I (almost) built a surfboard - some tips

I visited home for the holidays, and during that time I started making a surfboard. I didn’t get to finish before my flight back unfortunately, but I got pretty close. I need to apply a second hotcoat to fix up some contamination, and I need to install the plugs. But I think I learned a good deal and want to share some tips here.

I went to Greenlight Surf Supply for all the material. My dad luckily has pretty much every tool I would need for the process (power tools mostly just for building the stands, a random orbit sander for sanding the laps, levels and l-squares). In addition to the materials, I picked up one of Greenlight’s rail runners for shaping the outline and rails. I found this to be super helpful and would definitely recommend it to anyone that isn’t already using a planer.

Greenlight was super helpful. The guys talked to me and my dad for over an hour just giving us tips and swapping ideas. I’m lucky enough to live within driving distance of them, but I’m sure if you email them, you’ll also get a bunch of super helpful responses.

Some Tips

There’s a lot of info online. Between swaylocks and youtube you can probably make a pretty good board on your first go. However I had a few issues:

  1. there’s way too many different opinions out there, and it’s kind of overwhelming to decide which is the best way
  2. I honestly think a decent chunk of the stuff on swaylocks is illegible. It looks like several old posts got corrupted and lost their images, so no diagrams makes it tough, and so many posts are inscrutable and just sometimes incoherent
  3. there were a few things I encountered on-the-fly that I wouldn’t have thought to worry about before, and that I didn’t see in my online browsing

So I tried to collect a few things that I didn’t find easily online into a more coherent set of notes. This post is definitely not meant to be a remotely comprehensive set of knowledge, but just trying to fill what I saw as gaps in the info easily available online.

Field Notes


  • I found cutting the outline before foiling the thickness to be good because I thought I was more likely to accidentally gouge the deck/bottom when outlining than I was to damage the rails when foiling
  • If you’re going to print out a template on several pages and line them up, make sure your printer settings are set to “actual size” instead of e.g “fitted”, otherwise you’ll end up with a smaller template
  • To line up the pages for a printed template, you can stick a light behind the paper
  • Surform blades require pressure to work well, you can’t just rake it gently across the foam
  • The foam (EPS) was way more dingable than I thought. I put gouges and dents in it with my versa square and 2x4 sanding block accidentally a few times when I wasn’t paying attention
  • I struggled to find straight answers on rails online. If you’re trying to mimic a board, ideally try to get the rail contours ahead of time, otherwise I kind of just decided what I wanted and then used Greenlight’s chart
  • I got distracted/too into the monotony when sanding down the rails and I sanded down too much. This is basically an unfixable mistake unless I’m willing to change the outline of the board, so pay attention when you’re doing everything


  • Make a checklist of steps before you mix the resin because once you do, the timer starts for it to start hardening
    • I forgot to lay the cloth before mixing resin and that cost me some precious time so the resin was gummier than it should’ve been by the time I finished
    • I also forgot to make a tape line on my first glassing and that really sucked. I had to haphazardly apply one from below while the resin was setting in. I ended up getting a really ugly tint because of it
  • I found rice paper in the Asian food aisle at a grocery market and tried to use that for printing on a logo
    • Printing on it was somewhat difficult. I had to tape it to normal paper and then it consistently cracked when I ran it through the printer
    • The paper was textured and the texture definitely showed up in the lamination, and I’m a bit worried about delam now because of it
    • I also think the paper might’ve added some slight discoloration
    • Overall, I’d recommend not doing what I did
  • On both my top and bottom lams, I messed up the notches on the nose and tail and ended up with sizable wrinkles that just ended up giving me grief when sanding. I’d focus on getting these right (but I also found it hard to find good youtube videos for this)
  • I used a random orbit sander for sanding down the laps. Maybe I would’ve wanted something more precise, but I definitely would not want to do that manually with a sanding block
  • I used red sandpaper, and some of the color ended up on the second lap in a few spots. I hit them with more sanding it dulled to a neutral off-white
  • I didn’t appreciate how clean things are supposed to be for the hotcoat. Really take the time to clean the board, brush, and bucket
  • I got a bunch of pinholes in both my top and bottom hotcoats. It’s still not clear to me if it’s from dirt or a dry lamination, but try to avoid both of those
  • I tried damming the resin on my tail on the bottom hotcoat so I could sand down to a hard edge, but I had so much resin that it caused the tape to come off a bit and I ended up with big drips on the rail
  • I tried mixing my hotcoat in a solo cup and then I realized it was eating the plastic

Prep/gear for next time


  • A pencil instead of a sharpie, because even after sanding I had a bunch of sharpie residue in my foam and it came out ugly
  • Weight for keeping the board in place
  • Weights/coasters for keeping the stand still
  • A planer because sanding down the thickness manually was so absolutely dull


  • Long rubber gloves that cover my wrists, or a more seal tyvek suit because I got a decent amount of resi on my wrists each time I glassed
  • A real respirator just because health is important if you’re going to keep doing this
  • Kneepads, because I had to get low for saturating the laps and I can’t squat
  • Goggles that won’t fog with a mask because I came pretty close to getting resin in my face/eyes a couple times, but I couldn’t use goggles because they’d fog too much
  • More materials, like more buckets (clear so you can easily see the color), more squeegees, and more brushes
Written on January 4, 2020