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The programs coordinator at Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, Max Post, mentioned the idea of building our own and it got me thinking. Jeremiah Johnson, a fellow employee at Umiak Outdoor Outfitters in Stowe, VT was also interested in the project.
At this point Jeremiah inlaid four, 1” wooden dowels, each 4′ long into the foam before he glued them together to give him some needed strength where he would be standing. We tried to source the fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin (supposedly polyester resin will melt your foam) needed for our boards locally with no luck. I started with a full top coat of fiberglass that wrapped all the way around the rails to the bottom.
As an additional step that only I had time for, I added some graphics to the bottom of my board. Our boards were finally completed the night before our 5 day river SUP on the Winooski River.
During our recent trip to the Philippines, Katya and I saw a lot of people on the waterways and even on the open ocean traveling on traditional stand up paddleboards.
Seated paddler (squatting) with two-bladed paddle, traveling among the nipa, Balingasay River, Bolinao. Although most people paddle standing using a long single bladed paddle, I have seen some sit and paddle them like a kayak, using narrow two-bladed paddles. Bamboo contains starch which makes it especially attractive as a food source for many organisms, including fungi and insects such as borer beetles. Our board is totally finished now and we’ve had the opportunity to take her out on a few casual trips. Unlike a sea kayak, which has a cockpit and perimeter lines, a paddleboard doesn’t have a lot to grab on to, so hand carrying and cartopping a slippery, heavy board can be a serious issue.
I think the weight is actually real advantage on the water though because she feels very solid and stable, even in a rough chop.
As I mentioned before, I haven’t been on a lot of paddleboards, but I can say that this board so far has been the best I’ve tried!
Anyone who has built a wooden kayak is familiar with hearing plenty of compliments from admirers, and then getting into long conversations with people on the beach about boatbuilding as they are about to launch.
When mounting the fin box it is important to have the fin in place, so you can tell that it is perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the board.
Simply letting the board sit in the sun for a few minutes will result in an increase in the internal air pressure, as I found out when moved our board from the garage to the yard.
Joe couldn’t tell us exactly how much his board weighs but we estimated it was about the same as ours, a little over 40 pounds. Although I haven’t been on SUPs enough to really be a discriminating judge their performance, I was impressed with Joe’s board and thought it was the most comfortable board I've tried so far.
After seeing Joe’s board I would definitely strip the rails in a single layer as I stripped the hull and deck.
After both sides of the board were sealed, we unrolled a layer of 4 oz uncoated plain weave fiberglass intended for clear coating. Pour the epoxy over the glass starting in the middle of the board and spread it out to the ends.
For an excellent example of how to wet out glass with epoxy, check out this video clip from Guillemot Kayaks. Now that the entire board has been stripped, it’s time to fair the deck and hull and shape the rails. After the entire board has been sanded with 80 grit paper, we sanded it again with 120 grit.
After the blocks were shaped, we chose to extend the outer layer of the rails around the edges of the blocks. The outer layer was made by laying short strips vertically, perpendicular to the inner layer strips. The process of planking the hull, or bottom, of the paddleboard is similar to planking the deck but poses a few extra challenges.
Since you will be working with the board lying free and not secured to the workbench, possibly on soft blankets like we did, it is easy to introduce a twist to the board if you are not careful placing the weights evenly and making sure the board is balanced side to side. The length along the curved bottom of a 12 ft board will necessarily be greater than 12 ft, so your 12 ft strips will come up a couple inches short. Many paddle boards also feature a notch in the deck which serves as a hand hold to carry the board under your arm. The deck of this board is mostly flat, but has compound curves which follow the rocker of the board in one direction and the domes of the ribs in another.
Sorry, One more question, when looking for the foam we have noticed that it only comes 8 feet in length.
There aren't any 12 ft sheets that I know of but the foam can be layered and staggered to make whichever length you like. Funny, I've used pink foam for skateboard molds and other types of foam for sandwich construction, but I never once thought of making my own SUP board. After testing all the boards in the retail shop, we each picked our favorite boards and tried to mimic their shapes. Once we both had a large rectangle, we used our patterns to trace an outline of our board onto the foam.
This was basically a giant cheese grater that scraped off the foam one very thin layer at a time.
You want to start by cutting the cloth to the desired shape and laying it on top of the board exactly where you want it. I used up each tub of epoxy then wrapped the cloth around the edges and squeegeed any excess epoxy away from the board. We used a Dremel cutting tool to quickly cut out the fiberglass just big enough to fit the accessories.
Unfortunately, the deck on a paddleboard is constantly exposed to the sand and pebbles stuck on the bottom of your feet and booties. This is primarily to hold a pfd on board when we don’t feel like actually wearing one on hot sunny days!
Katya has been getting her first taste of that, sometimes talking so long she hardly has any time to paddle! Because of the curvature of the board, it was difficult to clamp a guide in place.The first few passes with the router were shallow, just used to define the area. The central spar effectively separates the left and right halves of the board into two separate air chambers so it’s important that the vent overrides the spar.

