Friday, July 21, 2017

RIP Joe Larkin

Pioneer, innovator, beach inspector, surfer, board manufacturer, master craftsman, larger than life character, larrikin, legend, all of these titles describe Joe.

Born in Freshwater, Sydney in 1933 Joe had been around the ocean all his life.  Taught to body surf at a very early age by his father and an islander called Beau Sullivan, Joe graduated to surf boards at age nine when he was given a board by a Freshwater SLSC member who had been conscripted into the army and posted overseas. Joe recalled “It was this old solid wooden board and it took me and my mate half a day to drag it to the beach and half a day to drag it back”.

Apprenticed as a carpenter Joe started making his own 16ft hollow ply boards at age fifteen because he said “to buy one they cost about a pound ($2) a foot which was about three weeks wages at the time”. Regarded as one of the best surfers on the 16ft paddle boards in the early 1950s Joe was fortunate to be on the beach at Avalon in 1956 when the visiting American team staged a display of board riding on their 9/10 ft balsa boards. Joe said “It was as if someone had turned on the light and we realised what we had been missing. After we returned from the International carnival at Torquay I couldn’t make one quick enough”.

 As balsa was unavailable at the time he commenced making hollow ply versions of the American boards under his parents house. “We called them Okanui boards, don’t ask me why, it’s a Hawaiian name but I’ve no idea what it means”.  Later in the 50s he worked for both Gordon Woods and Barry Bennett, shaping both balsa and foam boards.

In 1958 American film maker Bud Browne introduced surf movies to Sydney audiences.  This prompted Joe to trade an 8mm movie camera that he had purchased for his time in New Guinea on a 16mm Bolex and telephoto lens, making him a pioneer of surf film making in the country.  Along with his mate Bob Evans they would shoot film, edit it on a little manual editing machine and show it in surf clubs with a recording of Wagners ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ blasting in the background and charge 2 shillings a head.  Some of the footage was sold to the ABC and used in the documentary ‘Bombora’ 40 years later. 

In 1962 Joe moved to Coolangatta and opened a factory in Miles Street Kirra leaving his movie equipment with Bob Evans who became famous for his surf movies and was founder of Surfing World magazine. Joe’s factory in Miles Street became the epicentre of surfing on the southern end of the coast in the 60s and 70s and the list of notable surfers who worked for and were mentored by Joe in that era reads like a who’s who of surfing.

In January of 1964 at the instigation of Bob Evans and the ASA, Joe along with 8 others formed the ASAQ with the sole purpose of holding a Queensland Championship to have state representatives at the Ampol sponsored World Titles in Sydney.  Joe was elected Queensland team manager and was appointed as one of the judges for the contest.

After closing his business Joe moved to Cabarita and managed the Hastings Point caravan park for 20 years. On retirement he could be found in his workshed making those fabulous 10ft hollow ply Okanui boards which were unique to Australia.

A great supporter of Surf World Gold Coast since its inception, Joe was elected Patron and has served in that position since its opening.

 In 2004 Joe was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in two categories for his contribution to Surfing and in 2012 was inducted into the Board Manufacturers Hall of Fame (USA).
He will be sadly missed -- RIP  Joe

These kind words are from Surf World Gold Coast

Monday, July 17, 2017

Flextail woody fish by Nathan Grey

Nathan Grey from Sydney is a great wood craftsman and experimenter and this is his latest project.
Vitals are : 5ft 10" x  20 1/4"  x 2 1/2", It has a subtle side cut in the tail out-line.
Build is Balsa-wood for the bottom and rails, and recycled western red cedar for the deck.
He used Carbon fibre and EVA foam for the flex-tail, and he made the fins from silky oak and birch-ply.
The bottom contours are a panel of V though the nose then it blends into a double barrel concave through the rest of the board.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Andy, the "Wood Sniffer".

