Introduction: Rail-to-Rail Balance Board
Rail-to-rail balance boards have a long roller that goes down the length of the board, which more accurately simulates a surfboard trimming across a wave face. I made one when, after a decade+ of surfing I decided it was time to learn to longboard—this balance board definitely improved my cross-stepping. I've also used it to work on surfing goofy-stance. I don't stand-up paddleboard, but I imagine it would also help SUP too.
Similar boards are sold by the brands Goofboard and Revolution Swell, but you can make your own for a few bucks.
Step 1: Materials
- 3 feet of 3" PVC pipe
- Plywood at least 45x15", 5/8" or 3/4" thickness (Consider a 4' x 2' handy panel?)
- 12" of small wood blocking? (optional)
Roller: You want the roller to be between 3-4" in diameter. PVC is measured by the inner diameter, so 3" PVC has approximately a 3.5" outer diameter. That works! Much taller than about 4" is scary. Much smaller than 3" and you risk hitting the edges of the board on the floor while you're riding. Another roller option is, fiberglass cloth comes on these thick-walled cardboard tubes about 3" in diameter...that will work, although I don't think it will last as long as PVC.
Plywood: Mine is 5/8" thick, which works well for me and every other adult who has tried it. In a pinch, you may get by with 1/2", because the roller runs lengthwise and the board is 15" wide, there's not a long span for the plywood to flex over. Otherwise, upgrade to 3/4" and you will definitely be fine.
Update: user Brunswick27 made one and said, "I used 12mm [~1/2"] plywood... It is OK with the roller lengthways, but I would definitely use thicker wood if making again." You can see their full comment below with more helpful tips, thank you!
Blocking: I used poplar scraps. You could use offcuts from your plywood, or a short length of 1x2.
Step 2: Cut Out the Board
I've drawn five surf-inspired templates to help you shape the board. Pick your favorite or create your own. The dimensions of all the templates are 45"x15"
I've created them as "spin templates" which combine the nose and tail outlines into one template that's 1/4 the size of your finished board, which saves paper and ensures everything is symmetrical. I'll describe the process of using them below, but the first step is to print them out. Download the PDF and print it 100% on three sheets of paper, use the registration dots to align and tape them together. A large window or sliding glass door can help you align the pieces. Then cut along the red and blue lines.
Once your template is cut, follow the steps below, which I illustrated both on the spin templates themselves and above.
- All the templates fit within a 45"x15" perimeter. Draw a rectangle of those dimensions on your plywood, and also draw a longitudinal and vertical center line. The longitudinal centerline is referred to as "CL" in the drawings, and is also called the stringer line in surfing lingo
- The blue line on the spin template represents the outline from the midpoint to the nose, and the red is the outline from the midpoint to the tail. Align the nose stringer point with the CL on one side of your drawing, and the nose widepoint with the outer perimeter. For all shapes without swallowtails, this will hit the vertical center line, for the swallow-tailed Fish and MPH shapes it will hit the perimeter slightly forward of the vertical center line—don't sweat it. Trace the nose outline.
- Flip the template over the CL, aligning the stringer point on the nose, and the widepoint with the outer perimeter on the other side. Trace that. You're halfway done.
- Slide the template diagonally across the board, aligning the tail widepoint with the outer perimeter and the tail stringer point on the CL. (If making a swallow-tailed board, be careful not to go beyond the 45" length, the swallowtail means your "tail at stringer" point will hit the stringer forward of the finished length of the outline.) Trace.
- Flip over the CL, align, trace the final shape. Done!
Cut the outline with a jigsaw, stay a bit outside the line, then sand down to the line. When sanding, consider using a "fairing board" which is a piece of ~100 grit sandpaper glued to a thin, flexible piece of plywood, approximately 4" x 12" x 1/8". Using a fairing board will correct any wobbles in your outline and give you nice fair curves.
Step 3: Stop Blocks
You'll want to add some stopper blocks to keep the board from rolling completely off the roller. On my board I tried to get fancy and run these the length of the edges, which proved to be a waste of time and made the board harder to ride.* Instead, just add four small blocks to the bottom. Blocks should be approximately 3" long and 3/4" thick, maybe 3/4" wide. Emphasis on approximately. You could use scrap 1x2s, or offcuts from your plywood outline. Refer to the diagram and use your two center lines to mark out a rectangle about 11" wide, and 12" from the nose and tail. Place blocks outside this rectangle, glue and screw them on. Depending on the size of your blocks, you may need to cut them to prevent them from overlapping the outline.
