Introduction: Paddle Board

Picture of Paddle Board

I wanted a paddle board. If you have been to a beach this summer you have seen someone on one. But even the very bottom end Stand Up Paddle board (hereafter SUP) starts at $350- and that is for a what is essentially a really big plastic milk jug. Plus, that hollow plastic weighs a crazy amount. Even the kids-size SUPs weigh more than my beach babes could possibly carry, strong as they are. Clearly, that is something we can make for ourselves. Come see.

Step 1: Balance

Picture of Balance

I have no illusions of actually using a SUP myself. The imitable Holly Mann (follow her at if you don't already) could paddle one with her feet while standing on her hands, but I can't. My center of gravity is located just under my Adams apple because of my ponderous head (like a cake pop) and I will not be able to stay balanced on it. But a child would have a great time on one.
I used:
-One sheet rigid foam insulation 2" thick. ($25) but really it was free from Swap, who gave me a bunch of sheets he didn't need. I added some extra scrap to make it unnecessarily a bit longer. Boys are funny that way...

-Two tubes of construction adhesive $6 (the large ones. You'll be cutting them open so don't worry about a caulking gun)

-A fine notch plastic trowel $1.50

-A wood rasp. Garage sale price. Who on Earth know$?

-Orbital sander

-An optional 1/4" sheet of plywood (left over from a $8 sheet) for decking.

-Lots of heavy things for glue pressure. Sandbags work fine.

Total cost for DDC was low. You can buy everything you need for less than $50. But you will agree that price is only a small part of the cost for makers. The real cost- the only truly limited commodity- is time.

Step 2: Expense

Picture of Expense

Here is the cheap kids version:
1. Lay out the paddle board shape. I didn't have exact measurements to use so I just tried to more or less match the pictures. I took a little time tracing and retracing the profile I wanted onto the plywood and used the cut offs from that to transfer the profile onto the foam Since the SUP will be 4" thick I wanted to make it only 24" wide. Keep in mind that this is kid-sized- 4x24x108"- and if you want to make a 12 footer you'll need to buy more foam.

I liked the idea of a wooden deck but now I see that leaving the whole thing foam by itself would be much easier to make and provides a more grippy footing. Not as pretty though. The best tool for cutting the foam was a fully extended snap razor.

2. Use the caulk to glue the foam together. The best way to do this is to cut the ends off the caulk tubes and then slice open one side. The caulk should roll right out of the tube onto your bottom piece of foam. Use the trowel to spread the caulk evenly, leaving a nice wavy trowel pattern (all the pleasures of a zen pebble rake while still achieving something useful) and then press the upper half down onto it. Place heavy stuff on top and right up to the edges to make sure the halves really stick. Leave them overnight. I wish I had had more sand tubes. Those would've been perfect weights. As it was I used tool boxes, buckets of lead, scrap pewter, casting sand and coolers of water for clamping pressure. I am lousy with hobbies.

Step 3: Rocker and Sculpting

Picture of Rocker and Sculpting

3. We can't leave the board flat. There should be a rocker of a few degrees on both ends. I added a piece of foam to the top of the nose so that I could increase the angle of the nose rocker. I would not do this again. I may as well have just left the top flat; adding that foam increased the SUP's buoyancy by precisely zero since it is never near being submerged.

Cricket here helped me trace out the curve of the nose rocker onto the profile. Once decided on the shape we moved on to the sculpting with a long razor. I love to slice foam- so smooth and easy and consistent.

Once the shape is roughed out I used a wood rasp to remove the rest and to make the curves more hydrodynamic. All this foam is a mess, by the way. I recommend setting up some dust collection plan. I found that kids really enjoy sucking up foam dust with a shop vac almost as much as I disliked emptying the shop vac. Dust all down my front. Luckily I was wearing my tincloth apron but unluckily the polyurethane foam dust married the tincloth coating and won't come off. Now that apron has a dusty pink layer.

Finish the smoothing with an orbital sander, stepping down the grits.

Step 4: Meanwhile, the Deck

Picture of Meanwhile, the Deck

4. In order for the Lauan plywood to survive a wetting it needs a coat of polyurethane on both sides. After sanding the edges and top of the deck board I applied four coats of poly, sanding only the top between coats. The underside can be as rough as you like since it will be glued down. Once dry test the placement of the deck before on the SUP before glueing. Lightly trace the outline of the deck so that you know where to spread the adhesive. Open up your second tube of caulk and coat both the SUP and the underside of the deck. Press the two components together and leave overnight under pressure.

Step 5: Absurdly Easy

Picture of Absurdly Easy

And that is that: measure, trace, cut, cut, glue, sculpt, done.