The Rendezvous is a casual event where local wooden kayak builders gather on the Fort Worden beach in Port Townsend with their kayaks.
I suspect the weight gives it a lot of extra stability compared to the lighter foam boards and is a difference you will really notice in any kind of chop. Since the purpose of sanding with 120 grit is only to smooth out the scratches from the 80 grit paper and not to fair the board, it takes a lot less time. We thought it would be more aesthetically pleasing to have the pattern of vertical rails continuous around the entire board. Since you are planing the end grain of the outer strips, the plane needs to be really sharp. Clear cedar boards are usually available at your big box home improvement stores in 12 ft lengths.
I would like to see one made of thinner foam that has been laminated into the curved rocker shape instead of being carved that way, like the one I made. See, if you set it up on a couple of sawhorses and jumped on it it would break for sure, as would a $400 dollar paddle board.
JJ decided to mimic his board after Riviera’s Voyager because he liked how it paddled and its overall stability.
We then used a hand saw to quickly get rid of the large amount of excess foam from around the edges. I made the mistake of thinking the fiberglass would cover up the small imperfections in the foam shape. After cutting through the fiberglass, we used a chisel to take out just enough of the foam to slide the pieces into the holes. The boards are constructed simply out of a few thick stems of bamboo which are lashed together with heavy duty fishing line to three or four thin bamboo crosspieces placed along the deck. The smaller ones might be used merely as tenders to transport people and supplies from a beach to fishing boats anchored in deeper water, while the longer ones are used for fishing on the open ocean, and usually equipped with a small raised platform for sitting, a fishing net, small styrofoam cooler, and other fishing gear.
One ancient method involved immersing the stems with weights underwater for 3-4 weeks which leaches out the starch. We were concerned that the varnished deck might be slippery and even bought a few cakes of board wax, but it turned out not to be an issue. I bet applying board wax might actually make the situation worse by making the sand stick to the board. Compared to Joe Greenley’s cedar strip board, she’s less responsive to changes in trim (adjusting your position fore and aft), which makes sense because she has a more volume at the ends.
So one final tip: give yourself some extra time when planning trips to field those questions, bask in the admiration of strangers, and share the joy of boatbuilding! After we carved most of the fin box down, we removed the masking tape on the board and ground down the rest of the box lip flush with the board surface with a random orbital sander.
Imagine how much the internal pressure rises after letting it sit on top of a hot car for a few hours! If the inside gets wet the strips will start to warp and you would notice it as ridges running along the length of the board. Instructors give presentations on range of different kayak building techniques including cedar strip building, stitch-and-glue, traditional skin-on-frame, and even folding kayaks. He mounts cross-sectional forms on a strongback and builds the hull first, including the fairing and glassing. Measuring out the volumes in separate graduated cups is going to be less accurate, especially when you take into account that you have to mix the two, and there will be either resin or hardener stuck to the side of the one of the cups. Use a paintbrush to wet out the sides, again being careful not to leave any loose bristles behind. You might be wondering why can’t we just lay the glass on bare wood and apply a single thick layer of epoxy on it to accomplish all three steps at once: sealing the wood, wetting out the glass, and filling the weave. When they are completely cured, sand the whole board again with the random orbital sander using 80 grit paper to smooth and fair the surface, then again with 120 grit paper to smooth over the scratches from the 80 grit. A block plane or spokeshave works well for this but be sure to set it for a very shallow cut because they can be too aggressive and tear a chunk out of the strips. Sanding should be done outside of a living space and even away from where you plan to do your final varnishing.
It still weighs almost nothing and now I’m getting really excited about taking it out on the surf!
The outer layer vertical strips were also secured into place with staples, but only at the ends, and stapled into parts of the inner layer that would be trimmed off afterwards.
Like the hole for the fin box, the notch will be cut into the blocks using a router after the board is glassed.
But even the very bottom end Stand Up Paddle board (hereafter SUP) starts at $350- and that is for a what is essentially a really big plastic milk jug.
My center of gravity is located just under my Adams apple because of my ponderous head (like a cake pop) and I will not be able to stay balanced on it. The soft foam will take much more damage from dings and nicks of playful use than from salt. I had been following friends back home and I knew as soon as I returned state-side I would have to try SUPing.
We bought enough 4oz glass cloth for two boards and the 3-to-1 epoxy resin to hardener set.
I accidentally took too much foam out of the handle space, so I had to add some back in before it was ready for installation.
The only modification we made was adding a little bit of superglue to the zip tie mounts that had the most stress on them to help hold them in place. We spent less than $500 and made our own boards that have held up on rivers and lakes all over Vermont.
I expected them to be lightweight but they are remarkably heavy, which has the advantage of greater stability in waves as well as easier handling in wind and when going in and out of surf. Factory manufactured boards seem to run anywhere from 28-45 pounds so she is at the upper limit but not far out of range. The sling consists of a couple adjustable wide strips of nylon webbing that snap around the board with quick releases, and another adjustable padded strap that clips in between the other two that you wear over your shoulder. I felt like I had a good grip on the board with neoprene booties on, even in rough water when the deck was awash.
