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.
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, and finished with a series of coats varnish for UV protection.
No. They are much less prone to damage from normal use than is a foam board. They don't pressure ding, or spiderweb 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.)
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 hollow boards are fitted with vent plugs. Builders of Home Grown Kits have to make sure to remove their vent plugs soon after leaving the water, keeping it loose or out all the time the board is traveling or stored. Boards built at the Grain shop have automatic vents that don't have to be removed.
Because the interiors are untreated raw wood, soaking them has a similar effect to leaving the vent plug in. Wet wood expands and in a board that is encased in a semi-rigid skin of glass fibers, there is nowhere for expanding wood to go. Accidentally leaving your vent plug loose or out when you get in the water will allow the cooling, contracting air inside the board to suck seawater in. The board expands, internal joints are stressed and the rest is sad and predictable - but repairable. Some kit builders will install the upgraded automatic vent (available in our store).
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 don't knee-dent or death-grip along the rails, and 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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. We no longer stock fins in our online store.
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, or references to pros or "signature models" unless the board is actually a signature model designed by or with another shaper or pro.
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.
Two important facts: wood boards ding less than foam, and depending on the extent of damage, ding repair on wood boards can be very similar to repairing foam.
We have built one before, but we just decided - for a number of reasons - not to add the model to our line. If you have an idea for a stand-up that will be about 50% heavier than the epoxy/eps boards you're used to (which is great for distance paddling) give us a call.
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 30%.
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.
Each kit comes with all the material you need to build your own board including: board frame, cedar planks and rail strips, wood scraps (sized for tail blocks, and minor structural blocking), fin box, leash plug, waterproof glue, fiberglass, and more. Epoxy, squeegee, mixing buckets and rubber gloves are sent directly from our supplier to save shipping costs. A detailed 170-page instruction manual tells you how to assemble it all. Our kits are put together by hand in Maine from locally grown, sustainably harvested northern white cedar. You will find planks numbered in a suggested pattern and marked "top", "bottom", "nose" and "tail". The rail strips are already milled with a nose and cove that allows them to work around the rails (see the manual).
You don't have to be a woodworker at all to successfully assemble a kit as long as you can use care and take your time. It is true, however, that woodworkers will find some parts of this process second nature. For those who are just don't believe us when we say "you can do it", we can help make it all work for you here at the shop if you attend one of our workshops.
The most critical parts of assembling a Grain Home Grown Surfboard Kit are getting good mating between glued parts, eyeballing fair lines as you shape the assembled parts, and getting a good epoxy lamination. Many of the parts are pre-machined so that most of the cutting and fitting needed is already done, and kit builders have only to trim off excess after assembly is complete. The epoxy lamination is not difficult and the Entropy Epoxy we use in the kits is very forgiving and sets up slowly to give you plenty of time.
If you are not a woodworker, take time to make sure your tools are sharp, go slowly and read the manual a section at a time before you begin so that you can better anticipate the impact of what you may be doing on the following steps. And follow this old wood-working adage: "measure twice, cut once". It is far easier to take wood off - especially with a soft wood like cedar - than it is to put it back.
So go slowly and avoid the use of too many power tools. The image you have of board shapers striding up and down the shaping bay with power planers and 8" disk sanders is better expelled from your mind as it is tremendously easy to take off more wood than you would like. Stick with hand planes, spokeshaves (if you have one) and hand- sanding blocks if you have any doubts. Stop very often and admire your work - very closely from the nose and side - with one eye closed so that you can detect problems as they are developing rather than when they are too advanced to fix easily.
Finally, keep in mind that when you are done, there will be a few things you will have wished you had done differently. All hand-made things have a few imperfections and that is part of their appeal. One day, you will be sitting on that board waiting for the next set, and you'll look down at the clear seawater washing over a beautiful grain pattern and you will be amped that it looks great and surfs and you made it yourself! What could be better?
This depends to some degree on your personal ingenuity... but the Grain builders recommend the following:
Do not neglect the critical basics: Dust masks, safety glasses and surgical or rubber gloves. Pay heed to safe handling standards for epoxy such as those outlined here: http://www.masepoxies.com/safety.htm
There are also lots of things that you can do to reduce the number of new tools that you need to buy. Instead of spring clamps, old four-inch PVC pipe can be recycled into clamps. Instead of purchasing bar clamps, there are several ways to build your own or create a clamping table. Instructions for making a clamping/rocker table and PVC clamps come in the manual. With a little ingenuity, you can find ways to clamp that don't require bar clamps at all. Email or call if you're on a budget and need help improvising. Many people have friends that are woodworkers who are happy to lend a few things and can help with sharpening your tools if you need it. We've found that most people - surfers or not - are intrigued by the process of building these boards and are happy to get involved. And even for apathetic friends, all it takes is a few extra cold ones to share.
If you are planning to buy tools, do yourself and the planet a favor and purchase the highest quality tools you can afford from local sources. The farther away are the suppliers of the things we use every day, the more it harms the planet. And tools of good quality will last several lifetimes which means that your granddaughter or grandson may inherit not only the surfboard you build today but also the tools you used to build it... with fewer made-to-throwaway items entering the waste stream to boot.
