Introduction: Build Your Own Surfboard!

Picture of Build Your Own Surfboard!

A dear friend of mine has a 1971 VW Westfalia Camper Bus he restored and wanted to mount a surfboard on the roof. Ultimately he wanted to cut the board and use it as a panel mount, so we looked for a cheap surfboard with little success. The cheapest one we found was well over 100 bucks, and a) to never use it as a surfboard and b) cut it up at a later date; cost was not justified.

So, I made him one!

The goal was simple; find cheap materials and make a cost effective surfboard. It more than likely will never be used as an actual surfboard, but it very well can be. Well, more like a flotation device I suppose. After all, wood does float right?!

You will need the following:

-Five 2x4 planks (I would recommend more, but that is what I used)
-Wooden wedges
-Circular Saw
-Jig Saw
-Butcher Paper
-Duct Tape
-60, 120, 200, 400, 1000, and 1200 grit sand paper
-Wood Stain (I used gel stain)
-Outdoor Clear Wood/Deck Sealer
-Wood glue
-Wood filler
-Planer (Electric strongly recommended)
-Work Gloves
-Face Mask
-Eye Protection
-Work Bench or saw horse

I already had most of the items listed. I used the cheapest 2x4 I could find and I bought the small quart sized cans for the stains. The wood glue was the large gallon, and the wood filler was the larger of the three cans available at Home Depot. Total expense was between $40.00 -$50.00.

I used a lot of advice from this guy, Abe Toke
He has a neat video series I suggest watching before you start! The main difference is he (and most sources I found on the internet) use foam boards.

As a side note, I am going to include a couple of steps I learned from my mistakes throughout this instructable.

Step 1: Got Wood?

Picture of Got Wood?

Apply glue to the 2 inch side liberally. Glue the 2x4's together and clamp tightly. Use the wooden wedges to give the board a slightly concave shape.
The way I did it, the center board had no wedge. The boards to the right and left of the center board each used one wedge. The outer right and left boards each used two wedges. I did this to both the top and bottom of the board. Sorry, I did not take pictures of the bottom side showing the wedges.

The reason behind that is a typical surfboard has a vertical and horizontal curve. Most DIY wooden boards are, well, flat boards. I wanted to make a surfboard, not a wooden plank! Haha. Although I understand flat boards are ideal for mushy/small surf.

Once the glue is set, use wood filler to fill any gaps!! This was my first mistake. I did this later, and it would have been easier and more aesthetically appealing to do it now than later on.

Use a planer to even and curve the board once the glue filler dries. The goal in this step is to simply make the surface continuous. The wedges will make the boards have (for lack of better words) steps. Smooth them out.

Step 2: Stencil and Cut

Picture of Stencil and Cut

Cut the butcher paper to the length and width of the desired size of your surfboard. Use the circular saw to cut off any excess wood. In my case, the glued boards where over 8 feet long, and I only needed about 7 feet.

Measure and draw a line from the top to the bottom on the center of the board onto the stencil. This will make drawing a freehand stencil easier.

Draw the shape you want for your board on either the right or left half of the butcher paper. I used a longer fishtail board with a pointier nose. Once you're satisfied with the shape, cut out the half you drew. Carefully fold over the center line you drew earlier, and trace the shape you just cut out.

Cut out the other half and trace the entire board onto your plank.
Or you can just flip the stencil you just made and trace half at a time.

Using a jig saw, carefully (and slowly) cut out the shape you just drew. If it comes out rough, no biggie. The planer and sander will help with that.

Step 3: Shaping

Picture of Shaping

This is where the electric planer will be a heck of a lot easier than a hand planer!

Plane the board, giving shape to the rocker. The rocker is the bottom arch of the board. Follow the concave shape. The electric planer usually has a knob that allows you to control planing depth. Be careful with it since it can go pretty deep.

