How to Make a Paddle Board that Can Handle Serious Waves

Custom Balsa Wood

How to make a paddle board doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be a great way to enjoy a custom SUP at a price you can afford. Of course, basic woodworking skills can make this job easier, but our SUP building instructions are simple to follow, so this project is also very beginner-friendly. Making a stand up paddle board consists of many small, straightforward steps, so you can easily tackle each of the phases in your spare time. There are many benefits to using a wood paddle board compared to a traditional fiberglass and foam, or inflatable board, however, you’ll also need to take into consideration the fact that wooden boards are heavier, and may not be as easy to guide as an inflatable model.

How to make a paddle board consists of several basic steps, including:

  • Making the bottom panel
  • Frame
  • Building the rocker table
  • Rails
  • Blocking
  • Attaching the top panel
  • Sanding the board
  • Glassing

Each phase of the project should take approximately two to three hours or more if you don’t have prior woodworking experience. Most paddle board projects will include these very same steps. If you have woodworking experience you can feel free to tweak the design for a unique paddle board that showcases your personality. Before you get started, ensure you have the correct type of wood, all the woodworking tools you need, and SUP plans designed for your weight range.

As you can see, making your own paddle board is a lot easier than most people think. This project consists of just eight steps, a little elbow grease, and some basic woodworking tools. We’ll guide you through each step of the process and discuss common mistakes many beginners make that you can easily avoid.

Phase One: The Bottom Panel

When you build your own paddle board, you can make a couple of large panels to create the bottom portion of the board. After which, you’ll bend both of the book matched panels over several risers that precisely match the contours of the finished board and rocker.

Phase Two: Frame

When you make a paddle board from scratch, instead of using a foam core, which is what you’ll find on any mass produced SUP, you’ll make a fishbone frame. If you’re a beginner, we recommend purchasing a paddle board kit, which will include plans for a standard fishbone frame and the materials. It’s a more cost-effective option and one that can help you avoid many mistakes along the way.

Phase Three: Rocker Table

The rocker table sets the bottom contours and rocker. A paddle board design features a lot of subtle details that go on under the top panel of the board. Once plans are drawn up for a board, a jig must also be used in order to achieve the right shape. A rocker table is what will precisely hold the bottom skin in the right position. It can also provide a stable base to build from. A paddle board that’s built on a rocker table will remain fully supported on the table throughout the duration of the project. It also ensures that the finished product is straight. Building your own rocker table is simple. To do, stack wood blocks to the required height, then add wood wedges to support the hollows.

Phase Four: Rails

Rails for a paddle board are made by stacking bead and cover strips that measure in at ¼ inch by 3/8 of an inch, one at a time. These narrow strips offer many benefits compared to SUPs that are made with solid rails. These narrow strips are much easier to bend. You will need to bend a few of them via steam. The iron you use for your clothes can provide enough steam to get the job done. Apply the steam to one strip for approximately two to three minutes. Since the shape of the paddle board is defined by the fishbone frame, if you’re making your own board you don’t have to have a lot of background experience with shaping the board rails properly in order to get the right shape. The thickness of the board’s skin is always around a quarter of an inch thick. This results in a SUP that weighs around ten percent more than a manufactured foam board.

Phase Five: Solid Blocking

Once you’re finished with the rails it’s time to cut off the tail and nose sections for blocking. Solid blocking will prevent the need to steam bend precise radius curves. It can also give the board a pro look, providing beautiful, smooth transitions at the tail and nose. Solid blocking is also used for fin box support, a leash cup, and a vent before you add the top panel. You can make internal blocking using either solid wood blocks or foam.

Phase Six: Adding the Top Panel

To attach the top panel of the board you’ll need to use clamps and wooden door wedges, which allow you to curve the panel by pushing against the strong back. Once the top panel is attached you can remove any extra material using a spokeshave and drawknife. During this time you’ll also give the rails the final shaping.

Phase Seven: Sanding the Board

Sanding the Board

Before glassing, you’ll need to sand the board. Make sure you begin with a coarse grit, such as an eighty, in order to achieve the desired results. Once everything is smooth and flat you can begin working with a finer grit including one hundred and two hundred and twenty. When you start with a coarser grit you can essentially save hours of time that would otherwise be wasted using a finer grit to achieve the same results.

Phase Eight: Glassing

If you’ve never worked with epoxy and fiberglass before, then glassing your board can be a little intimidating at first. However, the process itself is pretty basic. You’ll begin by laminating the board, doing a hot coat in order to fill in the weave of the cloth. Next, you’ll use a gloss coat to add some shine to the board’s surface. If you’re not sure what type of finish to use for the board, visit woodworking forums for recommendations.


And that’s it! You now have your own, custom-made wooden paddle board a model that should be completely waterproof, buoyant and easy to handle. The entire project should only take about forty hours and can end up costing you a fraction of what you would spend on a ready-made board.

Related Questions

How Much Weight Can a Paddle Board Hold?

This can vary from board to board. Wooden paddle boards can often hold more weight compared to a traditional manufactured board, however, this will also depend on the design itself and the thickness of the board. Models such as the ISLE Airtech Inflatable Explorer Stand Up Paddle Board can handle around two hundred and fifty pounds.

To learn more about paddle boards and how to choose the right one for you, click here to read our paddle board buyer’s guide.

How Do You Ride a Paddle Board?

Riding a paddle board is much easier compared to surfing with a surfboard, mainly because the board is larger, providing the rider with more space to balance. However, how to ride a SUP can also depend on the type of water you’re paddling around in. On calmer waters, you’ll mainly focus on maintaining the proper form to balance as you paddle around. But surfing on a paddle board is a whole new ball game. It can require many of the same skills that are required for surfing. To learn how to surf on your paddle board, click here to read our paddle board surfing tips.

What Are Paddle Boards Made Out Of?

This will depend on the type of paddle board, such as solid and inflatable. A solid paddle board is made out of wood, or fiberglass. Inflatable paddle boards are made out of materials that are similar to what inflatable rafts are made out of. Top of the line inflatable paddle boards are usually made out of heavy-duty PVC, hardened rubber, or multiple layers of polymer and urethane.

Final Thoughts

How to make a paddle board consists of first grabbing the appropriate tools and materials, working on the back panel first, then working on the fish bone frame. The next step is building your own makeshift rocker table, adding the rails, internal blocking, and attaching the top panel. Once the board itself is made, you’ll use an eight grit sandpaper, followed by less coarse sandpaper such as one hundred or one hundred and fifty grit, to smooth out the board. Glassing is the last step in the process and it’s probably the easiest. This is a very easy, DIY project that should only take you around forty hours to complete. And the end result is a custom-made, eye-catching wooden board that can easily outlast a traditional fiberglass and foam model.