Paddle boarding is the coolest sport on the planet right now. It’s the hottest craze, and everyone is rushing out to buy a paddleboard.
Now, you could follow suit and buy one – there are lots of stand up paddle board manufacturers out there – but wouldn’t it be more fun to build a stand up paddle board instead? How cool would it be to design and craft your very own SUP?
It isn’t all that hard, and you don’t need a lot of materials. Our step-by-step guide will show you exactly what to do.
Why Not Just Buy a SUP?
Sure, you could buy a stand up paddle board, but for a hollow bit of plastic, these boards are expensive.
Even entry level SUPs cost a packet, so unless you have money to burn, it is a lot more economical to build a stand up paddle board. You will have to buy the basic materials, but the cost of materials is not that high.
In truth, the biggest outlay is going to be your time, so be prepared to spend a fair number of hours pouring some love into your SUP. If this all sounds like too much hard work, just imagine how proud you’ll feel admiring your masterpiece!
If you need some inspiration, check out how good a job this guy has done.
Anyone can make a stand up paddle board - granted it may not be as flash as the one in the video. All you need are some DIY skills and basic tools.
The hard part is creating a SUP that has good buoyancy and balance and is easy to stand on. There is a lot to think about and you will probably be required to learn new skills along the way. YouTube is your friend, so check out boards, watch some ‘how-to’ videos, and read instructional articles like this one. I’ve also included links to more helpful resources at the bottom of this post to get you started.
Similar to starting any project, make sure you do plenty of research up front. You should know what shape and dimensions your board will be and what tools and materials you’ll require.
If you have never been on a SUP before, visit your local paddle shop to get a sense of how a board looks and feels.
The Build Process
The build process for a stand up paddle board is the same as that for a surfboard. There are plenty of online resources about making surfboards, so check them out before you start.
There are different ways to build a paddle board, but I would advise picking one that you’ll be able to do with your skillset.
If you’re not a carpenter or particularly handy, I would recommend starting with a foam core and then covering it with plywood or fiberglass resin for added strength and durability. It’s much easier than the wooden frame method as you’ll see below.
How to Make a Foam Paddleboard
Materials You Will Need
- A sheet of rigid insulation foam – look for a longish piece around 2” thick
- 1/4” ply for the deck – use leftovers from another project to save yourself some cash
- Fiberglass resin (if you choose not to use ply)
- Several tubes of acrylic adhesive
- Plastic trowel for spreading the adhesive
- Wood rasp and orbital sander
- Weights to flatten the ply while the glue dries
Create a template for your board. Check out surfboard plans online to help you decide on the right shape. Stand up paddle boards are larger, but the concept is the same.
Alternatively, use a mate’s board as a template: trace one side of the board on to paper and then flip it over so the shape is symmetrical.
Glue three sheets of foam together. Insert wooden dowels into the center section for extra strength. A flat plastic trowel is the best tool for spreading glue evenly. Pretend you are icing a cake. Use heavy weights to compress the boards together until the glue is 100% dry.
Use the template to trace out your shape on the foam board. The board needs to be symmetrical, so take your time.
Cut the excess foam away using a handsaw. Next, cut carefully around the template lines using a smaller cutting tool. Your board needs to have an upwards curve or it won’t be buoyant enough in the water. Carving a curved rocker shape is tricky, so again, take your time.
Use a sharp knife to sculpt the foam. Remove thin slices from alternate sides to retain a symmetrical shape. Once you have the basic shape, hone the curves with an orbital sander. It’s a messy job, but you need the shape to be right, or your paddle board will sink.
You now have two choices: plywood or fiberglass.
Ply is a perfectly acceptable top surface, although it won’t look quite as flash as fiberglass. Ply is tough and resilient, but it needs to be finished off with a coat of polyurethane to protect the wood from the water. Make sure the entire surface is well coated before you glue it onto the foam board.
The other method is to finish off the board with fiberglass. This involves covering the board with fiberglass cloth and coating it with epoxy resin. Be warned, though, epoxy resin sets fast, so you need to work quickly. One advantage of using epoxy resin and fiberglass is that you can add color to your board – just order liquid color pigment when you buy your resin.
Two layers of resin should be enough, but be sure to sand away any lumps and bumps between coats and add extra layers of fiberglass and resin to the vulnerable areas of your board such as the nose and rails.
The last step involves adding handles, fins, feet grips, and bungee cords to provide functionality and to make your board easier to paddle. You can also use stencils and paint to create custom designs to personalize your board.
If you’re a visual person, here’s a video of the whole process:
Congratulations! You’ve now made your own SUP. It may not be as sleek and fast as a professionally made paddle board, but you can still be super proud of your awesome achievement and the pretty penny you saved!
The other great thing about making your own stand up paddle board is that it will be unique. Nobody else will have an SUP like yours!
So once you’re happy with the board, it’s time to take it out on the water and make a few paddlers jealous.