Also, my planer came with a guide that can be attached to the planer. This made shaping the board much easier!
Plane both sides of the board, just remember concavity is opposite for each side. Top side is concave up, bottom side is concave down. As you're planing, keep in mind you want round edges (rails). You will get a really thin rails if you are not paying attention!

You will get a ton of wood shavings every where. I used the broom throughout the planing and sanding process to remove shavings from the board in the areas I was to work on.

I ran the hand planer on the rails to round them out. I was worried of eating up too much of the wood with the electric planer.

The reason I choose 5 (or an odd number) planks is to keep the center board flat. This made it easier to give it the arch I wanted.
I ran my hands throughout the board to try to find spots I missed or any asymmetries I did not notice. I had my brother and some friends come out to inspect the board; having several pairs of eyes helped me a lot!

I noticed the nose on the board was not symmetrical. I used the planer to shave off and reshape.

I used a lot of advice from this guy, Abe Toke. He has a video series I watched. There was also another You-tube video I used mid process, and for the life of me I cannot find it. Once I find it I will add it. So credit to anonymous!

Step 4: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

As I mentioned in the beginning, I did a couple mistakes I would change given the opportunity. One of which is using the wood filler in this step, as opposed to step 1. So that's what I did.

Once that was dry, I went forth and sanded. I used a 60 grit first, then progressed to finer and finer grits as I was satisfied with the shape and smoothness of the board.
I spent a lot of time on the edges; I cupped my hand and ran the sand paper the length of the board until I was satisfied with the shape of the rails.

A final note, I found some asymmetries, so I used the planer again, and sanded the area one more time.

Step 5: Stencil and Stain

Picture of Stencil and Stain

I used duct tape to stencil in the design I wanted. I used some CD's to draw and stencil the circles, and a ruler to make sure the triangle was an equilateral triangle. For those of you who do not know, that is the logo to Coheed and Cambria, Shaun's favorite band.

I drew 3 dragon flies on the board with a sharpie, each dragonfly represents one of his kiddos :)
To stencil the dragonflies with duct tape was a bit too difficult for me. The design I used for the dragonflies I saw somewhere. Don't remember where nor when, so another anonymous credit!

The reason I used Gel stain is because it would yield sharp edges. Oil base stain would seep and soak into the wood; including the area you just covered.

WARNING: Whip gel off shortly after applying!!! That was another mistake, I left it to sit for a few minutes. When I removed, it looked like dukie. The sun baked it on and I had to sand to remove and try again.

The top side I made simple stripes. I learned my lesson!!

Once dry, remove the stencils and check results.

Note: I did try to cover the messed up gel stain with the sealant in hopes of it not looking horrible. It did not. So I had to sand the entire board.

Step 6: Sealing to the End

Picture of Sealing to the End

I used Home Depot outdoor wood/deck Clear sealer and a stressed paint brush to add coats. I say stressed because I washed and scrubbed the heck out of the brush, in hopes of minimizing the random brush hair that would come lose and stick to the board.

Seal the top side of the board. Once dry, flip around and seal the bottom side. I noticed I would get little drips on the bottom of the rail. I removed the big drops with a soft wash cloth. Once dry I sanded the drips out with fine sand paper. Repeat as necessary.

I did a total of about 10 coats. I sanded with 400 grit sand paper in between early coats, then 1000+ in between the last coats.

Note: I did not add a fin (yet). We wanted to wait so we can measure how high the board would sit on his bus. We needed to make sure the bus, board and fin cleared his garage door.
Once I add the fin I will update!


arantosanto (author)2016-02-11

You can make it. look for woodprix website! I think it's the best way to learn how to make it in the better way.

beliakrouser (author)arantosanto2016-02-11


xxWesxx (author)2015-08-18

not sure what surfers were telling you that would work man. The weight and small size of that board would never catch waves, unless you were in big enough waves to make up for the lack of speed, and then there isn't enough rocker to make up for the vertical pitch of the wave. Wooden surfboards aren't made solid. they are hollow...and long boards meant for small waves are over 8 feet. kudos on making an art piece though.

joechacon98 (author)xxWesxx 2015-12-23

yep! The board has been surfing the roof of the van and has yet to make it to water!

