Plywood Kiteboard

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About: 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 understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Intro: 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."

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    101 Discussions

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    1gr81

    1 year ago

    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!!

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    1gr81

    1 year ago

    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. :)

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    Jeroen1519

    2 years ago

    Shouldn't you curve the board?

    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.

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    cmcqueen321

    4 years ago on Step 8

    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!

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    vlassadar

    4 years ago on Introduction

    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?

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    vlassadar

    4 years ago on Step 7

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

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    LaurensB

    4 years ago on Introduction

    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

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    GDADZGSONS

    5 years ago on Introduction

    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?

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    GDADZGSONS

    5 years ago on Step 2

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

    1 reply
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    ewilhelmGDADZGSONS

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 2

    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.

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    podrob

    6 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply
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    ewilhelmpodrob

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    Cjbrodhead

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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

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    xaborus

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply
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    CyborgDroidxaborus

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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).

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    ewilhelmRossiroller

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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

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    alexh934

    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.