUP’s and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paddlers not inclined to build their own board can still reduce their carbon footprint when buying a new SUP. Recycled foam blanks are increasingly available worldwide and local shapers that have access to these recycled foam blanks can be a great option for “keeping it local”. A knowledgeable local shaper will be able to customize a shape that suits the size, ability and local conditions of a particular paddler with the added benefit that buying a board from a local shaper supports a local craftsman. A board that is shaped for a specific paddler will most likely be a board that will be paddled for many years thereby reducing the number of boards sent off to a landfill. Is sustainable board construction something we should be concerned about given the quantity of waste and mountains of refuse created globally? Is the contribution of our leisure activities make to this problem something that matters? We as individuals are the only ones that can answer these questions. The good part of the sustainable board construction story is that there are options available to us should we be concerned
The 17′ Unlimited length SUP board by Clearwood is now ready for production after a year of designing, building and testing. We’ve been paddling the board in a wide range of conditions varying from glassy flatwater to wind chop, and in both upwind and offwind conditions. I also raced the board in terrible, rough ocean conditions and still had fun, but had the most fun in more protected water. The Unlimited 17′ x 27 1/2″ stand up paddleboard went upwind well in 10-12kts of wind and was really swift off the wind. This is definitely not a “downwind” board in the sense of doing “downwinders”, but more a fast cruiser which will be suitable for paddlers up to 260 pounds handling a wide range of conditions.
Conceptually, the development of this board has been to accommodate bigger paddlers that still want a board that performs well. The Clearwood Paddleboards 17′ Unlimited length SUP board will be a great board for extended touring with the ability to handle sizable loads or will be perfect for the larger paddlers out there that just want a great board under them.
The 17′ Unlimited length SUP is based on the very successful and swift “Cascade” lineup of boards. We’ve added length, and reconfigured the rocker line and think we’ve created a fun and fast platform for paddlers wanting to paddle a longer board. The board is designed with the same reliable “fishbone” style frame with a few added structural elements to give the board a very solid and stiff feel. The prototype board came in at a very respectable 42 pounds using paulownia strips with salvaged redwood pin line and features.
I’m really looking forward to paddling this board with a gps on board so I can see what kind of speeds we’re getting with the prototype. But I can tell after paddling the board that it sure seems like I’m going fast!