Stand-up paddleboard building comes to Lake Tahoe
October 8, 2017
Within the last couple weeks, a group of five people have set out on the task of building their own stand-up paddleboards.
It's a process that is usually done by hobbyists on afternoons and weekends over a couple of months, but in a dimly lit garage at Granlibakken Tahoe, the Tahoe Maritime Center — Museum & Gardens has set up a workshop where the roughly 50-hour process for a first-time builder is being crammed into seven days of work.
The paddleboards arrived as kits from Chesapeake Light Craft, of Annapolis, Md., showing up more resembling pieces of a puzzle than parts for a stand-up paddleboard.
"The board is primarily made of okoume marine plywood," Larry Froley, owner of Gray Whale Paddle, said. "So you get a big long box, 8 feet long, flat, about 3 feet high. Basically you take all these long pieces and they have a puzzle joint cut in them, so they fit together and you don't have to align them."
Froley co-designed the kits with the owner of Chesapeake Light Craft roughly eight years ago, and has been instructing the board builders at Granlibakken during the week.
"Everything you need to put it together is (in the kit) except varnish or paint, because some people will actually paint part of the hull and maybe varnish the deck," Froley said. "You don't know what they are going to do, so we don't include that with the kit, but everything else you need to have a finished board is in the kit."
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The process of building the boards is long and, at times, tedious. The hull is wired together with copper, and then puttied on the inside by a paste made of wood flour and epoxy resin. Inside the boards is a grid of bulkheads and stringers, of which the deck will be glued. The whole thing is then sanded.
"We then basically have a solid structure," Froley said. "The outside is completely wrapped in fiberglass … then we'll roll on about three more coats of resin, and all that does is fill the weave of the fiberglass. Then we'll do a final sanding, and then varnished to finish it."
From there, deck pads and handles are put on as the builders add the final touches of what their board will ultimately look like.
"They're handmade by you," said Tahoe Maritime Center Museum Educator Danielle Rynning. "You can add your own personal touch in there. You can be creative — their tail blocks are all custom, and before they gloss the decks, they'll put down fabric if they want a pattern or something fancy or creative on the deck itself."
The boards are also somewhat unique with their shallow, twin fins; something Froley said is uncommon in most of today's stand-up paddleboards.
"(It) is unusual with the industry, mostly because the industry hasn't experimented that much," Froley said. "But I created these with twin fins that are shallow, so you can go through shallow water and off shore through kelp and things like that."
The end result, Froley said, is a board not much different in weight and performance than ones found at stores.
"If you took this same kind of board, a 14-foot touring, racing style of board, they paddle very similarity. I actually prefer this," Froley said. "In my business, I've been a dealer for a lot of companies for paddleboards, so I've paddled all kinds of boards, and they really aren't any different at all, and they weigh about the same."
Dave Smith, a part-time Tahoe resident, said he'd never ridden a stand-up paddleboard, yet was interested in the concept of building one.
"I've never paddleboarded in my life," Smith said. "I've always wanted to build boats … so, it's something I was interested in from a technical standpoint. But I also wanted to do the paddleboarding thing."
Smith, who heard about the program through his membership at the Tahoe Maritime Center, was working to get the deck of his board glued down.
"Whatever happened with the museum to bring this together, to me, is just a great thing," he said.
"There's a lot of people in the area here … that have a pure interest in seeing these kind of activities going on."
There are plans for the museum to continue programs like the one held a couple weeks ago, according to Rynning, most likely starting next spring.
"Nothing is set in stone yet, but we're definitely in the works for some more classes next season," she said. "The museum has held these classes in the past — a couple of years ago. So now, we're just trying to get them going again."
The best way to find out about upcoming classes is through TahoeMaritimeMuseum.org or through the museum's Facebook page — facebook.com/TahoeMaritimeMuseum/.
The kits can also be purchased separately to be done at home through clcboats.com.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun.