The Plywood Surfski
- Length - 7'9" (2.3m)
- Weight - 25lbs (11.5kg)
- Single person up to 200lbs (90kg)
No ply joining
No strongback - self jigging
My favourite Boat Designer, Phil Bolger,
has a saying something like "there are two sorts
of good boat, ones you live aboard and ones that you stick
on the car roof to take home".
This might be an oversimplification, but it contains
more than a grain of truth.
I have taken it to heart with each of the boats that
I have built for myself, "Beth" the 16ft sailing
canoe that I can get off the car roof by myself was followed
by the Balsa Strip "Wee Lassie" canoe which
is 10 1/2' long and weighs in at 12 lbs. Then I designed
and built the Wooden Raceboard (racing windsurfer) that,
even though weighing in at a "hefty" 12kg (about
3/4 the weight of a carbon fibre production board of the
same era) was at least stackable!
To reduce size much beyond these limits starts to strain
the definition of what a boat is - is a surfboard a boat?
I suspect not - there is the question of using hands for
propulsion and the board not supporting the surfer's full
weight - both of which are quite unboatlike. Though I
did borrow this sailing dinghy once . . .
Move a size up to a surfski and I think you have a real
boat - most sizes keep you out of the water most of the
time and there is the possibility of moving moderate distances
at moderate speeds with the use of the paddle.
Surfskis come in two basic types. Long thin ones for
speed in open water and short ones for catching and maneuvering
on waves. I am interested in the short ones here.
These skis have become shorter in the search for tighter
turning while on a wave. Their thickness has increased
at the same time to retain flotation.
The curious thing is that for every ski I see being used
in the surf I see 10 being used on smoother waters. I
suspect people like their portability and the ease of
storage – easy to drop onto the roofracks and head
down to the water for a spontaneous paddle after work
or on the weekend.
Covering longer distances is just not the point –
the point is to clear the cobwebs and get cool.
The Ski shown here, the “Russki” is a relative
of my sailboard in shape but with a much simplified structure.
It has enough buoyancy to support a paddler of up to 200lbs
(90kg) with a good reserve.
The really high performance waveskis are usually a couple
of feet smaller for even better turning when surfing the
face of a wave – they can turn much tighter than
most of us would need when a good ride on a moderate sized
wave is the focus. The slightly greater length of the
Russki will paddle easier on flat water and provide a
good, fast ride on a wave.
The Russki comes out of a couple of sheets of ply –
(imperial 8ft x 4ft, 2440 x 1220mm) and is a suitable
project for a first time builder of teenager.
It requires no strongback (building support) as the hull
is self jigging. The hull has a minimised internal structure,
the seat is a block of foam set into the deck, carved
to hold you in place and then glassed over. My calculations
show the weight will come in at 11.5kg (25lb) built of
Gaboon ply and epoxy – comparable with production
Oh Yes, it is called the Russki after a former workmate
of mine. Russell is a sawyer, a big bloke with a beard
and tattoos and a couple of missing teeth (a hazard of
the trade). He also writes rather good poetry. It was
his idea, so Russell's Surfski – Russki.
Pictures courtesy of Big Bob.