As you mentioned, your body weight will determine the size of the board you want to make!

Here is a site that has a nice chart:

As I shared in some of the comments below, if you are making a surfboard, I would recommend forking out some money and buying balsa wood. It is really light weight, durable, and seems to be the wood of choice for surfboards! Mine was intended for solar panels, so Home Depot wood satisfied my needs.

For the fin, I did find a couple of links that go into great detail on fin placement!

Here is a video that will show you how to place a fin

Thanks for the feedback!

buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Looks too nice to use for surfing!

joechacon98 (author)buck22172015-12-23

Thank you very much!

tandm0712 made it! (author)2015-06-30

took a lot of time waiting for everything to dry but two things I did differently was I put pegs connecting the boards for more strength and I drilled holes all over the bottom and filled the holes with spray foam then put stainable plastic wood over it to make it more buoyant

joechacon98 (author)tandm07122015-12-23

As I said above, absolutely gorgeous board. I apologize for the late response, I have been off this site for a while.

tandm0712 made it! (author)2015-07-01

I really appreciate you posting this instructable! you write very thorough and detailed!

joechacon98 (author)tandm07122015-12-23

That is absolutely gorgeous! I am very glad you shared pictures! I like your improvements, have you taken yours out in water?

Thank you for the kind words, but above all thank you for making a board!

SpaceInvader7 (author)2014-08-06

Do you have any pictures of it mounted on the bus? I've actually got a 1979 Westfalia, and I was thinking about mounting some solar panels on the top of a surfboard and then mounting that to the roof.

So we never mounted the panels. My friend said it was too nice and he didn't want to cut the board haha!
BUT here are some pictures anyways.

yoshi.catteeuw (author)2014-08-15

What kind of wood do you recommend?

Depends what you're doing. If you want to use it as an actual surf board, use balsa wood. It is very light weight and heavily used in surfboards.
If its just for decor, what ever you want!

nickerkul (author)2013-08-22

what kind of wood did you use and is it not nessey to To cut the chambers to lighten it up? thx

StudlyPalmtree (author)2013-02-27

Is the board easy/hard to ride?

We have yet to put it in the water! And even worse, I have yet to put the fin on!!!

oud25 (author)2012-03-30

where is your fin?

joechacon98 (author)oud252012-04-27

I did not add a fin (yet). We wanted to wait so we can measure how high the board would sit on his bus. We needed to make sure the bus, board and fin cleared his garage door.
Once I add the fin I will update

(That's also the last note on the last page) ;)

reeseecup (author)2012-01-13

dude thats cool

joechacon98 (author)reeseecup2012-01-23

Thank you! It was fun making it

reeseecup (author)joechacon982012-02-07

thats not my instructable -reeseecup

joechacon98 (author)reeseecup2012-02-08

Haha, I was saying thanks for the comment, then just stated I enjoyed making the board. I see how it is misleading!

reeseecup (author)joechacon982012-03-14


reeseecup (author)joechacon982012-02-11

oh i didnt know u r the author

genericusername5 (author)2012-01-25

I am looking forward incredibly to making this, but first a have a few questions.

Does this actually surf? i want to use the one I'm making as an actual surfboard.
Where do i put the fin at the back? Is there any video instructing me on the best place to put it?
Would I be better off to use dowels as well as wood glue or is there any need?

If you could get back to me as soon as possible that would be great! By the way this is an incredibly good project!

I have not taken it out surfing yet. Judging by the opinions by others who actually surf it can.
BUT if you are making a surfboard, I would recommend forking out some money and buying balsa wood. It is really light weight, durable, and seems to be the wood of choice for surfboards!

The fin, I have not placed it yet. And again, we are using it for decorative purposes. I did find a couple of links that go into great detail on fin placement!

