Build a paipo surfboard

So the surf is flat or it’s just plain ugly and onshore and you are looking for a project for the weekend? Why not make a surfboard?

Ok we’re not going to kid you, unless you are a master shaper and glasser you are not likely to crack out a hand shaped water craft of distinction over the weekend especially on your first go. You need to take your time with that stuff and the skill it takes to hand shape a proper shooter isn’t something you will learn overnight.

You shouldn’t let a little thing like that stop you.  With a little imagination and elbow grease You can make yourself a traditional Hawiian, Paipo belly board from supplies you can purchase at your local hardware store.  What’s more it shouldn’t take you more than a weekend to complete.

Why you should build a Paipo Surfboard

1. Historically speaking Paipos are at the very the foundation of surfing

The earliest accounts of white explorers arriving in the Pacific Islands document the locals surfing on Paipos.  Several hundred years later In Waikiki an abundant supply of reclaimable timbers from the local construction boom of the 1920’s and 30’s saw the popularity of the boards soar well in advance of the Malibu style longboard.

In the 50’s 60’s and early 70’s the likes of Donald Takayama, David Nuuhiwa, Reno Abellira, Eddie and Clyde Aikau, Jeff Ching, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Larry Bertlemann, and countless other Hawaiian surfers were catching their first waves Paipo boards.  If it’s good enough for them then it is good enough for you.

2. You don’t need to be an expert

Just because you are not Donald Takayama or Bob Mctavish doesn’t mean you can’t know pure joy of riding your own hand built watercraft.  A Paipo is in its simplest terms a planing surface.  Almost anything flat will tend to plane when driven by gravity and the force of the ocean.

3. You don’t need a lot of specialised tools

The Pacific Island People have been riding Paipos for centuries and lets face it, 500 years ago none of them had a workshop.  For this project you could actually get away with hand tools and elbow grease but for a hundred bucks or so you can save a lot of time and effort by scoring a jig saw and belt sander from the budget range of power tools at your local hardware chain.  Others might argue differently but The Surf Nomad rarely spends more than $60 on a power tool.  That’s how we roll…and plane…and sand etc

4. You don’t need specialised materials

You can pretty much use any timber you want for a Paipo. The ancient Hawaiians had their favourite local timbers like Koa.   Tom Wegner would tell you to use some of his home grown Paulownia but all you really need is a planing surface that you can cut some basic curves into.  So for a first effort, let’s not get too pussy about it.  In Australia you can grab a 1220mmx610mmx18mm (4’x2’x3/4″) sheet of hardwood marine ply for $42 from the big hardware chain stores and your old pal Nomad reckons that is the perfect material for the job.

5. Use your imagination

Come up with your own own outline template.  Some guys make em like Alaias with straight rails others more rounded like a skimboard the choice is down to you. Once you have decided on a template pencil it onto some cardboard cut it out with a box knife and trace your outline onto your timber.  Carve the outline out with the jigsaw, add a bit of nose lift and tail concave on the underside and round off the rails with your sander.  Once you have shaped your Paipo $10 worth of decking oil or outdoor varnish seals the grain on your board and you are ready to wax up and hit the surf. 🙂

6. there are no rules

Just remember it’s all good there are no rules.   If you don’t like how it performs, hack into it again with the jig saw and sander. What have you got to lose? If you can’t get it to work then a handful of bricks turns it into a coffee table.

7.  Now for some inspiration.

It all sounds too easy doesn’t it? Well it is but don’t take our word for it.  We have put together a nice little playlist of dudes making and riding Paipos you can see here just how easy they are to make and ride.

Now get your shopping list together and get ready for the weekend and you’ll be planing by Sunday evening.

You wont regret it.

Carve On!

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