Monday, 26 March 2012 - Posted by Roger at 7:51 am

Wooden Surfboard Dynamics

A subject that interests me…

Nearly 20 years ago I began my first wooden surfboard project. The results of which both pleased and surprised me.  I started learning about areas of surfboard design and dynamics that I had only previously touched on.

My first wooden board – A true revelation and turning point in my shaping career


The more I rode the board, the more the intrigue set in… I decided to investigate.

I made another wooden board. This time I purposely made it heavier. Not just heavier in general, but heavier in the rails.

The board was made of lightweight balsa wood. However, for the rails, I chose a New Zealand native timber called Rewa Rewa.

Rewa Rewa has a very striking grain with contrasting colours. The grain pattern varies greatly depending on how you cut it. It is a beautiful wood and one of my favourites. Rewa Rewa is, however, very heavy.

The bulk of the board was chambered lightweight balsa while the rails consisted of heavy Rewa Rewa.

One of the feelings I got while surfing this board was of rapid rail to rail transition and positive hold through turns. Friends that rode this board noticed this effect too.

Since that board, I have shaped and surfed many wooden boards using the principle of a lightweight chambered center with heavy solid timber rails.

Lightweight chambered inner – Heavy solid outer


I have also enjoyed foam cored surfboards with solid timber rails. Both types of construction deliver a similar sensation through turns.

Lightweight foam center with solid timber rails


You are standing on something light and buoyant, when you shift your weight onto the rail to initiate a turn, the heavy and relatively un-buoyant outer perimeter of the board sinks quickly and very positively into the face of the wave.

What I’m talking about here is an actual dynamic born out of practical experience rather than a mere theory.

Solid timber tail and rail sink quickly and smoothly into turns


The inside rail sinks quickly because it gains weight as the rider applies pressure through his or her feet. This extra weight is removed as the rider shifts weight out of the turn to the opposite rail. This is what happens during turns on any surfboard of any construction.

It is noticeably quicker with a pre weighted wooden rail and is one of the reasons wooden boards have such a lively reactive feel, despite their obvious extra weight.

Wood is Good!



6 thoughts on “Wooden Surfboard Dynamics

    Liam says:

    Hi Roger,

    Great read. Came across this doing some research as I am wanting to build a wooden mal as a summer project, do you know where can I source some suitable timber? is there anything you would recommend?


    Pockets Scott says:

    hey Roger, is it hard to find balsa with the size to make a board? been thinking of making a balsa board in my spare time but so far can only find model plane balsa.

    Justin says:

    Hi Roger, really beautiful boards. Have you ever thought of doing a kookbox or toothpick Tom Blake style. 14″ -16″ I’m a really big guy so the thought of gliding these buoyant beasts really appeals. Cheers Justin

    roger says:

    Hello Justin,
    Yes I have often thought of building a toothpick. Being a shaper, I tend to travel down the beam and chamber method of construction. However I think there is a project here just waiting to happen in the Tom Blake style!

    brent rasby says:

    killing time on a night shift. love the 19th shot on surf gallery…your an inspiration to following your own creative path….got me thinking about wooden rails now

    roger says:

    Hi Brent,
    As a shaper I really enjoy mixing the inherent qualities of timber with surfboard shapes for both beauty and performance. One of my favourites is wood weighted rails. It is a great look and an even better feel.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Roger Hall.

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