The shop has been abuzz with our newest project, handplanes. These little hand boards may look funny, but damn will it enhance the ride when body surfing. Small, vaguely resembling a surfboard with a frown cut for grip, the concept is simple: Swim into the wave, handplane outfront as a guide, and enjoy the ride. Sounds simple, but the development of these is anything but.
So for the next stage in our research and development, we moved to wood. For our first two prototypes, PT1 and PT2, the name of the game was ¾" solid wood planks, cut, shaped and sanded to order. Two sizes were made, the Shore Surfer at 15 1/2” x 8 1/4”, and the Outside Breaker weighing in at 19” x 9”. At just ¾ of an inch thick, rocker was limited, but the nose was raised and grooves were carved into the bottom 2/3 of the board, starting at the grip and extending to the split tail. We tried a narrow double channel in the Shore Surfer, and a wider, softer groove on the OB.
In the water, both worked admirably. Of course its South Florida surf, so the conditions were not ideal, but the handplanes allowed for some guidance and some lift while cruising the wave. Fins are a must, Churchill swim fins are ideal—simple, compact but give enough propulsion. The channels carved in the plane seemed to work, funneling water under and out the back the board versus swamping the deck. But, there was an issue with the nose diving.
Shore Surfer, PT1, has a double channel and slightly rockered nose.
The overall thickness of the board hampered ride-ability. The grip, which is little more than a smile cut out to grab the board, made the hand double over on the bottom, making for some serious resistance. And the slim rocker was not enough to keep the board riding high above the chop when using the board for lift. Time and again the board would buckle and dive. For the most part, the problem was technique and mushy waves—I was doing the same thing on the surfboard in the same waves—but the design could be solidified, which lead to PT3 and PT4.
The overall shape and hydrodynamics of the channels were sound in PT1 and PT2, the overall flow was what lacked. For the second round of prototypes, we pulled a page from our skateboard design and laminated some wood, but went thicker—an inch and a half—for the center block to allow for some sculpting. Keeping the same overall shape, the added girth allowed for us to carve out a rocker to the board, giving it a rather bulbous nose and a scooped tail. We were also able to hide the rider's knuckles on the underside, actually using the fingers as an extension of the rocker, allowing for a smooth transition into the channel. We also used a few different species of wood in the construction that not only add strength (like stringers) but makes them look pretty rad too.
The Shore Surfer PT3 started with a thicker midsection, allowing for a more substantive rocker and a deep channel.
The Outside Breaker PT4 has a deep channel and severe rocker, but is wider and longer than the Shore Surfer, making it perfect for bigger riders.
PT1 and PT2 still have merit, though conditions need to be a bit cleaner. They still offer some support and guidance while riding the wave, just a little more skill and practice to keep the plane from swamping and diving.
These are a great thing to leave in the trunk for those impromptu sessions when a board is out of reach. They're also great in-between sessions, when you need a breather but don't want to let any wave sneak by un-ridden. Check in soon for the first series of Makai Project handplanes to roll out to market—we have one more improvement in the works, but in all they are pretty much solidified and ready to ride. And if you have any good ideas for names, hit us up, we're trying to come up with something sweet. Enjoy the ride!
All four handplane prototypes worked like a charm in both big and small, choppy surf.