When Raglan builder Adam Brooks decided to get into paddleboarding, he was determined to craft his own boards. An article about paulownia paddleboards on the Tree to Sea website caught his eye, and after learning more about the properties of this lightweight timber, he decided paulownia was the way to go.
Adam chose a traditional hollow design, with a plywood stringer and ribs creating the framework for the paulownia to wrap around. First job was to source the paulownia, which proved easier than expected thanks to Graham and Paulownia NZ. A quick phone call, followed by a visit to the farm and Adam had all the timber he needed. He then had a selection of the rough sawn 6 x 2 paulownia milled to a 5mm thickness at a timber mill in Hamilton.
To construct the board, Adam laminated the 5mm paulownia together to create two sheets, wide enough to form the top and bottom of the board. He then laid the lower sheet on a rocker table, and assembled and glued the stringer and ribs together.
The next step involved making the rails. For the first board, Adam used matai. This caused a few headaches later for the glasser, and also made the overall weight of the board heavier. For his second board, he used paulownia. To shape the rails, he constructed a steam box, which was rigged up to a camping stove and kettle (good old Kiwi ingenuity)!
Once the rails were in place, Adam inserted boxes for the leash plug and fins, and then inlaid the top panel of paulownia. After a fair amount of sanding, the boards went to a local glasser. Paulownia can be used in the ocean without glassing, but would require regularly oiling (and the timber would probably need to be thicker). Since paddleboards are fairly large, Adam decided that glassing would ultimately save time and make the boards more durable.
The finished boards are fun to ride and perform well in a wide variety of conditions. Although slightly heavier than standard EPS or PVC boards, once in the water they’re easy to paddle and always draw admiring glances from passersby.