WOODEN SURFBOARDS: Surf meets woodwork

The thing thats binds everybody that builds a wood surfboard together is a love of surfing, a love of the sea and a love of the structure of surfboards. When people build a board they are very much keying into that culture and that love. I’m Patrick Burnett and I make wood surfboards in Komijike, Cape Town, under the brand label Burnett Wood Surfboards. What I’m trying to do here is make wood surfboards that are beautiful, that are fun to surf, that are long lasting and that are environmentally responsible. What I love about making surfboards out of wood is that they are really really beautiful, each and every surfboard is completely different and individualised. The other thing that I do here, apart from making boards for customers, is to run courses. I have people come in to make their own surfboards and I facilitate that. Making wood surfboards is something that goes back hundreds of year in surfing culture. Wood is very much part of the retro movement in surfing as the culture looks back on itself. It is instantly recognised as a historical material. The boards I make are hollow wood surfboards. Those boards were invented in the 1930’s, there is a guy called Tom Blake who was a Californian who has been credited with that. He made the first hollow wood surfboards, it was really a leap forward for surfing because for the first time boards didn’t have to be solid, and they weren’t as heavy as they used to be. It lead to the introduction of a whole new group of people into the surfing culture. Somehow wood has survived that journey from the introduction of foam surfboards in the 1950s when wood became a material that was no longer used. It is now seeing a reintroduction as people are looking for alternative materials that are more environmentally responsible to use in making surfboards. Where I begin is I’ll design a board using a computer program. I have a range of models that I’ve developed over the years, I’ve probably got 10 or 12 different types of boards, possibly more. I get the rough shawn timber, and I cut it, prepare it, plank it, strip it. I build the boards here, shape the boards here and they are glassed and finished right here in Komijike, Cape Town, South Africa. Making wood surfboards is very labour intensive thats probably one of the reasons why it is not mainstream, it is a craft based activity. I think one needs to look towards the things that you get out of it that are not necessarily tangible, in the sense that you don’t see them when you buy a product from a shop shelf. You see a product and you buy it and you go away, you don’t see what goes into it. I think wood surfboards are valuable from that sense, there is a real sense of craftmenship and striving for perfection and to bring out the beauty in the wood. There was a photographer that took a piece of wood and set up a camera over it. He took a block plane and planed and took a picture, then he planed again and took another picture, and planed and took a picture and he took thousands of pictures and then he set them all together. The movement of the grain with each block plane resembled moving swell, it is a beautiful analogy between wood and waves and surfing, there is a natural energy there of a tree growing and ocean swells moving. It is about getting away from it all, getting the dust washed off you and getting in the ocean and feeling that energy. I think when you are sitting out there on a wood surfboard with the swell moving underneath you, you will understand that. You will look to the grain on your surfboard and you will think ‘wow, that’s beautiful man, I’m out here in nature and on nature.’ There is something you can’t articulate about that but it is very very beautiful.

7 thoughts on “WOODEN SURFBOARDS: Surf meets woodwork”

  1. Neat Clip

    Please checkout my GoPro Footage of me surfing South Africa & let me know what you think:


  2. who will give thumbs down? well done mate you are doing fantastic++++++++ work
    love it wood surf boards will always be the nr 1 choice

  3. Yeah, great video mate. There is definately something special about surfing a wooden boatd. Especially when you have made it yourself. Well done.

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