I recommend installing a vent to equalize the external and internal pressures, and keeping it open whenever the board is not on the water. It looked like it was about 30 inches wide and 4 inches thick, very similar to our own board.
Unlike the foam boards I’ve tried in the past which couldn't go straight, Joe’s board tracked well even with a light breeze and I didn’t need to switch paddling sides at all.

Back when I was building my cedar strip kayak, I used a kerosene heater to get the whole shop to at least 80 degrees F. I like to use a random orbital sander with 80 grit sandpaper even out most irregularities and fair the deck and hull. Since we are working in cedar, building up a rail that thick would require a lot of wood and add a ridiculous amount of weight to the finished board. The inner layer strips were then glued to them with Gorilla Glue and stapled and clamped into place. The Low Viscosity Resin works well for a clear wet out of fiberglass, joints and making fillets. The next one I make will not have a plywood deck at all because the foam is easier to stand on and I am sure it would be more than strong enough for my weight. Max Post was helpful with his previous experiences of building his own fiberglass snowboards. We each took measurements of our boards and traced out a pattern on a large piece of cardboard. The less space there is between the foam and the accessory, the easier it will be to install. The spray paint stayed on just fine in the water, but the paint pen smudged just a little bit. They may not be as fast as a professionally made board, but they have a way better story behind them! Be warned that if you decide to make one of these you may grow to envy those dudes who can carry their boards to the water across big parking lots under one arm without breaking a sweat!
We brushed the inside of the hole with epoxy, put a layer of fiberglass and wet it out, then spread a layer of thickened epoxy in the hole before inserting the fin box.
The board probably won’t burst at the seams right away if you forget to open it one day, but repeated cycles of high and low pressures will eventually lead to failure. Although in the video I mention that the tracking is stiff, I discovered that shifting your weight more aft makes the board very maneuverable. Another effective way to heat the wood is to shine some hot lights right on the wood surface or, if you are building a kayak or canoe, put lights inside the boat. Our main exposure to BPA is through food contamination, but it is easily absorbed through inhalation or the skin, for instance through handling thermal paper printed receipts, tickets, and boarding passes. I’ve tried it and discovered that if you apply a thick layer of epoxy while wetting out the glass, the glass will actually float on top of the epoxy layer and create big wrinkles in the glass. Another possibility is to make a bunch of “C” shaped pieces out of plywood and clamp them against the ribs to hold the strips both against the ribs and against each other, as shown in these images from my cedar strip baidarka build. The blocks are planed to match the curve of the bottom of the board, and the strips glued directly to them. We only did half of the pattern so that when we traced it onto the foam, we could just flip the pattern over and in theory our boards would be symmetrical.
Everything came from US Composites in about a week and we started the process of fiberglassing. With the two of us working together, one person would ready the epoxy while the other glasses their board in order to keep the epoxy and process moving along. The more time you spend making your board smooth in between layers, the smoother your board will be overall. Wood Surf Board Supply sells a transparent traction film that protects the deck surface and provides a nonslip surface. I keep a cylinder of BernzOMatic propane handy and blow it into the can as I close the lid to expel all the air out. And by standing on the very back of the board and lifting the nose up you can really swing it around quickly. You definitely do not want to start with a cool shop and warm it up after applying the resin. I had to go back and scrape out as much of the epoxy from under the glass as possible, resulting in a lot of wasted resin.
You might find that it’s a great way to meet your neighbors as they stop by to ask what you are building and compliment you on your beautiful woodwork. Joe Henry, the retail manager at Umiak, let us test paddle all of the boards in the retail store as well as share his knowledge of different board shapes.
We found that at about 65*F, we had 35-40 minutes of work time before the epoxy started to set-up. After the epoxy cured, we ground down the cup edges flush with the board surface with sandpaper. You should use as little epoxy as possible when sealing the wood, wetting out the glass and filling the weave. In addition to our helpful coworkers we were able to find a ton of articles on how to build a surfboard online. He lays the board on its side at an angle, and, working through the tail which is still open, uses gravity and a foam brush attached to a long stick to spread epoxy over the fiberglass tape along the inside seam.
We should have been more exact with how much we added because my board has several different shades of teal throughout the board, although this is only true with darker colors.
Each layer was wrapped all the way around the rails, to add extra strength to the most vulnerable area of the board. Start from one end of the board, and always work from wet to dry, to the other end of the board.
This is especially important when trying to wetting out fiberglass to get a transparent finish. With all this information at our fingertips we decided it was doable and it would be a fun learning experience resulting in our own boards.
Don’t go back over an area that you’ve already varnished: you will leave brush marks because it has already started to dry.
There is also an internal structure composed of three longitudinals and a few frames supporting the area in the middle of the board where the paddler stands.
Thought I would just buy a paddle, but they are expensive too, so now I have to figure out how to make one cheap and light.

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How To Build A Stand Up Paddle Board Out Of Foam

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