Here is a video that will show you how to place a fin

Dowels, I did not use. Most boards I saw did not use them, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt. Thing to keep in mind is balance. You wouldn't want 8 dowels on the left side and only 2 on the right.

Oh and your body weight will determine the size of the board you want to make!
Here is a site that has a nice chart:

Be sure to post an instructable!! I would love to see how you made it and how it did!! Good luck!!

Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly and with so much useful information! I'm planning to make it around Easter when i have time off from collage. I'll post the link on here and let you know how it works in the water! Love this instructable thanks for making it!

No problem, we are all here to help each other out. Best of luck when you go on this endeavor. I look forward to seeing it!

duncan_a (author)2012-01-19

Why is this entered in the FURNITURE Competirion???

joechacon98 (author)duncan_a2012-01-23

Why wouldn't it be?!

Furniture [fur-ni-cher] n. :
1. The movable, generally functional, articles that equip a room, house, etc.
2. Fittings, apparatus, or necessary accessories for something.
3. Equipment for streets and other public areas, as lighting standards, signs, benches, or litter bins.

Considering it is an accessory to the bus and will provide a panel mount (and lighting) at a later date, in this case I think it is ok to say it is furniture ;)

Thank you for your input!!

cnmaine (author)joechacon982012-01-27

i agree, i haven't made a surfboard, but i do have a SUP (stand up paddleboard) on my wall, in the off season its a piece of "furniture". so a surfboard can also be furniture.

joechacon98 (author)cnmaine2012-01-30

Thank you for the support! I am glad I am not crazy to consider a board a piece of furniture!
I have seen boards hanging up, they look very nice!

GainEnergy (author)2012-01-27

No matter what, the board itself looks very beautiful! It may be too beautiful to put in water! ;)

joechacon98 (author)GainEnergy2012-01-30

Thank you for the kind words!!!!

LifeWarrior (author)2012-01-09

Very cool use of stains to make a design!

joechacon98 (author)LifeWarrior2012-01-10

Thanks! Maybe next time I will use different types of boards to get different colors.

LifeWarrior (author)joechacon982012-01-10

I've seen people do tribals with paints, never thought of doing it with stains. This would be cool as well on a hardwood floor.

joechacon98 (author)LifeWarrior2012-01-11

I bet that would look nice! Again, make sure you use gel stains for designs. Oil based stains will seep under the taped off areas; gel stains will give you those sharp edges!

BobAJobRob (author)2012-01-09

Don't get too excited about it holding your weight in a pool. Usually surfboards will only support a person standing up if they are moving enough to produce lift.
For comparison, I ride a 9ft hollow wood longboard - it's the most buoyant board I or my mates have, but there's no way I could stand on it if it was stationary!
Nice project though - should look good on the van. Have a look here for inspiration for the next one!

joechacon98 (author)BobAJobRob2012-01-10

Great site! And thanks for the info. At least now I won't be too disappointed if the board doesn't hold me up!

b2j2 (author)2012-01-09

From the weight, the volume is under one cubic foot. which would support about 60 pounds in water. However, a good wave might be surfed. Or, if you are in the desert, you could surf a dune!

joechacon98 (author)b2j22012-01-10

I hear White Sands in New Mexico is the closest thing to snow in the desert. Good place to try!

hirod3 (author)2012-01-06

Great instructible! I was the lucky recipient of this board, and I can honestly say it is gorgeous in person!!!! Thanks a million!!!!

joechacon98 (author)hirod32012-01-06

Thanks mang! I am glad it did not turn out looking like dog dukie!
We still need to add the fin! And panel!!!!

hirod3 (author)joechacon982012-01-07

We can put the fin on, but there's no way in hell I'm letting you cut a hole in the middle of it!!

bertus52x11 (author)2012-01-07

Very nice piece of craftmanship!

joechacon98 (author)bertus52x112012-01-07

Thank you very much!

rimar2000 (author)2012-01-07


joechacon98 (author)rimar20002012-01-07

Thank you!

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