Visualize for a moment, a pile of lumber… you know, like you’d see at some mega home improvement store. Got it?
My guess is you are imagining a stack of boards, all cut at right angles; clean, straight edges everywhere, and not a curve in the pile.
Now imagine a surfboard. Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s ALL curves. Not a straight line or hard angle in sight. And those aren’t just any curves! Each of those graceful arcs glinting across our imaginations is a highly evolved element of a craft for capturing wave energy. A well designed surfboard is a beautifully proportioned and functional form of hydrodynamic art. It’s only natural that they would make us “weak in the knees.”
I’m no carpenter. In fact, I’d struggle to build you a truly square door frame. But that’s where my head found itself back in 2005; somewhere between a pile of lumber and a surfboard. That’s also when I first put my other “talents” (stubborn and restless creativity) to the challenge of making surfboards out of wood. The wooden surfboard is not a new idea of course. Surfing was born soon after wood first met wave on the islands of Polynesia over 300 years ago. I just hoped to contribute something new, however small, to the profoundly innovative, yet often overlooked, heritage of surfing (plus, I admit, I just needed a better board).
Those gorgeous curves are already tempting (aren’t they always), now imagine them in warm woodtones. But they also have to be dealt with in the reality of three dimensions (literally), not just the ideal of the mind’s eye. My challenge was to come up with a way to simultaneously accommodate three varying curves across the x, y, & z dimensions of a surfboard (rocker, profile, and outline). And they all had to coalesce in a form that would be tested. In other words, the thing had to be built and it had to surf!
Today, all my workshops and demos are based on my patent-pending Strip & Feather method (see The Story page for its development). As far as I can tell, given the volume of hollow wooden surfboards made by commercial surfboard shops and “basement builders” on the T2S forum, the Blundell Strip & Feather method is the most widely used method in the world (I may be wrong and if anyone has data on the subject, I’d love to hear it).
That so many boards have been built using my method is a pretty good testament to it. I know I’ve put an enormous amount of my best creative thinking into it. But I’ve recently added several novel techniques that allow an amateur to build a board that is ready for final sanding and glassing in 2-3 DAYS with NO POWER TOOLS and NO CLAMPS.
When I first came up with the basic concept of “Strip & Feather” it seemed pretty good. Turns out it was good enough to base an entire wooden board business and brand on (such as GSb). But I still always felt the process was a bit… heavy-handed. That is to say, I did a lot of strong-arm bending, clamping, and forcing wood into submission. I often referred to it as “wood torture.” After six more years of mental anguish, grappling with the grain, I had an epiphany (several actually). I think I’ve finally found a new, more Zen, way that coaxes the curves, but without compromise. The end result is a truly symbiotic relationship where both builder and board benefit.
Although these innovations are much faster, it’s important to note that the idea is not to rush the process, but simply to make it more accessible to people who can’t afford to take a week off to build a surfboard. Ironically, it ends up allowing us more time to learn and appreciate the finer nuances of surfboard design. It also has the added advantage of not requiring an investment in expensive power tools.
But lest’ we forget, it’s not like this is a breakthrough in cancer research or the discovery of extraterrestrial life. It’s just surfing, so it oughta be fun.