Cedar Surfboards Make Summer's Top 50

By Bill Esler | Posted: 06/16/2013 7:53PM


Grain Surfboards.Grain Surfboards could ride the crest of renewed interest in environmentally sustainable wood surfboards. About 400,000 surfboards are made in the U.S. annually. Wooden surfboards get a nod from environmentally concerned surfers - who worry that synthetic boards give off chemicals, VOCs, and add to the harmful waste stream. The Wall Street Journal put wooden surfboards in its top 50 summer must-have items - showing off Grain Surf Board's CI Biscuit surfboard.

Grain Surboards runs a woodshop to build its line of surfboards, and a woodworking education center, to train surfing enthusiasts in how to make their own boards.

Invented in ancient Hawaii, (papa he'e nalu in the Hawaiian language, notes Wikipedia) they were made from local trees, such as koa, and were often over 15 feet in length and extremely heavy. 

Most modern surfboards are made of polyurethane, polystyrene foam covered with layers of fiberglass, cloth and polyester or epoxy resin, and carbon fiber. But wood is on the rise among the approximately 400,000 surfboards manufactured each year in the U.S.

Grain Surfboards tells surfers that "surfing a true wood board [and not a veneer foam board] is an experience you won’t forget… Most people love the lively performance of a Grain Surfboard and the knowledge they may never have to replace it." Here's Grain's summary of surfboard history:

For over a thousand years, surfboards were carefully shaped solid pieces of wood, hand-hewn from logs. By the 1930′s (30 years after surfing’s modern-day re-birth) boards were being “chambered”, meaning the solid planks that comprised the surfboard were being disassembled and hollowed out before they were re-assembled. This made boards a bit lighter, but wasted an incredible amount of wood.

In 1929 (long before he invented the fin) Tom Blake created the first board built around an internal frame… within six years, half the boards on California’s beaches were of this “cigar-box” construction.

Grain’s boards are a natural blend of this traditional construction style with New England boat building craftsmanship. But we also throw into the mix advanced materials technology, performance-oriented designs, environment-friendly components and a dedication to continuing the evolution of this seminal branch of surfboard construction.

Our Wood

We craft our boards one at a time using predominantly Northern White Cedar, with some Western Red Cedar thrown in for color (red cedar not included in kits). The Northern White Cedar we use comes from sustainable forestry professionals, which means there’ll be plenty of wood for our boards in the future. Our millshop then air-dries the rough-sawn wood, and planes, quality inspects and stores it on-site. By choosing this wood, we’re supporting small, family-owned sawmills right here in Maine. Grain Surfboards consume only about a third of the wood used in a chambered or solid board.

White cedar is super light, extremely rot-resistant and beautiful to look at because of the dramatic grain patterns we arrange on each kit and board. The natural qualities of these woods combined with the unique construction methods we employ ensure durability, strength, and lightweight rideability for many years.


Look around, and you’ll find plenty of foam boards covered with a veneer of wood. These aren’t “wood boards”; usually stiff and flex-less, in the water they feel nothing like a true wood board. Remember that – while foam boards have been a major contributor to advances in surfboard design – foam wasn’t introduced to surfing because of its benefits to the surfer, but because of it’s benefits to the manufacturer. And even most “green” foams still create a significant net loss to the environment in transportation CO2, off-gassing by-products and toxicity of the principal components.

True Wood

Once you try a wooden board you’ll discover that wooden surfboards ride with more energy and carry more momentum down the wave. And while they may seem slightly heavier on land, in the water that weight converts entirely to momentum. More momentum means they paddle better, drop-in more positively, dampen chop on breezy days and build more speed. Wood boards feel much livelier, and with the additional speed, maneuver handily. A well-constructed wooden board feels solid underfoot but also transmits a pleasing softness like nothing you’ve ever experienced on a foam board. Wave after wave you’ll find new ways to praise its qualities. Wood is just good.


About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at WoodworkingNetwork.com Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at besler@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

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