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Grain Boards

I think I can get a foam board for about six hundred bucks! Why should I pay more for wood?

Despite the fact that it's tempting to, you can't really compare Grain boards to foam - they're really completely different types of surfboards. A challenge for Grain is to help surfers to see the choice to get a Grain board as beyond the choice of foam that requires a different mindset about the economics of your surfing habit.

Perhaps the key difference is that we don't intend them to be thrown away within a year or two. Unfortunately surfers have grown used to the idea that their $600 investment should only last them for a couple of years' worth of sessions. But we've done the math and when you look at what you're paying per session for a disposable board, versus what you'll pay for a board that could last for ten, twenty, thirty years or more, then Grain boards are far less expensive - per session - than disposable boards.

When they choose a Grain surfboard, we don't want people to think that they are getting the same board they bought time after time before. We want you to understand that you've chosen something hand-crafted, built to last, that surfs great and is worth keeping forever. That sort of quality is worth saving your pennies for. Besides... it'll save you from having to buy the same board again next year.

How does building a Grain board differ from building a foam?

In almost every way but the glassing. First of all, the shaping process is completely different and much more understated when building a Grain surfboard. The shape of the board is mostly dictated by the internal frame. Surfers, engineers and shapers helped us to design our frames and, precision-cut on CNC machines, they reliably dictate a consistent, symmetrical shape.

A 'skin' of cedar planking is systematically glued to the frames using a pretty simple process, which includes application of full panels (nearly 24" wide) made up of 1/4" thick cedar planks and the application of a series of specially machined strips of wood lengthwise along the rails. It is after the wood skin has been applied that the shaping occurs as the builders trim off excess wood. This part of the process allows some latitude to the builder in hollowing out modest bottom contours and turning down or softening the rails.

Finally, the board is covered with fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin.

They look more like furniture than surfboards. Are Grain boards fragile?

No. They are much less prone to damage from normal use than is a foam board. They don't pressure ding, or dent nearly as easily because the wood skin provides a sturdy support under the fiberglass. You won't make heel dents on the deck even though no heavy deckpatches are applied to reinforce the single layer of four-ounce cloth that we use on the entire board. If the boards get hit by a hard, sharp object, you may see delamination the size of the impact area that appears as a white cross-weave of glass fibers where previously, the glass was transparent. Usually, these impact areas are small and due to the rigidity of the wood skin, they don't tend to spread. They are easily patched in a manner similar to that in which foam boards are patched, only without the need for fillers, excavating foam, or increases in weight. Fin boxes do not generate stress cracks in the fiberglass because they are supported by solid wood on five sides, as opposed to soft foam. (Get more detail on dings in item 12 of this FAQ.)

While our boards are often heavily surfed for years with very little sign of wear and tear, it’s important to keep in mind that Grain boards are hand built combining a state-of-the-art lightweight construction method with soft woods in order to meet the highest level of performance we can offer. Severe impact with the ocean bottom, rocks, etc. can create a situation where damage can run along plank, seam and grain lines, making the repair more substantial than with foam. We recommend always wearing a leash, especially when losing the board could be catastrophic, and avoiding surfing the board into shallow water in close out waves.

And Yes. Hollow wood surfboards are like pressure vessels. They are built to be watertight which means that in use, the air inside also cannot get out. Take a Grain surfboard into cold water, and the air inside will tend to contract. Theoretically, in extremes of heat the board would try to disassemble itself - though we've never seen this happen in reality. We think that unless the air inside has a way to escape as it expands in the warm sun, it will stress all the internal joints equally until one or more of them gives. This is the reason that all of our boards are fitted with a gore-tex self breathing vent plugs that don't have to be removed or opened ever.

How much heavier is a Grain board than a comparable foam board?

Real wooden boards are always heavier (out of water), but how much heavier depends on a handful of factors, and on how you compare the boards. For instance, foam boards can be tremendously different from one another in how they are constructed. Some foam and glass boards are built with less material to make them lighter and they are very fragile as a result. Others are much stronger; especially those with more resilient foam cores or epoxy skins. Some are stronger due to more layers of glass - or a heavier type of glass - and are naturally heavier.

But for strength and durability, most foam boards can't be compared to Grain surfboards. Our boards are harder to ding or break, so comparing their weights is a little like comparing the weights of balloons to basketballs.

But when we weigh our boards against boards of comparable shapes and semi-robust construction, we usually find that our long boards are about 10% heavier, and as boards get smaller (below seven feet or so) they start to approach 20% heavier. We attribute this to the fact that a long board will have more internal space as a percentage of the total board volume than will a shorter board.

Over the years, we've developed a series of refinements that have allowed us to make some of our wood boards even lighter, though we've developed many of our designs to take advantage of additional weight, so we apply "lightening" techniques judiciously.

As a reference, our 6'5" Seed is around 13lbs. 8' Steamer is around 18lbs. 9'6" Root is around 21lbs. 

How does a wood board act in water?

If measured in a lab you should be able to determine the fraction of an inch of difference a Grain board, floating at rest with no surfer on it, would be lower in the water. But when you do the math, board weight by itself isn't as significant as you would think - a board that weighs 15% more than another board, will weigh only 2% more when both boards have 160-pound surfers on them. Still, none of that is really relevant to the experience of surfing - which is all about how boards and surfers behave in a highly dynamic, propulsive environment. In the water, our boards do not have a noticeable heaviness to them until they are in trim when the glide kicks in - when "weight" turns to "drive". They never feel corky, but they do have a different feeling of buoyancy when in motion than foam boards - we think that the air space inside creates tension in the board's skin and frames that gives it a more lively feel than something that is of equal density throughout (like foam). The way weight is distributed in wood boards also helps them carry through turns better, which means it also requires slightly more energy to initiate those turns. Though they have a decidedly soft feel in some surf conditions, many surfers report a certain amount of chop dampening because, though the boards are more lively than foam, they do not rise clear of the water as easily as a light-weight foam board would. But once they are planing, their added weight generates more momentum down the line.

Can you build boards to my specifications of rocker, outline and rail profile?

Absolutely. However, because most of the board shaping is designed into the frame, this is a fairly time consuming process, so there will be some additional expense. We'll get your specs, then work up a rough outline and profile, emailing you screenshots from the 3D design software. You'll give us some feedback, then we'll make some adjustments and get to work on the rails and bottom contours (if any). See the FAQ Section on "Making Decisions About Boards" for more details.

It's our goal to keep you as involved in the design as you want to be, so you can feel free to give as much - or as little - input as you want. We apply all the knowledge we have of special design details that are important to wood boards, and in the end, you'll have a design that you - and we - think is perfect.

Can you create a kit to my specifications of rocker, outline and rail profile?

Sorry - we need to build a board before we can make it into a kit. Otherwise, how would we be confident that the kit was good enough to sell you?

How do you add boards to the Grain board line?

There are two ways we add boards: one is when there is something we want to build. We are working on developing a number of new designs right now. The other is when a customer approaches us about a custom board. If we like the result, it can be added to our board line. We use several types of computer design software to assist us in the design process, and pass files to our CNC machinist to render into frames

I love the look of Grain boards, but would like a better idea of the rocker, contours, and rail profiles. How can I get that?

One way is to stop by the shop. We usually have some boards there waiting for delivery or pick-up, and at the very least, we can pull some of the framesets, dry assemble them, and have a look. Email us if you can't come by the shop and are seriously considering one of our shapes - we can get more info to you so you can make the best decision

Can I use any kind of fin system I want?

Yep. Kits do not come with fins, but do come with fin boxes. Generally speaking, we use FCS for shorter boards and 10.5" center boxes for longboards. While that is what they come with, there is no reason you couldn't put in whatever system you like. Boards we build for you with glass-ons naturally have high quality fins, to your specifications if you have a preference, but all other boards and kits do not include fins. We've found that kit builders have such varied tastes in fins that it's better for them to purchase them from their local surf or other vendor. 

Do you do custom graphics?

Yes. We can add painted highlights, solids or patterns, apply your graphics, or laminate cloth onto the board if desired. What can't go on the board is another company's logo (unless the company is your own), or references to pros or "signature models" unless the board is actually a signature model designed by or with another shaper or pro.

What is the finish on a Grain surfboard?

