Introduction: Plywood Kiteboard

Unsatisfied with commercial kitesurfing boards, I decided to make my own. I found the commercial boards to have too much rocker, too many fins, stupid graphics, and, worst of all, too high a price tag. With $50 worth of marine grade plywood you can build a board that will drop the jaws of all the board-shorts-on-the-outside-of-their-wetsuit types as you scream upwind.

Step 1: Design Your Board

I learned to kitesurf on a rectangular board, 16 x 60 inches. Nearly anything of this same approximate surface area will work. My current favorite board (which has lasted more than two years now) is a perfect oval 62 x 16 inches. The holes for the footstraps are set 1 inch forward of the centerline. My feet naturally sit about 22 inches apart, so I set the 7.5 inch wide footstraps 22 inches apart. I also put in a hole for a leash.

In this files section are two CAD files (DXF and Corel Draw) of my favorite board.

I printed my design out on a large format printer. You can also just draw your design my hand on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: Cut Board

Transfer your shape to marine plywood. I think 3/8 inch thick Baltic Birch is the best choice. Unfortunately, I've only been able to find it in 5 x 5 ft sections, so you can't make a board that's insanely long.



Rough cut the shape with a table saw or jig saw, and then smooth the edges with a belt sander. Round any sharp edges so the board doesn't cut you, but also so it's not prone to knicks and dents that will allow water through the epoxy.



Make sure you align the grain of the wood on the face of the plywood along the direction of the board.



Drill holes and install 1/4-20 tee-nuts for mounting footstraps and a leash attachment point.

Step 3: Board Size

Step 4: Install T-nuts

Step 5: Print Graphic

Step 6: Lay Up Fiberglass

Step 7: Epoxy Board and Apply Graphic

Brush on a thin coat of epoxy. I used US Composites 635 thin coat. Once the first coat is dry, which will probably take overnight, sand it smooth. 200 or higher grit should work fine. Use lower grit on any drips. Clean up the dust with a damp rag.

Printout your graphic on plain white paper. Once soaked with epoxy, the paper becomes translucent and the wood grains shows through.

Brush on your second coat. Immediately, roll your graphic onto the board and use a stiff edge to carefully smooth it against the board. Brush more epoxy on top of the graphic.

Step 8: Peeling Graphic

Step 9: Cure Epoxy

Step 10: Trim Fiberglass

Step 11: Sand Edges

Step 12: Clean Out T-nuts

Step 13: Make and Install Foot Pads

Use closed-cell foam to make wacky, giant feet footpads. Glue them to the board with rubber cement. Install the footstraps and place a handle between them for carrying the board, and for awesome board-off tricks!

Step 14: Ride

You are now ready to ride!

Throw caution to the wind and go crazy with huge jumps knowing your plywood ride will shoot you back upwind.

Laugh at people on the beach who spent $700 on their board and who feel compelled to tell you, "that won't work."

Comments

author
1gr81 made it!(author)2017-05-05

I didn't mean to write a dissertation, but I'm on the way to pick up the plywood now, with hopes of beginning the build this weekend.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!! Seize life!!

author
1gr81 made it!(author)2017-05-05

I am a little late to this party...okay..a LOT late. :) Any update on the construction of this board?


It seems straight forward enough, but my biggest question is about the edges and foot placement.

The edges- The Instructables says..."Round any sharp edges so the board doesn't cut you" Would I be correct to think, either.... a light sanding to eliminate sharpness- or rounded with a router for performance. (??) Just curious how that affects the board performance. I have seen other videos, that I believe, shaped their boards slightly rounded on bottom and tapered on top. I don't fully understand how that helps a boards performance.

The other (and probably much bigger concern) is foot strap placement. The instructable says...."The holes for the footstraps are set 1 inch forward of the centerline"....Would I be correct to find the centerline of the board (top to bottom) make a mark 1" above that line...place foot in front of spot marked for hole and then, imagining a strap, mark for the other hole(??) I think I read in another tutorial to close your eyes, jump in the air, then naturally land and that will be your foot placement on the board. Does that make sense? Just wondering how that foot alignment would work along with the "1" in front of centerline. (??) How tight should the foot straps be? I am imagining loose enough to get a finger between the strap and your foot. (??) Also, the pic above (last one of the kiteboard) it looks like the feet are about equal distance from each end. Is that right?