There is so much beautiful water here in Duluth that we just can't stay out of it. And we have been blessed with a perfect summer so having a new toy on the cheap adds a lot to the fun. The SUP glides beautifully, effortlessly. It makes an unexpectedly good kid kayak too and best of all it can be carried on a 5 year old's head down to the water.


ferball (author)2014-03-05

Buoyancy is calculated conservatively at 50lbs a square foot (if i remember correctly) so an 8' x 2' x 6" would be good for 400lbs. 8x2x.5 = 8 x 50lbs = 400. A 12 footer would be could for 600lbs. Helpful info for this awesome project.

pete.hohensee (author)ferball2014-09-01

"would be could"?

You are far overestimating the buoyancy. Calculate it at about 33 lbs per cubic foot of material. Thus, an 8'x2'x6" board would provide 8 cubic ft of material or 264 lbs of buoyancy.

Just saw this 2 year old comment. A cubic ft of water is 62.43 lbs minus the weight per cu/ft of the foam at a bit under 2lbs = a solid 60 lbs of flotation per cu/ft.

Thanks for the correction. Don't ask me where I got 33 lbs/cu ft. I must have been thinking of something else and confused myself.

saosport (author)ferball2014-04-09

Thanks that will help me I want one for me and my weim. So I'll try a 9x2x7" just to be safe.

Elaine_G (author)2017-04-13

hey guys! How would I add a fin/ rudder to the bottom for added stability/ support? I honestly have no idea where to start with that one! Thanks!

BreK2 (author)2016-05-26

I am 5ft & 103 pounds, would an 8ft paddle board work well for me?

The-interested-one (author)BreK22017-03-27

I think this chart will help:


Weight: 120-150 lb.

Length: 10 ft. 6 in.-11 ft.

Width: 28-30 in.


Weight: 120-150 lb.

Length: 9 ft.-10 ft. 6 in

Width: 26-26.5 in.

So seeing as you are 17 lb lighter than the 120lb weight for a average 10ft board you should be fine, just maybe a little unstable.

Here's the link to the rest of the measurements:

tincupchalice (author)2016-12-30

Great 'ible!!! I'm about to make this board. I live outside of New Orleans and my family makes several trips to the Emerald Coast each year. I LOVE surf fishing and just getting out to that second sand bar and even fishing out of my kayak can be a pain. Swamps easy. My answer was making a fishing/recreational SUP. So I've read through the last 3 years of comments and have decided that I have a good idea of how I will make it. My intentions starting out will be to add a rod holder and maybe a cooler seat for fish and a few pieces of tackle. I bought a trailer that has ALOT of 1/2" pink board so I decided to stagger the layers and make a 10'x3'x6" board. I weigh around 200lbs and plan on adding a 5/4 deck board stringer up the middle to help handle the sometimes brutal surf. I also plan on inlaying 3/8 plywood on top and a 3/8" rudder joined with a cross section on top to help keep it from jarring loose. I plan on coating the foam in gesso (waterproof primer and sealer that is usually used for canvas, 7.99 at a craft store) mixed with a little blue acrylic paint for color. Sharks are color blind and I'll blend in. Hopefully. Please give any thoughts you may have as to improve my modifications. As I have learned from the comments, I'll be posting photos of my progress on this comment. Thanks for the inspiration. You are like a spark to a can of gas.

Thank you for the compliment. All your modifications sound like great improvements in the original. I wish i had thought like you when i made it. Please post a picture when you're done.

uandiarehere (author)2016-04-30

this would increase the cost and time requirements by a little bit, but most xps paddleboards have a basswood stringer running down the center. This increases the rigidity of the foam such that it can handle greater weights.

Also, most foam SUPs have some sort of shell. this can either be poor man's fiberglass or fiberglass with marine epoxy (no polyester resin as that will eat the foam). This too increases the rigidity of the board while also making it more abrasion resistant.

happy paddling

Lauragifford made it! (author)2016-03-28

Just made one over spring break. Used 2 sheets of pink foam board glued with construction foam glue- took 3 tubes. Cut with sawzall and then sanded with power sander, which was really quick. Did not add a rocker, instead I put the board on the ground with large Dumbbells under the front and then weighed the rest of the board down with more Dumbbells and left it like that for 1 day, which created the perfect curve. We painted the entire board white with exterior paint primer. We are adding a section in the middle - where you have the wood - that will be painted with plasti dip, which creates a great non-slip surface. It doesn't eat the foam if you prime it first! So excited to get this on the water.