Lots of ultra-violet light (read: sunlight) will affect epoxy and, in extreme cases of exposure, cause yellowing and oxidation or whitening of the glass fibers. At one time, we used to apply a coat of super-hard polyurethane UV-resistant coating in two to three coats as added insurance on boards built for customers. Kit builders will sometimes choose to apply a quality marine spar varnish in three coats, hand-wetsanded to 1500 grit, and polished with a buffing wheel. The result is a soft, satiny feel with enough reflective flare to make the wood shine.

But in reality, there is very little benefit to UV protection. Why? Because the epoxies that we use are formulated for marine use on vessels that sit out in glarey, hot sun all day, every day. But most surfers tuck their boards right back in the bag when they're done, or get them into shade to keep their wax from melting. So the negative impact of the UV on the boards' epoxy finishes is so slight that we put no UV protection on any of our boards, and have noted zero negative impact.

Why don't you guys have a stand-up paddle board? Why don't you get on the bus?

We have built one before, but we just decided - for a number of reasons - it's not our cup-o-tea. Kind of like why Harley Davidson doesn't make cars. But we're happy to direct you to some other companies making beautiful wood SUP's. A quick Google search will pull them up. 

Choosing a Custom Board

What board is best for me?

This is of course the big question... If you have been surfing for a while, you can probably look at our board line and suss it out yourself. We've added to each board page a 3D viewer that lets you see much more of the board designs than before, and we'll be supplementing that with design notes, a zoom function, and more board specs. All that is designed to make it easy for experienced surfers to see if we make the board they want.

If you are newer to surfing, you could talk to other surfers who know your style and level of experience, and know your home break. Most surfers will also think about the kind of surfing that they would like to do, but which their current board(s) don't really allow. Board design is more art than science, and experienced advice from people familiar with your situation should be important in your decision.

In all cases, your size and weight and typical wave will be considerations that will be factors. We'd be glad to help you make some decisions, feel free to contact us.

I don't see exactly what I want in your line of boards, but I still want one...what can you do for me?

One thing we can do is make some adjustments to boards in our line if you have specific things that you want done. For instance, we can harden rails, turn them down or soften them. It's easy to lengthen boards by a few inches, or harden or round out the nose, although these alterations may change the board's performance a bit. Some bottom contouring is also possible if there you would like hollows or slight channels of less than 1/8" in depth.

We can also develop a custom shape for you, but you should plan on in increase in cost of about 20%.

Should I buy a completed board or a Home Grown kit?

If you are an experienced woodworker, and don't have plans to surf for the next couple of months and have a good place to work (garage, shop, basement) and a load of time to spare, then you should definitely get a kit!

If any or all of these are not part of your situation, or if you are the type of person that finds it easy to start projects but a bit harder to get them done, then think twice about the kits - you may be happier ordering a board from us. This isn't to say that you need to be an experienced woodworker, or need a fully equipped shop to build a kit, but neither you nor we want to take money from you for a board you are never going to surf, so be sure that you will have the time/inclination/facilites/attention span to complete a kit before you decide to order one.

Another consideration is your expectations for the board itself. We are positive that almost anyone can build a great board using a Home Grown kit. Plus, with imperfections that come from inexperience, every surfer using his or her own Home Grown board will be tremendously proud of the beautiful thing they created. But if you are one of those people who want it as perfect as an organic thing can be, and you don't feel confident in your woodworking skills, then you may be happier with a board we build for you.

If the cost of the board is an issue for you, think of it this way: you could use the fifty to eighty hours that you would have spent building a kit to put in a little overtime earning some kale you can use towards a board built by us especially for you.

Building Surfboard Kits

What comes in a home grown kit?

How much skill does it take to build a Home Grown kit? Do you have to be a woodworker?

What kind of tools do I need to build a board?

How long does it take to build a board?

The swallow tails look complicated. Are they?

I am pretty good with tools, but frankly I'm afraid to try the glassing. Should I be?

How much can I modify the design and/or look of a Grain Home Grown Kit?

How complete is the Home Grown Kit manual?

Can I build this sucker in my apartment/living room/dorm room?

How much to ship the kit to my home address?

What should I expect to receive?

I would like to go into business building Grain Kits for others. Any problem with that?

I see that the Grain board line is growing ever year. Why are only some boards available as kits?

Placing an Order

Environmental Responsibility

Sustainability

Friends of Grain

International Orders

Workshops

Collaborations

Returns & Refunds

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