A SnowSurf Board is a highly functional work of art..
Have you ever tried surfing on snow?...
Step 1: Free the Feet & the Mind Will Follow !
Snow surfing- that is to say, riding a board without bindings down a hill or mountain covered with snow- has been around since the very beginnings of snowboarding itself, quietly living in the shadow of the more widely known and commercially-driven snowboard-with-bindings paradigm
Recently, snow surfing— also known as “no-boarding” (as in ‘no bindings’), “pow surfing” (as in ‘powder snow’, a necessary ingredient for the effective functioning of the board’s ability to surf the snow), and in Japan, “yuki-ita”, meaning literally ‘snow-board’ —has been gaining popularity throughout the world. It seems to appeal especially to those who like to take a more simplistic and closer-to-the-essential nature approach to things. Most ski resorts do not allow these kind of boards, so it usually means hiking up a hill or into the backcountry mountains to ride, an experience that only brings oneself again closer to nature and the natural condition of things. And there is no specialized gear necessary to ride one of these boards – not even snowboard boots; simple snow boots will work just fine.
It’s difficult, if not impossible to adequately describe the feeling that comes from simply standing freely on a plank of wood and allowing gravity to pull you down a hill covered with fresh powder snow. Throw in factors like momentum, inertia, hydrodynamics, g-force, weightlessness, and precision control, and it can become a mind blowing experience!
Although there are high quality bindingless Snowsurf boards available commercially, some with highly sophisticated 3D designs, it is possible and not difficult to make your own board with basic materials from a hardware store for very little cost, using simple tools. And not only is it a fairly simple process to make a board, but the board can be highly functional, allowing for a high degree of control while riding, and a ton of fun!
It’s the kind of back-to-basics fun that can remind oneself of the simple joys in life, like being a kid again and feeling the amazement of snowboarding or surfing for the first time.
This instructable will take you through the steps involved for making two different versions of a snowsurf board. The methods presented here demonstrate just a few of many methods that can be used. I hope you find this instructable useful and enjoyable!
Step 2: What Shape Do You Like? ..a Word on Design
A couple of years ago I posted an instructable which was also about making a Snowsurf board, but that board was more of a humor piece to test pushing the limits of shape and usable design. The board was affectionately known as ‘Jugon’ (Japanese for ‘manatee’) and provided a lot of laughs.. That project can be seen here and may provide additional information on methods and designs.
Since then the crafting of the boards has been more focused on the functionality of design, with consideration given as well to aesthetics and appearance. The way a board will perform depends on a few elements of the design. Without getting too technical, it’s the
•board profile (for example: the rise in the board’s front end which allows it to plane over the snow)
which will primarily determine the riding characteristics of the board. These design inputs can be based on your own personal riding style, or could be the desired character you would like the board to have. (There are other design factors which also influence the way the board rides and these will be discussed later in the descriptions of shaping the boards for those interested in a more in-depth look at how board design influences the riding characteristics of a board.). The pictures illustrate some of the varieties of outline shapes and board profiles, which will influence how the board rides. For example:
Do you want the board to be quick turning, slashy, and loose in the tail? Or would you rather the board is more of a cruiser, keeping a stable and steady feel at higher speeds? Or perhaps somewhere in between? These are some of the riding characteristics that can be designed into the board’s shape. It can be a lot of fun to experiment and very satisfying to conceptualize a design, shape it into a tangible form, and then ride it down the mountain! -And all from a relatively simple piece of wood!
The two boards featured in this instructable each used different source materials and each has distinct riding characteristics, similar to the different styles described above. Before going into the methods for making, here is a little more about the boards shown here.
...there is “Schwifty” and there is “Drifty”. (Don’t be surprised if you also give names to your boards!)
Step 3: Meet Drifty & Schwifty
These are the two boards used here to demonstrate how to make your own Snowsurf board.
Schwifty is based on the outline shape of a commercially produced snowboard that I ride; a very surfy, playful, slashy and quick turning powder-shape snowboard. This DIY Powder Surfer was crafted from a piece of construction grade plywood that I bought at the hardware store for about $16. The plywood comes from the factory with a durable enamel weatherproofing coating on one side, making it ideal for this project. But because the plywood is flat, this board needed to be given a profile to make it functional on snow.