If anyone can help me with these ideas/questions, I would be grateful. My Teen kids and I will be starting our Kiteboarding lessons soon and I hope to build a couple of these boards to get us started in the sport. I apologize for so many questions, but as a beginner, I'm not familiar w the nuances of why a board is built the way it is.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me. :)

author
Jeroen1519 made it!(author)2015-10-26

Shouldn't you curve the board?

author
steve.demers.528 made it!(author)2014-11-04

Hi, I will definitely make my own board, cheers to people who have ideas and take time to share'em...

Main question: did you guys figure out a way to make a shape (rocker/concave) in boards? How good can flat boards be in chop and without any rocker, they must catch and spray in the eyes as hell, no? Thanks.

author
cmcqueen321 made it!(author)2014-06-11

am I correct in understanding this process?

1. you have the blank dry board. apply first coat of epoxy to bottom of board and let dry overnight.

2. sand layer

3. print graphic on normal paper

4. apply second layer of epoxy and imediatly lay graphic onto wet layer.

5. apply more epoxy on top.

6. let everything dry overnight.

7. peel paper graphic off? will the graphic sink into the wood and show?

8. apply fiberglass on top of graphic? or only glass the top of the board.

Thank you for the awesome tutorial!

author
vlassadar made it!(author)2014-06-11

I've decided to try with only epoxy. Please advise me - the epoxy on the pics is heated - to what temperature, and more importantly - when do you put the hardener? How much working time have you got like this?

And lastly - are the T-nuts stainless steel or just coated iron?

author
vlassadar made it!(author)2014-06-02

What is the result without using a vacuum bagging? If this can be skipped, building the board will seem one step easier.

author
LaurensB made it!(author)2014-03-25

Hello,

I can't download that PFD file. Can someone help me with that? When I click the button, he will goes to another page, and when I click another time at the button, is won't work. Can't someone help me? Thanks,

Laurens

author
GDADZGSONS made it!(author)2013-05-09

O.K. thanks. I have a couple of questions.
1. Would a wakeboard or kiteboard be naturally buoyant?
2. Do you think that an all carbon fiber board would work?
3. Is carbon fiber naturally buoyant?

author
GDADZGSONS made it!(author)2013-05-08

Does this board have any rocker? Also do you think that half inch plywood would work?

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2013-05-08

No, it's flat. However, when you load it up in the water, it does tend to bend into some rocker.

1/2 inch will work, but will feel much stiffer.

author
podrob made it!(author)2011-10-09

Hello,

When I read your post, I felt like signing up just to answer this :

"With $50 worth of marine grade plywood you can build a board that will drop the jaws of all the board-shorts-on-the-outside-of-their-wetsuit types as you scream upwind."

I am part of what you call "board-shorts-on-the-outside-of-their-wetsuit types", and even if I agree with most of the things you say about the prices and making your own board being a clever way to save money, I find it sad to read such proofs of intolerance mixed in with your ideas.

I wear a board short on the outside of my wetsuit because :

- It protects my wetsuit when I sit in the sand, on the beaches or everywhere else I sit with or without the kite. Board short is 30$, wetsuit is 250$.
- I feel naked when I wear a wetsuit. Call it the swimsuit syndroma if your wish, but wearing a boardshort help me feel dressed.
- The boardshort is one more layer to stop the wind. Some parts of your body like it.
- It's adding style. I's a matter of taste of course. But freestyle is the biggest and most popular stream in kitesurfing at the moment, and freestylers likes to look good for pictures and videos.

So to make it short. It would be nice to be careful to what you say when you start being intolerant with other people sharing the same activity than you. I'm not sure you'd love reading about the "helmet-board-leash-integral-wetsuit-and-shoes-and-gloves-and-silly-looking-race-position-just-to-zip-up-and-down-the-water-all-day-long type" if you read through about kite on random site on the internet.

Sorry for my bad english.

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2011-10-24

Do you wear knee pads on top of your wetsuit? I've worn through the knees of a few wetsuits from kneeling the sand setting up gear.

Protect the wetsuit when you sit in the sand? What are you doing sitting in the sand? Hit the water!

Have you made any of your own kiting gear? I'd love to see how you've made your stuff.

author
Cjbrodhead made it!(author)2011-09-20

Hey Eric! Love the site! Could def spend all day on it. I also build kiteboards and have been doing it for a couple years now. I even just wrote an ebook on how to do it. You can check it out here if your interested Kiteboardyoubuild.com
I do things a bit different than you do but definitely enjoyed reading your method.

How much do your boards weigh? We figured out a way to make ours weigh 8 lbs with straps and fins. Pretty psyched haha

Thanks again for the info and the site.

Cheers

author
xaborus made it!(author)2011-07-05

Wow im so glad you made this instructable! There is nothing to do in my town, and as a teenager im bored out of my mind. Thankfully there is a local lake, and my dad has always been a DIY guy so he already has power kites! Anyway, could you use Adidas Sandals as foot straps? Sorry if this sounds stupid as im a total newbie, but Adidas Sandals look perfect to use as straps.

author
CyborgDroid made it!(author)2011-08-03

I think you need something stronger. If they are the plastic/rubber kind of adidas sandals then they would rip fairly quickly and ungluing them form the board is not going to be fun. You need something out of thick nylon. Maybe a piece of seatbelt from a junkyard wrapped in some more comfortable material, and while you are at the junk yard grab an old style door handle to use as a kite handle (if you want a kite handle, its really not necessary).

author
Rossiroller made it!(author)2009-01-26

So is the epoxy structural at all, or just for sealing the wood?

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2009-01-28

Just for sealing the wood, especially since you can build a plywood board without any fiberglass.

author
iminthebathroom made it!(author)2011-06-30

couldn't you just use polyester resin instead of epoxy? if its just to seal it...

author
alexh934 made it!(author)2010-07-15

I hate to be a nazi about this, but an oval is a three dimensional shape akin to an egg. An "ellipse" is the shape you were thinking of.

author
Vermin made it!(author)2011-06-29

Nope. An oval is two dimensional too. I just looked up some definitions to make sure.

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theguy made it!(author)2006-04-09

what do you do when your too high like that???

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ghrrom made it!(author)2008-02-05

I'd expect he'd let go and fall into the water.....

author
qualia made it!(author)2011-02-11

yes. just let go of the bar and just unstrap your harness and watch your kite fly away.. bet you're pro.

author
evandercrowe made it!(author)2010-10-24

Reading down the page about some of the ply boards breaking. What's the breakage rate? It would not be unrealistic to find an older board at a swap for around $100. That would give a newbie a good template. If you want to cover a range of wind conditions you need a range of boards and kites. $200 seems to be the going rate for lessons.

author
Hawk9 made it!(author)2010-10-14

Where can you get foot straps

author
dd1orc made it!(author)2010-06-04

Where did you get the plywood ?

author
lurch888 made it!(author)2010-01-22

 Hi do you need to put fins under the board.

author
lothoth made it!(author)2009-10-07

Hi Eric, thanks for this Instructable. I'm starting kitesurfing and I was not sure making my own board, but now i'm going to try it. I live in Uruguay and I can't get the 3/8" plywood, only the 1/2". Also a local suplyer told me that for a board like that I'm going to need more than 1kilo of epoxy, I hope he is wrong.

Thanks

author
poeth made it!(author)2009-09-18

This is really great! I'm just back from my holidays in southern France where I saw a lot of kite surfers. Now I was thinking about starting it, too. But - gosh - prices are high for all the stuff. Do you think it's ok for a kite surfing rookie to start with a home made plywood board and kite? What do you suggest to start with when it comes to the kite? I thought of sewing the 4.5m Trainer Kite first...

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2009-09-18

I learned on all homemade equipment. It was a blast!

author
poeth made it!(author)2009-09-19

Thanks! That's great news... Is there something like a "rookie shape" for starting? And again: which size should I sew first for a kite? The trainig kite or is there something like an allrounder size? Best regards --poeth

author
woodyhardon made it!(author)2007-10-09

go to a cabinet shop and buy a section of dupont Corian countertop. For the 'bindings' just place a strong pair of nylon strap type sandals and SHOE GOO(yes...shoe goo)them in place. weigh them in place while drying. Corian is nearly indestructable, smoother..needs no epoxy. No holes needed(unless for aleash). I lost a home made nylon with steel weights shoe gooed to the belt, for TWO YEARS in a local lake. I found it this summer and the weights were/are STILL tight on the belt!!! Shoe goo kicks duct tapes a** for bing the best 'must have'. These materials will cost a bit more...but is much less wrok intensive and a stronger result.

author
atbb made it!(author)2009-09-18

Did you put any rocker or concave in the Corian board. If so what method did you use.

