“The surfboard market is saturated with the same unsustainable oil-derived product. People are taking notice of this and there are lots of new eco-friendly materials that guys are shaping nowadays. There is a slow but steady movement away from foam core boards.”
Ben Gagnon started surfing the summer after he finished high school. Upon receiving an Economics degree from UCSD he realized one very important thing—the stock market bored him to death, he could never see himself working a job like that. So Ben found a job he liked building custom homes in San Diego, which paid well and enabled him to rent a small apartment close to the beach with his girlfriend and their dog, but it was still a 9-5 gig. Surfing became his escape from reality; a release from the daily pressures of work.
One day Ben found an old, beat-up, 7’0″, egg-shaped, surfboard in the alley behind his apartment and decided he’d try to give this dead board new life. He took the surfboard into his garage and stripped away the fiberglass cloth and resin from the outside of the board. Using the “recycled” foam from the 7’0″ egg, Ben drew the template of the shape he wanted then carefully cut away the excess foam with his jigsaw. Using an electric planer at first, then a hand planer later for precision, he delicately began to shave down the foam until his new creation emerged: a 5’6″ Retro Fish with wood keels.
Ben is a self-taught woodworker and craftsman. He used to build skate ramps (quarter pipes and half pipes) when he was younger so he and his buddies could skate on them. Over the years he’s collected tools from his dad, yard sales, and anything else he’s needed he’s been able to find on Craigslist. While shaping his first board he managed to learn a great deal about shaping (and woodworking) by watching others shape boards on YouTube. One shaper whom Ben considers influential is Josh Martin, who shapes surfboards from balsa and other woods. Inspired, Ben confidently set out to make something he’d always wanted—a wooden surfboard. His friend’s dad owns a construction company. The company gets its wood delivered on specialized pine pallets. Ben gathered up all the pine that he would need to complete his project: a 5’6″ Mini-mega Simmons, chambered wooden surfboard, dual fin.
The wooden board surfed different than a foam board. No better. No worse. “It’s just a different ride,” Ben explains. “You’re not going to surf it like any kind of high-performance shortboard. It’s not going to respond the same way. But if you like riding fish boards then you’ll definitely like surfing a wooden board. Wooden boards cruise. They’re fast down the line and they have a lot of momentum.” Now that Ben had some momentum himself, he began drawing up plans for a 5’6″ retro fish, hollow frame surfboard with redwood skins, tail and nose blocks.
“I’d shape foam boards any day but I like the process of doing wood. Building wood boards is fun. More rewarding when you finish it,” Ben says. “The process that goes into it…I see anyone on a wood board I think, ‘someone poured their heart and soul into that thing’. Riding something like that is a really cool experience.”
In the future, Ben Gagnon of Deadboard Co. has plans for several new redwood shapes. He is also experimenting with building boards from light-weight agave.
If you’d like to experience the ride for yourself, email: Bengagnon760@gmail.com
Or message Deadboard Co. on Instagram: @deadboardco
Please like and share TheWaldenWord with those who will appreciate it. Thanks for reading again this week! Now go do something you love to do!
Loved the post
Such talent, Ben, redwood boards are beautiful! Great read!
The boards are so pretty!
That’s a great story and what a way to blend passions! My husband built a skimmy board for our son when he was about nine. He’s 20 now, the board still accompanies us on beach vacations and I’m sure it will get passed down a few generations. There’s something magical about reclaiming wood to suit another purpose.
Awesome work, Ben! I just finished my first hollow chambered board as well – most rewarding project I’ve ever done. Took a long time in the evenings and weekend, but the kids got involved and I posted updates on Facebook. Now every time I run into people they first thing they say is “how’s the board?” Looking forward to getting it back from glass shop.
Great post and beautiful pics!
Awesome, Mark! What shape/size board do you create?