Drifty is a shape inspired by a snowboard I’ve never ridden (the commercially produced board is too small for me) but have long admired the shape of. This PowSurfer was designed to be mellow & cruizy, and stable at high speeds while making big turns in wide open spaces. Drifty was shaped from a ‘blank’ , a rectangular sheet of plywood that has been pre-formed in a press to give it a specific board profile. The blank was made by a local Japanese snowsurf outfit that sustainably sources its own trees, mills it’s own timber and produces high quality blanks for the growing number of Snowsurf fanatics out there.. like me!
I hope to someday make a press to produce my own pre-formed blanks, and will be sure to make an Instructable about it when I do!
Although the starting materials for these two boards is somewhat different, the shaping and crafting process is largely the same, and the end result is the same- a board that allows you to surf in the snow!
#meme photo credit: Rick & Morty show, Adult Swim.
Step 4: Tools & Materials for This Project
Measuring tape, pencils, markers, eraser
Eye protection, and ear protection if needed
Jigsaw with blades for wood
Breathing protection for sanding & painting
Wood rasp/ files, sandpaper- coarse to very fine grit
Power sander if desired
Drill and drill bits, 6 & 10mm, others if desired
Plywood (here- 15mm thickness)
Wood dowel (6mm diameter, or other sizes if desired)
Small fine toothed hand saw for cutting dowels
Basic woodcarving tools, if desired
Small mallet/ hammer
Wood glue, preferably waterproof
Wood sealant/ urethane
Leash anchor: 5- 6mm cord
Leash: Nylon webbing/ thicker rope, about 2meters, with 2 strong carabiners
Step 5: Considerations on Size & Shape
My first forays into coming up with board designs brought some challenges.
Like, hmmmmmmmm.. how do I do this?!
There is a lot that could be said about board design shapes and how differently they ride but I won’t spend much time with that here because there’s a lot information available on the internet regarding shapes, sizes, and specs for tried and trusted Snowsurf board designs. But one thing that is generally held to be true that may be helpful here is that for boards like this, ridden in deep and powder snow with no bindings, much of the board’s riding characteristics will come from the shape of the tail.
While deciding on the outline shape was relatively easy, what was more difficult was deciding on the size. I struggled a bit, actually a lot, with the question: ‘How big to make the board?’ I knew snowsurf boards are typically smaller than their binding-clad counterparts, but how much smaller? What’s an ideal length and width?
Board sizes, while often generalized in the factory-produced snowboarding world, don’t necessarily match up with everyone’s body size and proportions.
For example, it wasn’t until I placed the prospective board sketches on the floor and actually stood on it, 193cm tall in size 12 snowboard boots positioned in my riding stance, that the proportions for a board became much more clear. Of course, it might seem obvious that a smaller board will be better for a smaller rider and the same holds true for a larger rider, but this is a great opportunity to make the board a customized fit to get the most out of the potential of the board and the riding experience.
In the end, Schwifty had an overall length of 158cm and Drifty came in at 150cm. The width of both boards was based upon my boot size. Already in the works are boards of longer lengths as well as shorter lengths for smaller riders and kids.
Step 6: Putting the Shape Onto the Blank
Getting the outline shape translated onto the wood blank- whether it’s plywood from the hardware store or a preformed sheet- is an important first step.
With the shape accurately marked on the blank, you can cut it out with confidence. Marking a center line on the blank can be very helpful in getting it right, by providing a reference for measuring distances from the boards center. Various methods can be used for tracing the desired outline shape onto the blank.
•For Schwifty I used all kinds of stuff to trace out a shape: From using other snowboards to mark the side-cut of the board (the hourglass shaped section between the nose and tail of the board) To using such things as kitchen serving bowls and other curvy shaped items to outline the various curves and transitions found on the nose and tail of the board. While the shape came from a quite freeform and creative place, still I measured carefully to be sure the board was centered and symmetrical. (If it’s, in fact, a symmetrical shape you’re after..)