You can spot a "wood sniffer” by the way their eyes light up when they spot a piece of timber. Their rough hands run tenderly along the fibres and you can see the satisfaction when they take a big ol’ whiff. They have a grounded passion and appreciation in the potential of transforming a lump of local wood into something special...
As a part of The Way It Should Be series, our latest film follows fifth generation wood sniffer, Andy Ceglinski from sawmill to surf.
Profiling people who've gravitated to the Northern Rivers for a more conscious lifestyle, the series tells the stories of locals and their connection to our community, the environment and their craft...
"It seemed like such a rewarding idea to be able to mill the wood and handcraft this board then surf it...It’s a combination of all the things I love."
Andy's sustainable approach is not to make a heap of surfboards to sell and pocket millions of dollars. He'd rather enjoy the experience of making a quality product, and he'd be stoked if he could after it all, make a humble living from it.
For us, Andy's story reminds us of our own. Many of our team, have chosen to move to the Northern Rivers for the life it offers, to work with purpose and be a part of this special community. This area has helped us bring to life our philosophies around what was great about village breweries, and what a conscious business should be.
“Like any good honourable business, we're trying to do good things for the community and for the environment."
Watch Andy's humbling story through his approach to doing business and how he sees his responsibility as a leader in the community.

And our great supporters of Wooden Surfboards

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Corky Demo report from James

"Inspired by the legend himself!
Whilst on a quick trip down the coast with my beautiful wife, we stopped in at Noosa Longboards.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the one and only Tom Wegener. He is an absolute legend and amazing shaper. He is such a humble and genuine bloke."
"Tom lent me one of his new "Corky" Alaias. This one was one of the early prototypes and had been rebuilt several times. The flex in this board was incredible! According to Tom this flex is what allows the board to really hold into the wave. I have built dozens of alaias and alia hybrids but surfing a truly finless board backside has been really challenging.

It just so happened that Granite's was pumping this day. There were probably 40 surfers out there and getting a wave was a bit of challenge.

I couldn't believe how easy these boards are to paddle!  After a long wait on the inside, I realised I'd have to take off right out at the heavier peak if I wanted to get a wave. Hesitantly I took off on my first wave and not surprisingly got worked. Determined to snag one of these near perfect waves, I paddled back out and took the next wave that came my way. I took off a little earlier, I set my line with my right hand dragging and I was blown away by the how well this board held in the pocket. The board flew down the line and I struggled to pull it back in as we raced out onto the shoulder."
"Three waves later I was totally hooked. I'm totally sold on the cork alaia concept. I'm also super excited to get back into building some more boards. Massive thanks to Tom! What a genius!"

James - Kiri Surf Craft

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Last wooden surfboard building class in Brisbane for 2017

Be a part of Brisbane’s last Hollow Wooden Surfboard Making Workshop for 2017!
In four days you will go home with your very own timber surfboard that you have made yourself!

September 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th 2017

Stuart will have all you need ready to build your own board.
You will be with other very passionate surfers

Learn new skills and an appreciation of what goes into building a board.

Doing a course could be a great gift for a friend or partner.

The satisfaction of building your own board will be something you will never forget and set you up to build your own designs at home if you want down the track.

Contact Stuart to get all the details:


Sunday, July 2, 2017

A special board built by Sergi from Flama Surfboards for the " Save Posidonia Project " in Spain.

This Flama Cork Evolve alaia is built entirely with natural and recycled materials, and will be showcased and auctioned at the Save Posidonia Festival (Formentera, 12th-15th October), an event to protect the lungs of our battered Mediterranean Sea. Save Posidonia Project is a pioneering project in the western Mediterranean Sea, in the Island of Formentera (Balearic Islands), to promote sustainable tourism and launch a plan of action to raise funds which will go exclusively to the conservation Oceanic Posidonia marine plant.

Oceanic Posidonia is a marine plant, and not an alga, which has root, stem, leaves, fruits and flowers. It forms meadows between the surface and the 40 meters of depth in waters of great quality like those of Formentera. Posidonia represents one of the most important natural values in the Mediterranean, since it exerts an important function in sediments filtration thus giving a unique transparency, contributes to maintain the quality and oxygenation of the submarine ecosystem where more than 400 species of marine plants and 1,000 species of marine animals are fed and breed; many of them used in the Balearic gastronomy and, finally, the Posidonia berms on the sand avoid beaches erosion.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hollow wooden surfboard building workshop

Be apart of Brisbanes only hollow wooden surfboard building workshop. In four days you will go home with your very own timber surfboard that you have made yourself.