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2015-12-26

Tmarch, I cut six inch strips and glues them with Michigan adhesives formula 100 and 101. It's like rubber. I'd have coated the whole thing but in 40 degree weather it gets a bit thick and hard to work.

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2015-12-26

I was inspired by this yet felt the need to do things the hard way

tmarchakitus (author)2015-08-11

I plan on making one of these in the near future and am curious, has anyone thought of using plasti-dip to cost and customize the foam? Or would that potentially dissolve or at to much weight to the SUP?

berard1 made it! (author)2015-06-07

I worked through this build. I am 165 lbs and 6'0" so I opted to making a wider version. This one is 32" wide and 8' long, which ended up being $80. I did it without power tools, all I used was a knife and a cheese grater. I let it dry for 1 day with about 100-130lbs on it, and it wasn't long enough. I did miss one of the edges up front tho, but it began to separate about a cm on its maiden voyage, so I will need to reseal it, probably with caulk and tape. It had a little bit of flexure, nothing major, but I intend to reinforce it with steel L beams from an old couch or something, by caulking them in the top of it, just to be safe. My friend who weighs 200 lbs made it look a little scarier, and where he sat was almost under water, and it was far less stable under his additional weight. It needs a rudder in a BAD way, or it will just go in circles, so definitely add that. I recomomend strapping a seat to it, cooler in my case, because lower your center of gravity is crucial. Other than that, a great project for virtually all sizes with a little more material and creativity, and it is SO MUCH FUN to play with. Can't wait to fix it.

Navier-Stokes (author)berard12015-07-01

That picture just made me laugh out loud, I love the cooler :) Good work on your SUP!

donedirtcheap (author)berard12015-06-19

Thank you for the picture. You Are The Best. When I think that other makers are using my idea with success it gives me so much joy. Keep it up, everyone.

Sean Mcandrew (author)2015-06-19

hey, I just wanted to say that this is AWESOME and I want to make one! I have several questions about use. do you think this would work and be stable enough for fishing or cleaning/ buffering the hulls of boats? it would be great if you could get back to me, thanks!

I plan to make one of these and I'll upload pictures if I do!

Thank you for the compliment.
I can honestly say that stability depends on the pilot. With me on top I would not be able to service a boat hull. I would be really wet and frustrated. The shallow draft of the SUPs make great out riggers for a canoe. Now that is stable. I sailed that particular rig all over Island Lake Reservoir (big) with a tarp sail and a black ash mast.
Please do post a photo, even of a half-finished project. It would make me very happy to see your work.

gc_instruct (author)2015-05-18

Just got ours out on the lake and it worked great, even better was that it cost less than $45 and took less than 4 hours. The 8' version was definitely the perfect size for my 8 year old at about 55 pounds and it worked pretty well for my 11 year old at about 80 pounds. I used the blue foam from Lowes. Does anyone know if there is a difference between the blue and pink foam? I am going to add the plywood top as it was flexing a bit when my 11 year old was on it, and it flexed a lot when I was on it. The pictures should show how light and stable it is.

Thanks again. Next up is a 12' version.

Pardrap (author)gc_instruct2015-05-31

From what I've read the blue and pink foam are apparently supposed to be the same type, which is closed cell foam. Apparently white is open cell foam, and shouldn't be used because it absorbs water. You were able to find a 2" thick foam board? I went to Home Depot the other day and they only had the white board at that size, and Lowes online doesn't seem to have it either. I guess I'll go to the actual Lowes store and see if they have it in stock there.

gc_instruct (author)Pardrap2015-06-07

I was able to get the 2" blue foam at Lowes here in Seattle. I think I saw 2" foam at Home Depot as well.

KurtisF (author)2015-05-17

Im doing it with styrofoam... Hope it turns out as well. Im thinking its gonna crumble bad when i start sanding. And im worried about resistance through the water. Well see

e-beth (author)2015-04-29

OK. Getting ready to make this. Home Depot has 2" foam for $20 a sheet. Will have to do more lamination I guess. Won't use any wood. Want it to be super stable, so I am thinking 8'x3'x4". Rubber mat on top. Also want to add a fin, but I would rather it be removable for transportation. Might try cutting a slot through the board somewhere. Hoping a tight fit will be enough to keep it in place. Thought I would just buy a paddle, but they are expensive too, so now I have to figure out how to make one cheap and light. Light is important, much better on your arms when you are in the middle of the lake trying to get back. I also envision doing a lot of sitting and paddling. SUP is GREAT for core strength, but when I tried it (Groupon SUP lesson) I realized I needed lots of breaks for it to be enjoyable.
Any advice as I start would be welcome.

danielpena1 (author)2014-07-31

hope this reaches you and we get a reply since the last post is 10 months old...