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ewilhelm made it!(author)2007-10-12

How heavy would a Corian board be?

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dmac23 made it!(author)2009-01-19

I am making a plywood board. I have heard that one of the weaknesses is water getting into the board under the epoxy and delaminating the plywood. so I am trying to figure out a way to put the t-nuts and fins in so that water does not seep into the board at that point. I want to be able to take the fins off again later if the board breaks - so I don't want to epoxy the bolt heads in. does anyone have any suggestions or thoughts?

author
snotty made it!(author)2009-06-11

For attaching your straps and fins you may want to try something like surfboard fin plugs: http://neilsonsurfboards.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/new-fcs-fusion-fin-plugs/

I suspect these would be less likely to delaminate and leak as opposed to metal t-nuts. They may not be strong enough to hold foot straps but try it and see.

Also they may give your cool projects that pro look.

fcs_fusion.jpgPV-plug.gif
author
flywoodkb made it!(author)2009-09-13

One problem with inserts is that they are usually (maybe always) too deep for the 3/8" thick birch plywood.

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ewilhelm made it!(author)2009-01-19

Once you install the t-nuts, goop epoxy all over them, let it cure, and then clean out the threads with a tap.

author
dmac23 made it!(author)2009-01-20

thanks for getting back to me! dumb question, but what is a tap? (this is my first time working with fibre glass so...). as for the fins, I thought that I would drill the holes a little bigger than the fin bolts, fill in the holes with epoxy, let it cure, and then drill the holes again a little smaller to the proper size of the fin bolts - this way the holes would be lined with epoxy. is that a decent method for the fin holes?

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2009-01-21

A tap is a tool used to cut threads. As I've suggested, you would actually be using it to clean epoxy out of the threads of a T-nut. Your idea for the fin holes is exactly what I would do.

author
dmac23 made it!(author)2009-01-22

thanks so much for your help i really appreciate it! this is indeed a very useful forum.

author
sinkpen made it!(author)2009-09-08

Thanks Ewilhelm for sharing. I am absolutely inspired!!! :)

author
barnes made it!(author)2009-09-05

I have to say, the Zero Prestige docs have inspired me quite a bit. I built my plywood board awhile back, simple, floaty plank of wood. Took it out with a friend of mine, who was riding a $700 Flydoor. We rode for a bit, then swapped boards. Needless to say, I walked away rather proud of my board. Then...it was lost in North Philadelphia...long story short, it was left out leaning aganist a fence, and has never been seen again. Hopefully someone found a good use for it. I was given a Litewave board, but I miss the plywood. I'm in the works of starting a kiteboarding team at Drexel University, and I will no doubt be making plywood boards as the club boards. So, thank you for this...this will always be my favorite instructable, considering I loved it before instructables even existed. ...also, anyone looking to get into kiteboarding, do it. Its the most incredible sport that will take you to some amazing places. Take a lesson, and make friends who will help you out!

author
ewilhelm made it!(author)2009-09-06

It's awesome that you're starting a team. Where around Philadelphia do you go?

author
barnes made it!(author)2009-09-06

I usually make the trek to New Jersey and Delaware beaches, but considering Drexel's sailing team sails from a yacht club on the Delaware, I'm going to see if I can ride there, and steal a ride from them.

Theres also Lake Nockmixon and Lake Wallenpaupak not far. Wallenpaupak is the location of the ice boating speed record too, its a great snow kiting spot.

On top of that, there is an old air field that was converted into a community park in the suburbs. A quarter mile stretch of paved runway, littered with cement blockades to keep cars away. Makes for a fun weaving between them on a longboard and a tiny kite. Looks like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rybarnes/1373122316/in/set-72157601995718033/

Not the best water locations around Philly, so we will end up being a mostly land and snow kiting team, considering our school year runs through the winter.

author
kenbob made it!(author)2009-09-05

I so have to try this sport.

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mbudde made it!(author)2008-11-29

I've always wanted to learn how to kiteboard, but I'm too cheap to pay $300 for lessons, and I don't know anyone that will teach me for free. It looks really fun though.

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aplauche made it!(author)2009-06-18

do not try to teach yourself. it is a very dangerous sport without proper instruction, you have to know what your doing. i highly recommend just saving up for lessons. its MUCH safer and your learning curve will be shortened by A LOT

author
mbudde made it!(author)2009-06-20

whats a reasonable price for kiteboarding lessons anyway?

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Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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