Classes available:

September 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th

November 29th, 30th, 1st and 2nd December

For more info or to make a booking contact Stuart :

Sunday, June 18, 2017

New wooden board from Rui Cabral

Rui Cabral, from the Azores Islands РPortugal sent me these shots of his first project, hollow wooden surfboard made with a local wood criptoméria japónica, that is a very light.

You can stay in touch with Rui and his other interests on his blog:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Update from Tree To Sea

 Research and Development
In 2016 we spent a lot of time on research and development which has resulted in the ECO Board.
This wooden surfboard is made from Paulownia timber, a recycled polystyrene blank and recycled cork rails. We made a few ECO Boards and were excited with their appearance but of course needed to discover how they surfed. Darren and his son Jayden went to Bali to put them to the test. These boards performed better than we expected, lightweight, well balanced, super strong with the flex
that timber provides. We spent many hours developing a workshop build method and are now able
to run 2 day ECO Board workshops held over weekends.

Recycled Polystyrene
Ever wondered what happens to all the old polystyrene packing materials when you purchase a new fridge, TV or kitchen appliance? Some goes off to be ground up and recycled into more packing material or other items, fortunately an amount it is used to make ECO Board surfboard blanks.

 2 Day ECO Board Workshops
This new building system allows us to complete an ECO board in just 2 days. We still design all our boards on computer as before but instead of cutting out internal plywood frames, we use an ECO blank. ECO blanks are pre shaped on a AKU shaping machine to our, or if you prefer, your design. This allows far more flexibility and when designing rideable wooden surfboards.

 Vacuum Bags
At Tree to Sea we still favour Paulownia timber, but instead of clamping it down to a hollow frame as in hollow construction we vacuum the top and bottom decks to the ECO blanks in large custom made
vacuum bags. Once the decks are glued up, the excess is removed in preparation for attaching the recycled cork rails ready for shaping

 A trio of ECO shortboards
The result is a Super Light Weight, very strong but flexible, fully functional wooden surfboard. Tree to Sea’s ECO Boards are a superior surfboard and don’t suffer from the issues of hollow wooden boards, which are heavier and do not flex. The ECO Boards have none of these problems, they don’t need a vent to depressurise because they are not hollow, don’t hold air due to the foam density and
therefore don’t leak. The cork rails reduce dings and combined with the marine spar are extremely forgiving and complement the cedar stripes.

ECO Boards for lululemon
Recently Tree to Sea was commissioned to produce four ECO Boards for lululemon.
The surfboards pictured below travelled Australia as part of a recent lululemon promotion

This year Tree to Sea Australia launched our new website:
We created a Facebook page:
and continued with Instagram:

The complete build process for an unglassed wooden board

 The Marko blank cut by Elite Cutting here on the Gold Coast.
 Designed in AKU with the rails on it and thinned out.

 The EPS Marko blank and the Paulownia skins I have made up for me at 5mm thick for the deck skin and 4mm for the bottom skin, 600mm wide. This makes finishing the board so easy and saves having to have expensive bulky machinery that you only use once in a while. My rail band stock is supplied like this as well.
I scribe the rails, nose and tail build outs, ready to cut off. By getting the blank cut with the rails on you can then guage how much you can bend the deck skin down and around to meet the rail band. Then decide how much rail you need to add. With different boards and designs you could save weight and build time by minimizing the number of rail bands.
 All marked out
 The Japanese pull saw is such a handy tool for doing lots of things with building wooden boards.
 Now we have a basic EPS core. Get the sand paper block or surform out and square up the rail.
 The first rail band goes on. I use Polyurethane foaming glue and masking tape.
 I use a 3mm scrap of Paulownia to scribe the rail band and to make it as close as possible to the shape and curve of the board. This is to save material and to keep the amount of pressure needed to bend the Paulownia around the rail shape. That way you can use masking tape and not all sorts of clamps and straps.I see people with wide strips and then struggle to get them to fit to rail.
 I used a Polyurethane glue with a 30 minute cure time to do these small bits to knock it over more quickly. The other glue I use has a 2 hour cure time.
 Surrounded in Paulownia
I use a small block plane to take the rail bands down and foil them to the flow of the deck and bottom contours so that the skins flow around and onto them naturally.
 Ok now it is time to set up the rocker table. A level and true table with no twists is all I use. 

