How To Make Wooden Bodysurf Hand Plane

How To Make Wooden Bodysurf Hand Plane

Bodysurfing, a sport that brings you closer to the ocean's heart than any other, is a thrilling experience that can be enhanced with the right equipment. A handplane, a small surfboard strapped to your hand, can significantly improve your bodysurfing experience, providing extra lift, speed, and control. This comprehensive guide will delve into the art of crafting a wooden bodysurfing handplane, focusing on the materials and equipment required, the different wood types and their pros and cons, the various shape options, waterproofing techniques, and strap styles.

Materials and Equipment Required

To craft a wooden bodysurfing handplane, you will need the following materials and equipment:

  • Wood: The type of wood you choose will affect the handplane's performance and sustainability. Options include teak, balsa, pine, etc.
  • Wood Glue: For bonding the wood pieces together.
  • Sandpaper: For smoothing the handplane. Start with a coarse 60 grit sandpaper to shape the handplane and then switch to a finer 100 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.
  • Marine Varnish: For waterproofing the handplane. This creates a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the wood and causing it to rot or warp.
  • Strap Material: For creating the hand strap. This could be neoprene, nylon, or any other durable and comfortable material. You can even repurpose an old belt or a broken ankle leash.
  • Tools: You will need a jigsaw for cutting the wood, a random orbit sander for smoothing the edges, clamps for holding the wood pieces together while the glue dries, and a drill for making holes for the strap.

Wood Types and Their Pros and Cons

There are several types of wood you can use to craft a bodysurfing handplane, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Balsa Wood: Balsa is a lightweight and buoyant wood that's easy to shape, making it a popular choice for handplanes. However, it's not as durable as other types of wood and may not be the most sustainable option.
  • Paulownia Wood: Paulownia is a fast-growing, lightweight, and durable wood that's resistant to rot and warping. It's a sustainable choice and performs well in water. However, it's more expensive than other types of wood.
  • Plywood: Plywood is a cost-effective and readily available option. It's durable and easy to work with. However, it's heavier than balsa or paulownia and may not perform as well in water.
  • Cedar Wood: Cedar is a durable and rot-resistant wood that's moderately easy to work with. It's heavier than balsa or paulownia but lighter than plywood. However, it's not as sustainable as paulownia.

Shape Options and How to Produce Them

Handplanes come in various shapes, each designed for different wave conditions and riding styles. The most common shapes include the fish, square, diamond, and swallow, similar to surfboard designs. Here's how to produce them:

  1. Design the Shape: Draw the shape of the handplane on the wood using a pencil. You can use a template or freehand the design based on your preference.
  2. Cut the Shape: Use a jigsaw to cut out the shape. Be sure to follow the lines closely to maintain the design's integrity.
  3. Shape the Handplane: Use a plane to shape the handplane. The front (nose) should be thinner than the back (tail), and the edges should be rounded for comfort and performance.
  4. Sand the Handplane: Use sandpaper to smooth the handplane. Start with coarse sandpaper and gradually move to finer grits for a smooth finish.

Waterproofing Your Handplane

To waterproof your handplane, apply a coat of marine varnish to the wood. This will create a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the wood and causing it to rot or warp. Allow the varnish to dry completely before using the handplane.

Strap Styles and How to Make and Install Them

There are several strap styles you can use for your handplane, including single strap, double strap, and adjustable strap. Here's how to make and install them:

  1. Single Strap: Cut a piece of strap material long enough to fit around your hand comfortably. Drill two holes in the handplane where you want the strap to be. Thread the strap through the holes and secure it with knots or stitching.
  2. Double Strap: Cut two pieces of strap material. Drill four holes in the handplane and thread each strap through a pair of holes. This style provides more security but is less adjustable.
  3. Adjustable Strap: Use a buckle or other adjustable fastener to create a strap that can be adjusted for a perfect fit. This is the most complex option but provides the best fit.

The Art of Shaping: Rails, Concaves, and Wave Types

The shape of a handplane, particularly its rails and concaves, plays a crucial role in its performance on the waves. By understanding the functionality of different rail and concave designs, you can shape a handplane that's tailored to your riding style and the wave conditions you typically encounter.


The rails are the edges of the handplane. They play a significant role in determining how the handplane interacts with the water. The shape and design of the rails can affect the handplane's grip on the wave face, its speed, and its maneuverability.

  • Hard Rails: Hard rails, characterized by a sharp edge, provide more grip on the wave face, making them ideal for steep, powerful waves. They allow for quick direction changes but can be less forgiving and require more skill to control.
  • Soft Rails: Soft rails, characterized by a rounded edge, provide less grip but more forgiveness, making them ideal for beginners or for riding smaller, less powerful waves. They offer a smoother, more relaxed ride but may not provide as much control or responsiveness as hard rails.
  • 50/50 Rails: 50/50 rails, characterized by an even balance between the bottom and top rail curve, provide a balance between grip and forgiveness. They offer versatility and can perform well in a variety of wave conditions.


A concave is a curve or depression in the bottom surface of the handplane. Concaves can influence the flow of water under the handplane, affecting its lift, speed, and responsiveness.

  • Single Concave: A single concave, characterized by a single curve or depression in the middle of the handplane, provides extra lift and speed. It channels the water under the handplane, reducing drag and allowing for faster rides.
  • Double Concave: A double concave, characterized by two curves or depressions on either side of the handplane, provides more control and responsiveness. It allows for quicker rail-to-rail transitions but may not provide as much speed as a single concave.
  • Vee Concave: A vee concave, characterized by a raised ridge down the middle of the handplane with depressions on either side, provides a balance between speed, control, and maneuverability. It's a versatile design that performs well in a variety of wave conditions.

Wave Types and Handplane Shapes

Different wave types require different handplane shapes. For flatter, longer waves, a wider, flatter handplane with soft rails and a single or vee concave can provide a smooth, easy ride. For steep, powerful waves, a narrower, more curved handplane with hard rails and a double concave can provide the grip and control needed to ride the wave successfully.

Crafting a wooden bodysurfing handplane is a rewarding project that can enhance your bodysurfing experience. By understanding the materials and techniques involved, and by tailoring the handplane's design to your riding style and the wave conditions you typically encounter, you can create a handplane that's uniquely yours and perfectly suited to your needs.

Want to make your own handplane?

Then get your mitts on one of our DIY kits!

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