AWESOME! i want to try this. question, though. you used no fiberglass/epoxy to coat/seal this board? was it left the pink color of the foam?

thanks in advance!

That's right, no epoxy or fiberglass. Fiberglass would make it a bit tougher but much heavier. As it is my six year old can carry it to the beach by herself.

It has been knocked around over the last year and I have used it quite a bit but it is as tough and strong as ever. I'm taking it camping on an island this weekend with about ten kids!

Do you think it shouldn't be pink? I figured that if it got too banged up I could always glass it later too. But cheap and easy wins for me every time.

Thanks for your questions. If you make one please post your improvements.


thanks for the reply. pink is fine if that's your color of choice. for me i'd want it white if that color is available for the foam, but cool none the less.

if i do decide to do this i will definitely post up!

You can get the foam in blue also. Do NOT use white foam. It is open cell foam as opposed to the blue and pink which is closed cell. The white stuff will not provide the stiffness or strength you need.

EStefonek (author)2014-09-10

has anyone tried covering it in duct tape? it would help protect the foam without adding much weight, plus you could personalize. I <3 duct tape.

joshua.emmons (author)2014-09-02

How does this hold up in travel... i've seen people with sheets of that pink foam ripped off the roof of their SUV's driving home from the Home Depot. I don't live on water, but this could be an awesome winter project to work on and take it on the river a few miles from my house.

mariannemccormick (author)2014-08-22

My family made 4 of these following your instructions. We then went to Marsh Creek State Park to test them out and they worked beautifully! Literally 30-40 folks asked about them because they look potentially "home made" and we gave you credit and encouraged folks to check out your posting. Thanks a lot!!!

This comment is worth more to me than you can imagine. I bet you made all four for less than one would have cost at the store. Were they light enough for your kids to carry by themselves?
Another fun thing to do is to lash them as outriggers on either side of a canoe to make a really stable trimaran/ swim platform. My brother and my nephew and I sailed one on Lake Superior!
Your four SUPs tied together would make an amazing raft!
Thank you in earnest,

Yes, my kids carried them themselves. We spent sub $200 for all. The money savings was key, and I what I think was even more important was instilling in my 8 and 10 year olds the idea that they can build something on their own rather than spend so much for something we wanted! We would have spent just about that much to rent 4 of them for 4 hours! Thanks again. Marianne

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2014-06-09

sandwiching a thin layer of thick plastic might help any fears of breaking. if it did then it would still be in one piece. strips of plywood might work too. for the bottom I might try the roll up sled material since I will be fishing rivers with mine.

emorcos (author)2014-06-01

Is there any disadvantage to starting out with a 4'' piece of foam?

donedirtcheap (author)emorcos2014-06-02

Do you have one?! That it's awesome. No disadvantage at all. Go nuts! Take a picture too, please.

erinw (author)2013-11-08

Love your posts! made my daughter a paddle board put gel resin pink paint on it and painted cherry blossoms on the top with white gel resin looks amazing and it's all thanks to you :)

GuidetoVirtue (author)erinw2014-06-01

Sounds like fun. Has anyone tried any different types of paint? Trying to round up some options for the board that I'm working on.

saosport (author)erinw2014-04-09

Do you have any photos you could share?

donedirtcheap (author)erinw2013-11-18

Thank you. Some people shop sales, some people clip coupons, some people just take what they want. You and I, we make what we want. Thanks for the comment/follow.

evgen_ru (author)2013-09-10

Is your board slippery?
Аpply the paint and sprinkle sand immediately.
And your board is not slippery :-)

GuidetoVirtue (author)evgen_ru2014-06-01

Great idea. Do you think the grains of sand embedded in the paint would hurt the bottom of one's bare feet? Looking at making this in next couple weeks.

Lei_Kei (author)evgen_ru2013-11-17

That is a great idea! When I make one I'll keep that in mind for sure!

WampaSlayer (author)2014-03-16

This looks great! I have wanted one of these ever since I tried my friend's. Can't wait to build it this summer!

papadezil72 (author)2014-02-05

How does the foam hold up in the water, does it soak any? Do you think that salt or brakish water would eat away at the foam?

The foam doesn't absorb any water at all. I can't swear to it but I don't think salt water would have any effect. The soft foam will take much more damage from dings and nicks of playful use than from salt. Please post photos if you make one and good luck!

dkrall (author)2013-11-18

Awesome. I have a pile of this pink foam in my garage. I am so making one for next season.

BLASTFEMI (author)2013-10-02

Favorited. Voted. WANT!

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