 A centre line to line the stringer up with and just fix a block under the nose and tail to make sure it won't twist. It is all you need, as it can't go anywhere.
 Scribe the board outline plus say 10mms to allow some wriggle room and the extra width to curve over the deck. But not too much as the over hang can get pulled down with the pressure on it in the vacuum bag and crack along the rail

 The band saw is my biggest tool, you could use a jigsaw, but this makes it way easier. Once setup it is very useful and will last a lifetime. An old one like this won't cost much second hand and cutting the small thickness timber I use is neat and tidy with the right blade.
 Getting ready to glue the skins and vacuum bag it all together. I use a .7mm PVC bag welded up for me by a guy who makes boat and caravan covers. It is the same material they use for clear windows in covers. Also Polyurethane glue will not stick to it. When new because it is so smooth the two surfaces will stick together so dust some baby/ talcon powder inside the bag to make getting the board in by yourself easier. See the ramp like board at the far end of the table , I use that to hold the weight of the bag up out of the way of the tail area on some boards so as to not pull or weigh down the board and twist the tail corners. The extra length of bag when used on a smaller board can weigh quite a lot and pull down as it hangs off the table.
Identify and mark the top and bottom of each sheet with a centre line to line everything up before you get the glue out. A bit of simple planning can save a lot of disappointment.
 This is the glue I use and have found to do a great job. 
 I spread it thinly over the EPS and make sure you get it on the edges of the rail band. I normally dampen the edges of the rail band to aid adhesion as these glues are activated by moisture.
 I spray a light mist of water onto the skins prior to taping them onto the EPS core. The timber can be very dry and as I said the glue is moisture activated. So a light misting will help get things foaming, and that is why you don't need lots of glue. It will only add weight and make a mess.The tape just holds the skins in place until you get it all in the bag with out moving.
In the bag and under pressure. We are only using the bag as a giant clamp, a job it does very simply and well.
One of two pumps I have.You don't need a big pump as we are not building a boat.
You need a gauge to see what sort of pressure you are pulling. The pump above has a preset for the pressure that you can dial in and the other one has a tap to bleed off pressure and control things. Both work well, one is more expensive than the other.
 No need for hi tech here I just use a piece of folded over shade cloth as a breather so that the fitting doesn't suck onto the wood.
 As I mentioned earlier the bag is .7mm PVC and is smooth, so you only need masking tape to close it to hold the two surfaces together. As the pressure comes on / air is sucked out of the bag the two surfaces stick to each other and create the seal. Simple and effective. I have made over 100 boards in one bag. The bag is heavy and won't stretch or give so you get all the pressure benefit and won't get the problems of lighter bags. Such as having the bag suck in between the skin and EPS before the full suction has taken place. The heavy bag as it's positives.
You can pull some big curves with the bag and no clamp marks with this even pull.Add some steam and you can do lots more than you might think.
Keep it simple, experiment and don't over think what you are trying to do. And you can then save yourself a lot of time and money.
 As the glue expands and foams up under pressure in the bag it is forced down and in between the beads of the EPS. This seals the EPS and toughens it up considerably as shown above. This can mean that you can use a light weight foam that ends up with a 30 - 40mm toughened layer all round. You don't need to add a higher density foam to rout your fin boxes into.
Top and bottom on after 2 hours in the bag. The EPS is now encapsulated in Paulownia.
 Get the block plane out and trim the overhang off the whole way round.
All cleaned up with some nice bottom contours.
Single with chine down the rail
Nice double concave
V out through the tail.
Time to start adding the rail bands and tail details
 Build them out
 Add some nose block details with different timber offcuts
The start adding the rail bands
 Both sides at once

