Can’t afford the new Bark Dominator? Maybe you want something to paddle that’s not in the marketplace? Maybe you’re a craft person and would rather just build your own? Whatever your motivation is, you can make your own SUP (or kayak) quite easily. Kelvin Hummeny in Vernon BC made his own from cedar. A master craftsman, he has made 2 hollow SUPs, a 12-6 and the other I believe is 14′ or 16′. Over the summer I came across a board made from fabric wrapped over a wood frame, and a few friends have made boards from the traditional epoxy over foam.
In my case, I was influenced by surf kayakers on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State who have been making their boats from pink and blue rigid insulation foam. Local legendary whitewater and surf paddler Gary Korb pioneered the process for our region and has built several boats for friends influencing others to try it themselves. Ken Debondt, also of Port Angeles makes waveskis. An artist, his skis are beautifully finished with his paintings or custom artwork. See a few of his customs Here.
Over a year ago, I decided to give this a whirl myself and built a 15′ SUP. Wanting something fast, I chose a displacement hulled Bark Competitor / Dominator nose with some ‘Vee’ to be more efficient in the water. But being a sea kayaker, I wanted to use a sweeping bow instead of the standard plum or inverted race/touring style SUP nose. In my logic, the common racing SUP bows are great in smaller chop or flat water, but in big waves they tend to stab the wave thus slowing your forward momentum. Sea kayak designs used the same bow in the 1980’s but later realized that sweeping bows go over waves – not through them, thus keeping speed up and pearling less when surfing waves.
The board ended up being too narrow for my 6′-5″ 230lbs frame but I’ve become more or less used to it. Recently, I carved a hatch into the nose to store gear and glued on a 4″ SeaDog screw on hatch cover. It’s an ugly duckling being I’m definitely not a craftsman, but it’s fast, and I’ve actually beat several paddlers on Barks and similar boards in races. The interior is blue rigid insulation foam, exterior is 2 layers of 5oz S glass with a few patches of glass here and there to fill in my glassing mistakes. The foam comes in 1″ and 2″ thick sheets, are 24″ wide, and 8′ long. I epoxy the sheets together flat into two blocks, then attach the blocks together with wooden dowels which are inserted in drilled holes, then epoxied in. If you want it wider, you have to attach foam to the sides. Rigid foam is closed cell so it leaks less if you get a ding than traditional white foam. Shaping is done normally with sanding blocks, a saw or hotwire for cutting, etc. Kayak designer Sterling Donaldson in Bellingham, WA recommended using foam to shape foam.
I ended up cutting it wrong and it tends to go left, oh well, next time. The advantage is in races I can paddle on one side and when others are switching sides – I move forward a bit, yet get burned out on that side after some distance.
Since my board is unfinished, I can keep experimenting with it without worry about cosmetic issues. I may carve out the deck 1″ for more stability and thus are waxing it now instead of putting on a pad. I have found out not having a pad makes my feet sore after an hour or so.
I also want to make it a pintail as I rarely use the tail in paddling (aside from the rare extreme pivot turn), thus could lose a bit and maybe gain a dash of speed.