•For Drifty I used templates provided by the workshop I attended for making the board. These templates made it much easier to get the desired shape right the first time, without a lot of erasing and re-tracing. Templates are relatively simple to make if you desire this approach. They can be made from cardboard, and have the advantage of providing a reliably symmetrical shape more easily: After tracing a line on one side of the board, simply flip the template over the center line to trace the mirror image on the other side of the board. And they can be used again and again to make more boards if you like the shape.
So, with all the lines checked and double-checked and triple-checked for accuracy and symmetry, It was time for...
Step 7: Bringing the Shape Out of the Blank
Cutting the outline was done using a jigsaw with good quality blades for cutting wood.
While a finer toothed blade makes for a smoother edge, it is not necessary because the board will be hand shaped to finish it. Also, a rough cut blade is faster and doesn’t wear out as quickly.
Using a jigsaw can be intimidating, but by allowing the saw to move smoothly and steadily at its own pace, the cuts are smooth and without difficulty. I recommend cutting just outside of the line, to allow space for the board to be shaped by hand, and to avoid accidentally cutting into the wrong side of the line, which can really make the heart sink and make for a lot more work to correct the overall shape of the board!
Tight curves, for example, if the board has a swallow-tail or fish-tail can be a little tricky, but a slow and steady saw will bring the best results.
Now that the board is cut out, this is the fork in the road where Drifty and Schwifty take separate paths to meet up again later..
While Drifty is ready for final shaping, Schwifty still needs an important element to make it an effective snow slider: It needs a rocker profile.
Step 8: Schwifty Gets Rockered
Since the beginning of the invention of the ski, which far outdates the snowboard, at least by most historical accounts, the ski has had a design element giving it a distinct advantage over a flat plank when it comes to sliding over snow: a turned up nose, or rocker. And the same is true for snowboards. This is easy to take for granted in these modern times when examples of this innovation can be found on old skis piled up at thrift stores, but it becomes an important issue when making a homemade snow surfer.
So, how to give a sheet of plywood manufactured to be perfectly flat some permanent rocker? There’s probably a number of ways to accomplish this, but what seemed most accessible and simple to me is to soak the wood in water and then lock it into a rockered shape, allowing the water to completely dry and hoping for the best. So after soaking overnight in the tub, locking it into shape, and letting the wood dry for seven days, much to my delight- and surprise- it worked!
In future projects using the same method, I may try putting the rocker into the board before cutting out the outline shape, to see if it gives me more control over the final outcome of the profile design.
Now, with a board profile in place, it’s time for the final shaping.
Step 9: Shaping: Revealing the Diamond in the Rough
This part of the making process is perhaps my favorite..
There is something about shaping a board by hand that is indescribably satisfying. Watching as the board takes a more refined and beautiful shape right before one’s eyes, with each passing stroke of the hands removing ever so finer layers and particles of dust to reveal elegant nature-inspired lines and sultry curves, and at last the appearance of the unimaginable shape of the board imagined by the mind’s eye...
But before that can happen, still need to give it a rough shaping using rasps, files, and coarse grit sandpaper.. And for those with an interest, there is something to consider about some other more subtle aspects of the board’s shape.
As mentioned before, there are other factors besides the board’s outline shape, profile, and size that influence it’s riding characteristics. In particular, these are the shape of the board’s edges, and the shape or contours on the bottom of the board. Examples of these can be seen in the pictures.
The noses of both boards have been given special attention to shape, as the nose of the board determines how the board plows over and through the snow.
•Schwifty has been given a nose bottom shape similar to that of a boat hull, for the purpose of using a similar principle of hydrodynamics to create lift and a smooth flow of movement, while remaining playful and quick turning.
•Drifty, a shorter board, has a broader and more square shaped nose to give it more surface area for planing over the snow to provide lift. Also, the thickness of the nose section has been reduced considerably to make it lighter in the front both to counterbalance the board to keep the tail sunk with the nose above snow, and to reduce the board’s swing weight to make it more nimble. The nose then transitions into the waist.
•The ‘waist’, of both boards has the edges kept squared off, sometimes to the point of near sharpness, to support responsiveness and crisp edge control on this part of the board. The waist transitions into the tail.
