Planning Out My First Hand Shaped Board

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And so it begins... the planning for my first hand shaped surfing board:

Building things has always been a big interest of mine. When I was a kid, it was all about Tinker Toys, then model cars, then real cars, then racing Lambrettas, and so on...

Anyone who knows me well will agree that when it comes to short term memory, I can forget my own name at the drop of a hat, and I've also been known to forget how to properly strap a board down to my car now and then, or to grab my wetsuit off the fence at Tourmo before leaving...

Custom hand built two stroke Lambretta expansion chamber
Scooter Porn! (click for larger image)

But on the plus side, I did score in the 99th percentile in spatial abilities on my high school exit exams. I suck at advanced math, but I do have an intrinsic ability to see forms in space and transform them into physical reality. This was a huge advantage during the LambrettaWorks era when it came to things like making custom two stroke expansion chambers from scratch out of sheet metal.

Mapping out a series of tapered steel cones on paper, while taking into account various dynamics such as torque curve, port timings, carburation, inlet tract length, compression ratio, gear ratios, total rider and machine weight, and oh yeah since it's a scooter you can add in suspension travel, and then slicing and dicing and welding it all up into the perfectly sexy curved shape that will maximize cornering, ground clearance, durability, noise suppression, and power output - this was always a challenge that I enjoyed.

My favorite effort was the whisper-quiet-but-oh-so-deadly twin silencer masterpiece I created for Elsie (click the image above to see it full screen), but over the years there were many other such examples of my work on many race winning machines, and the satisfaction I got from seeing my efforts pay off was worth every hour of blood, sweat, and tears that I invested.

From sheet metal to fiberglass

Surfboards Hawaii vee bottom at Swamis surf break in Encinitas, California
click for larger image

Back when I had a lot of boards hanging from the ceiling of LambrettaWorks and collecting welding dust, I didn't know nearly enough about board design to pay close attention to what made each one such a unique wave craft. Sure, I knew that "long boards" started at 9', and that anything shorter than 7' was a "short board", and that in general the shorter the board, the more difficult it would be to paddle and ride, but I didn't really start paying attention to the more intricate aspects of rocker, outline, volume, rail and fin design, etc., until a few years ago.

That said, I'm confident that my first effort at creating a surfboard from scratch* will be made of foam, covered with fiberglass, and will float me. It will be a copy of my Surfboards Hawaii vee bottom, but with some tweaks to bring it out of the Stone Age and into the Modern Era. And if I'm correct in my confidence in my ability to precisely turn shapes in my mind into reality, it may even be fun to ride! 

So... step #1 is to choose a blank. Browsing the U.S. Blanks catalog, I found three options for blanks that seem suitable. Interestingly enough, there are no blanks in their current catalog that would allow me to exactly replicate the original shape of the vee bottom, for the simple reason that the thing is 3" thick at the tail! Sure, there might be some giant SUP blank that I could carve down like the toothpick machine in Looney Toons, but why would I want to go to all that trouble just to make a board that rides like a hook and ladder truck? I'm trying to improve on past mistakes, not repeat them! Haha!

Since I'll be removing much (if not all) of the vee out of the tail, I can go with a blank that is much closer to the finished shape, because the new tail will likely be 2" or less. This will greatly reduce the amount of foam removal during the shaping process, making the final result much stronger and (hopefully) much more accurate in its finished dimensions.

That said, I've narrowed the choice down to 2-1/2 blanks... I say 2-1/2 because there are two versions of one of the blanks - they differ only in thickness. The first one is their 89YX, which is based on an 8'9" mini-mal designed by Renny Yater, and the next two are based on their 93A and 93AX midlength funboard blanks designed by Pat Rawson:

Surfboards Hawaii mockup on Renny Yater US Blanks diagram Surfboards Hawaii mockup on Renny Yater US Blanks diagram Surfboards Hawaii mockup on Renny Yater US Blanks diagram 

For now I am leaning toward the Yater blank for a version with little to no vee. I think the only reason to consider the 93AX would be to allow for a lot more vee, with the 93A holding the middle ground. Feel free to leave your comments below.



* OK let's get real here, I am not exactly starting from scratch... after all I didn't make the blank.

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