* The stops on my board are right on the outer edge of the board, which I thought would look nice. It does, but it makes it hard to recover when the roller hits them, because by the time the roller hits them, there's very little board width to lever against. Put your blocks about 5.5 inches or so from the CL and that will make the board easier to recover. Have a look at the bottom of a Goofboard or Revolution Swell and you'll see their stopper blocks are inset a similar amount.
Step 4: Roller
Your roller should be 3-4" in diameter, at least 3' long. You want the roller to be shorter than the length of the board. If it's longer than the board, when you're hanging toes over the nose, you can run them over! I know first hand!
3" PVC pipe (3.5" outer diameter) works great. If you go much bigger it's scary; much smaller, then the board can hit the ground while you're riding. I had access to a wood lathe so I turned decorative caps to dress up the ends. Cute!
Commercially produced boards have some traction on the bottom of the board. I didn't add anything to the bottom of mine and I've never had the roller slip, but if you want to you could perhaps attach some strips of cork or rubber sheet with contact adhesive running side-to-sidebetween the stop blocks. My suggestion would be to try it without, and add them later if necessary. You could even try strips of cloth athletic tape, aka hockey tape, if you have some?
Step 5: Ride
To get started, it helps to have a chair nearby to hold onto. Don't put your feet straight down the middle like riding a skateboard or surfboard, that'll make it impossible to recover if you roll too far to one side. Instead put your back foot so your toe is touching the edge, and your front foot so your heel is on the edge.
To get on, I like to put my back foot on the board, toe near the edge, and position the roller under the arch of my back foot. I apply weight to my back foot until the board is about level. As I step on with my front foot, I'll angle the board so the roller is slowly working its way towards the middle as my back foot steps on. Hold onto a chair back until you get the hang of this.
Once you get the hang of balancing, try cross stepping. It feels very similar to a surfboard, but it's harder on this, so if you can get it wired on this thing, you'll be confident on your longboard. I've had no luck with spinners yet but have figured out switching from regular to goofy stance and back (that's half a spinner, right?).
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Question 2 years ago
Woooooooooooooowwww!!! Thai IS wanderful Project! I world like to modo Fy and create a new template. Wich software did you used ti create its?
Answer 2 years ago
Thanks! I drew the templates in either Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer I think, but any vector drawing application should do.
Question 3 years ago
The instructions are very nice and I love the project. Id like to do it! But Im from switzerland and I'm using other units than you. The 45x15 perimeter is that in inches??
Thank you very much!
Answer 3 years ago
Yes! The 45x15 perimeter is in inches, so that would be 114x38cm. My apologies for not including that in the instructions. On the PDF drawings themselves you’ll see a centimeter scale that you can use to ensure you’ve printed them out at the correct size. Good luck, and enjoy!
Reply 3 years ago
Ohh thank you soo much. Im so excited to do it! There is nothing to apologies, I`m happy that you helped me. Thank you so much !!
4 years ago
This looks like something I could add for my students to practice on. Thanks for the templates.
Reply 4 years ago
Totally. I'm not sure it really crosses over to shortboarding that much, but really thought it was helpful for longboard footwork.
4 years ago
Great instructable. The templates are ingenious!
7 years ago
Ah aH, So I printed at 130% and will try Thursday. 27 Degrees now and going down. Little chilly in the shop.
Reply 7 years ago
You might want to re-download the template, as I did update the templates and included a scale (in inches and cm) so that hopefully future printing mistakes can be caught/diagnosed. Thanks for the feedback!
7 years ago
Hello, I can not get the template up the size I need. Help, I have fallen and cannot get up!
Reply 7 years ago
Sorry to hear that! The templates are sized so that as long as you print out the PDF at 100% size, it will be right. Not sure what kind of computer you are using so I can't offer any specific advice, but the general idea is: in your print dialog there will be an option to scale the print; make sure that any scaling or "fit to paper" type options are *not* checked, and that it is printing out at "actual size" or 100% scale.
Remember that the spin-template is only 1/4 the size of the finished board, so by design the spin template will only be approximately 24" tip-to-tip.
I will add an inch and centimeter scale to the spin template graphics so that you can check to see that they've printed at the correct size
7 years ago
I will try use this to make a game controller with tilt sensors and joystick inputs
Reply 7 years ago