• And the tail of each board has distinctly different shape characteristics giving each of the boards a more distinctive riding characteristic and feel. The tail of a snowsurf board has special significance in that much of the riding dynamic takes place on the tail, similar to the physics found in riding a surfboard in the water.
—Schwifty has a more tapered sort of modified diamond tail shape to give it a loose and playful yet still precise feel and the edges have been rounded up considerably to make it even looser and more slashy.
—Drifty, on the other hand, has a less tapered crescent moon shape tail to give it a longer effective edge and more stability, since it has a shorter overall length. The crescent moon shape also allows the tail to sink more easily in the snow, keeping the nose of the board up and planing over the snow. The tail edges have been left fairly squared off to lend further to its stability, and additionally, channels have been carved into the bottom along the edges to greatly increase its tail stability and ability to track in a straight line. These two boards ride very differently!
The shaping process can be simple or extensive, depending on your interest. As the shaping progresses from rough to more and more refined, the board in it’s finished form begins to emerge, smoother and with more nuanced subtlety! A thing of true beauty revealed from a chunk of wood!
As the final outline shape approaches, I like to do more and more of the sanding by hand, especially the shape of the edges. While a power sander such as an orbital sander can be very useful for sanding out the rough shape, removing larger amounts of wood and doing the finish sanding on the large surface areas, I still prefer doing the edge finish sanding by hand. A power sander is a highly efficient tool, but can also lead to time consuming mistakes by taking off too much material in delicately refined places— removing excess wood is not difficult, but putting wood back on is not so easy!
Now that the board is in its finished shape, there’s one more important thing to consider: How do you keep your feet from slipping off the board while flying through the snow?
Step 10: Footloose and Fancy Free
So now that the board has emerged in its desired shape, the topsheet will need something to assist with traction to keep the board from slipping out from beneath your feet while riding.
There are several different ways this can be done, such as mixing coarse sand with paint and applying it to the top sheet, or using adhesive foam or stomp pads made for surfboards. The way it has been done here is to fix wooden pegs into the board to create a grippy surface that is effective even if the board becomes covered with snow.
This was done by first using graph paper to lay out the pattern, then using a sharp piercing tool to mark the locations on the board, keeping in mind that there will be two additional holes drilled through the board to secure a leash anchor and allowing for this location (Shown in the next step).
The drill bit is marked with tape so as to get the correct depth of the holes. These boards are about 15mm thick, so I drilled to a depth of about 6-7mm to get a secure footing.
I made a simple cutting guide to easily cut the dowel off at a uniform height to create an even textured pattern. This was a small piece of plywood with a hole drilled through it and the same thickness as the desired length of the peg to be left sticking out of the board (as shown in the pictures). Generally I left 5mm of the dowel sticking out to form the traction pad.
Then, using a little glue to make a more permanent bond , I tapped the dowel in using a small mallet, then used the cutting guide and a fine-tooth saw to cut it off at the proper height.
For Schwifty, I took a very straightforward approach, using a simple grid pattern made with 6mm diameter dowel, left sticking out 5mm .
For Drifty, I wanted to make it more elaborate and decorative, so I did more complex geometric patterns using several different diameters of dowel, such as 6, 8, and 10 mm. Additionally, I wanted to build in some canting (areas of greater thickness to change the contact angle of the foot to the board) so the amount of dowel left sticking out ranged from 5 mm to 8mm, as shown in the pictures.
This style of traction pads worked very well, keeping the board feeling a very solid and dependable connection underfoot. Only very occasionally did I need to replace a peg that got knocked out on Schwifty, and because I got a bit carried away with the elaborate design patterns on Drifty, it did not shed snow as well due to placing the pegs a little too close together.
All in all, I liked the results, and will be using this method again for it it’s effectiveness, simplicity, and appearance.
Step 11: Free to Fly.. With Safety in Mind
There is nothing keeping you physically or mechanically stuck to the board- but only the dynamics of nature. This allows for a tremendous sense of freedom. But as someone wiser than myself once said “with great freedom comes great responsibility.“ or something like that.
So using a leash is not a bad idea. It’s not difficult, even for an experienced rider, for the board to get away from you. A leash prevents the board from getting too far, like all the way down the mountain, or into a tree, or even worse, into another person. In order to make it easy to connect a leash to the board, there is a leash anchor built into the board.