 Back to the tail as you build the rails gives you that nice herringbone effect on the corners
Then another set of rail bands.
As you can see these are 5mm thick and I have scribed them down to limit the extra tension of trying to bend more than you need to.
If you have a tighter bend to do, just use a damp tea towel and the steam iron and you will be amazed how easily it will bend. This is 5mm thick. All the more reason to get your rail bands down to a close fit to the baord to have less pressure on the bend.
All the tail and rail bands done so time to clean things up a little with the block plane
 It might look a little rough and ready here but it is all sweet underneath.
Final nose block pieces.
 Use the Japanes pull saw to trim off the extra length.
 All sorted
 Cleaning up and getting the rail bands down to the board foil.
Thats better, it starts to lose some weight and look like a board
 Now you see the herringbone effect on the corners.
I take it to my glasser and he routes in the fin boxes and leash plug at this stage.This is the only resin in the board. Route the boxes and then paint clear resin around the inside edges to seal the grain right before using the black resin so that the black resin doesn't bleed up the grain. You get a neater finish.
All ready to roll the rails. I have not touched the top and bottom skins and hardly need to as they have been supplied drum sanded.
I check measure the rail thickness from side to side and eyeball the flow of the rail line, top and bottom
I pencil a line 50 /50 along the rail band as a guide. I use this to translate where I want the apex of the rail to be for the design of the board.
I use a nice small, sharp block plane and take my time to run from one end to the other
Those weights you never use, just got a job.
 Whittle it down slowly. You don't need to take heaps off to blend it all together.
 Might look a bit rough but simple and easy to use to get the job done with control.
 I use emery cloth rather than sand paper to roll the rails and blend all the plane marks out. Fast simple and is way stronger than any sand paper. Cut a whole A4 sheet in half length ways and you will find it works wonders in no time at all as you see saw your way down the board one way and back the other. I start with 80 grit and finish with 240. The sheets last ages and the grit won't fall off and become dull like sand paper.
I find the Futures boxes very strong and have never had a failure.

a block and sand paper to blend a few lines
 Make sure you use a mask as the Paulownia dust is fine, light weight and gets into everything. It floats around in the air for ever. That is why I hire a shaping bay with AC.
All smoothed out and blended. I finish it off with quick once over with 240 grit and a small orbital sander.
 Time to add the good oil and watch the colours pop
Natural Lanolin from Lanotec in Brisbane. I use the General Purpose grade that they make and have found it best for what I want. My logo is added to the board as a rubber stamp I got made on line and a solvent based ink called Stazon. It dries onto the surface instantly and won't bleed.
You could get a hot branding iron made but they are very expensive and if you have lots of detail in your logo it will just burn out. Plus it is a one shot process,.

I just sit the board out in the sun and let it warm up and the heat helps to thin out the lanolin as well, aiding in it soaking into the Paulownia. I keep brushing it on until it won't take any more. About 3 or 4 coats a side normally. Then wipe it down. It is touch dry and ready to go surfing.
 Another sweat little board
Light, strong and about as natural as you can build a board as far as I am concerned.
These and the bandsaw are my range of tools I need to build this board.

A small orbital sander with a range of sandpaper
A small sanding block.
80 and 120 grit Emery cloth for sanding the rails is a great help.
You will need a good mask as this fine dust will get into everything.
I have a small hand plan and a really small hand plane , both really sharp.
Get yourself a Veritas honing guide and water stones for sharpening your tools.
I have a spoke shave for tight curves , concaves.
A Japanese pull saw, very handy.
I use Fix it Mate polyurethane glue which I find great for what I do. A bottle goes a long way.
You will need some cheap plastic spreaders. These ones are great the glue won't stick to it.
A small spray bottle is handy to mist water onto you timber before clamping as the glue is moisture activated.
Good quality masking tape is important as it has the right amount of stickiness and strength in the paper backing. Experiment, you will be amazed at the hold you can get with it and all the angles to do the job right. Lesser quality will let go or snap when the glue foams and expands , just when you have left the workshop. You don't need the surprises for the cost of a few dollars.
The odd spring clamp is handy.
I also have a band saw which is very useful. I get all my Paulownia supplied dressed , thicknessed and glued up in sheets as I need. It all means you don't need to invest in expensive machines that will get little use.
I also have the vacuum pump and a PVC bag for it. You could share the cost with a mate. 

The best advise I can give you is to buy good quality tools and keep them sharp and it will make all this so much easier. Keep it simple and don't over think and over engineer it.

 A quiver of custom boards all built at the same time

This one is painted in low VOC water based paint and low VOC varnish as an option
All the steps in a stack

If you have any questions email me :

I hope this helps a few of you get into building a wooden baord as there are a lot of surfers out there but there are not many that surf on a board they built themselves. And if you love your surfing this is a very special connection you will never forget.