As shown in the pictures, this is accomplished simply by drilling two small holes completely through the board (6mm) then on the bottom side of the board, drilling the same holes to a larger diameter (10mm) and limited depth. A piece of strong cord (5-6mm thick) can then be fed through the holes, leaving a loop on the top side of the board. The ends of the cord on the bottom side of the board are then tied into knots, and securely pulled in, countersunk or flush with the bottom of the board (Diagram shown in the photos).
**It’s recommended to paint the board or apply weatherseal & you may want to wait until after you do so to fasten the leash anchor cord to the board.
There’s no rules as to where to put the leash anchor. Most people put it on the tail of the board, or sometimes between the feet in the middle of the board if they like to do tricks. Anywhere it is going to allow you the most freedom of movement, and get in the way the least is a suitable placement.
The leash itself can be made from a strong nylon cord or nylon webbing, with strong carabiners on the ends for convenience. The length of the leash should be neither too short north too long, Roughly the same length as your own height will probably be adequate for most people. Most of the time the leash is attached to a secure spot near the hip of their back leg, such as to a belt or backpack or a very strong belt loop that will not pull out, but again this is open to interpretation.
Step 12: Protection From the Elements & Graphic Design
Though I did not do any graphic art designs on these boards, many people are including graphic designs to display artwork on their boards. There are many beautiful examples of boards with graphic art designs out there; from painting to silkscreen to relief woodcarved designs, which can add another whole dimension of beauty to the boards.
The last thing left to do to finish the board is to give it a weatherseal to keep the wood from being exposed to too much water. I used a water-based urethane stain in about four or five coats and that seemed to do the trick. The base of Schwifty already had a durable factory enamel coating so it didn’t need any additional painting or sanding in that area. For Drifty’s base, a light finish sanding with very fine sandpaper, such as 1000 grit, after painting made it super smooth and slide more easily over the snow. With this done, the board is ready to ride! ..and can double as a decorative piece of art if you like, too...
Step 13: Riding the Waves
Riding one of these boards for the first time can be a little tricky- and it can also be a life changing experience. It’s not for no reason that people find surfing so highly compelling, if not addictive. It is very similar with snow surfing.
Those familiar with surfing or skateboarding or snowboarding will likely have a sense already of the dynamics involved with riding one of these boards. For first time riders it can go a long way to simply stay relaxed and try to keep a lower center of gravity by bending the knees- and have fun! There are many tips and pointers available online for surfing and snowboarding, many of which will also apply to this activity. Like surfing or other similar sports, ones ability increases with frequency, that is, the more often you do it, the more quickly your abilities improve.
Boards such as these will perform best in deeper amounts of light powder snow. However, depending on conditions, 10 cm of snow may be enough, and heavier snow can still be workable. What they don’t work well for is hard pack or crusty or icy conditions.
There is a lot of simple pleasure to be found with boards like this – no need to buy lift tickets at a ski resort, or any specialized gear; a regular pair of snow boots will work just fine. It’s great exercise and a wonderful way to spend time in nature and with friends.
And if by chance you don’t really like the way the board rides and want to modify the shape by removing material, that can be done too. Which brings us to the next and final point.…
Step 14: What About Jugon?
“Jugon” (Japanese for ‘manatee’), the big ridiculous original board mentioned in the introduction, spent a few leisurely years as a Wallflower, and the butt of an occasional joke. But it was time for Jugon to undergo a transformation– and a transition back into the action of the snow mountains!
So Jugon got a re-shaping... and arising from the ashes of Jugon.... is Phoenix.
A longer and more voluminous board with a modified fish tail to continue exploring and developing Snowsurf Designs.
...To be completed this summer and test ridden as soon as there’s enough snow on the hill !
Best wishes making your own Snowsurf board and having the thrill of riding it for the first time.. or many times!
I hope you enjoyed this instructable, and that you are able to make one of your own and enjoy the satisfaction of riding it! Please feel free to post any questions or comments you might have and please share with the instructables community if you make a SnowSurf Board of your own !
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