The actual hours that you spend building your board will depend on your skill level, the complexity of the board design you are building, and choices you may make about customizing the board's finish, but you can count on anywhere between fifty and eighty hours.
This time will be applied to the project in smallish chunks as you must wait for glue to dry before moving on to subsequent steps. Many kit builders will reserve an hour in the morning and/or evening before and after school or work as well as time over weekends.
Swallow tails are the split tail found on our fish models. They are more work to build than the squash tails featured in our other boards, but are not terribly complicated to do... just time-consuming.
The two places that swallow tails can trip you up are:
1. In fairing off the top of the tail block that is mostly inside the board. You will need to eyeball with a two-foot piece of rail strip along the tops of the three frames nearest the tail to see where the top of the tailblock should be faired to. The manual is explicit on this point, so read it carefully.
2. In fitting the fiberglass cloth up into the narrow part of the swallow tail. A small patch can be added before the main lamination to ensure full coverage. You can check back while the epoxy is setting up to be sure that the cloth around this tight area is not bubbling up.
Not really. Good glassing is a question of careful surface preparation, basic hand-eye coordination, understanding when to apply pressure to the squeegee, and timing. It's actually pretty easy if you follow a few basic principles (the manual spells them out for you).
The main complication is that that you will be laminating over a compound-curve surface - in other words, it is a surface that changes in all three dimensions as you move the squeegee up and down the board.
If you would like to, do a little practice... get a large section of the off- cut cedar panels from your board, and a section of the glass cloth that was trimmed in preparation for your first lamination. Prepare the wood scraps as you would the board you want to laminate, and apply some scraps of cloth. If you want an even better sense, bend the wood scrap over something curved before doing the practice lamination - that will give you a better idea of laminating a curved surface.
Naturally, it becomes easier with practice, but more experience improves how quickly you can do it more than it does the quality of your work. Which is to say, work slowly and be thorough and the glassing will go well.
There are actually a lot of options you can choose with one main restriction: The actual shape of the board is defined by the precision- cut internal frame. Even with that, there is some latitude in shaping the rails - particularly near the bottom as long you don't remove too much material.
It is still possible to manipulate the shape a little if you have some ideas that you want to try out. For instance, you can extend the length of the board a bit by adding a longer tailblock. Or you could decide that you want a pintail instead of the squashtail that is designed into many of our boards. You can even put some very limited concaves in the bottom by cutting the appropriate frames if you want and are very careful. It's also pretty easy to make the nose of the board a bit finer or blunter if you want. There are some other possibilities which we can talk about if you have specific ideas.
The way you "plank" the board also allows some latitude. You can put inlays of other woods, or paint colors or accent stripes, etc. It is also possible to add custom paint tints, art or even fabrics during the lamination and epoxy coats. Print out logos or other art that you want onto acetate using your inkjet or laser printer and laminate them on as well.
For those with a steady hand, inlays of other woods, plastics or other materials can also be done - but be careful: the skin of your board is a maximum of 1/4" thick!
The manual is a step-by-step description of how to assemble a Home Grown kit. It is loaded with pictures that show lots of detail, and it is under regular revision as we have time and think of more information that would be useful to kit builders. We are looking for comments and feedback as to how easy it is to follow the manual's steps so let us know what is lacking!
That depends on whether you live alone. Your board may take as much as two full work weeks to build IF you were working on it non- stop. Chances are you are more likely to do a little at a time every day - plus weekends - for a couple of months. Be sure that your mom/wife/husband/roommate is cool with having your new stick growing in the middle of the room for that long. Good luck with that.
You might also disclose to your loved one that you will be generating an incredible amount of wood shavings, saw dust and sanding dust which, though aromatic, is not good to breathe. Let's not even talk about the epoxy resin which will drip off the sides of the cloth onto whatever floor covering you forgot to spread a drop-cloth over.
You will need enough room for a rocker table longer than the length of your board, with at least two feet of space around all sides, plus some surface to assemble parts on (like a workbench or table) and places to put tools and supplies. If you are only building one kit, you may choose to break down your rocker table once the top is on the board and build some shaping stands from the parts which will help you recover some floor space as well as get the board up at a good working height for shaping, glassing and finishing.
Good lighting is essential - when you begin shaping and sanding, you will want it at the same level as the board itself so that you can see imperfections.
Kits are shipped in two boxes. One box is 7" by 7" by whatever length the board is and holds all the wood, the frame, hardware, internal blocking, manual and fiberglass. The epoxy, cups, gloves squeegees, etc. and all the other adhesives typically come in a separate box directly from our supplier.
In the contiguous US, we charge flat-rate shipping for kits - $50 for shortboards, $175 for 8' kits and $250 for 9' kits and over - unless you opt for longboard kits that employ the "puzzle scarf" joinery in their planks - those ship at the same rate as 8' kits: $175. Longer kits are delivered via freight service. All other kit shipping is via UPS. For foreign destinations, Hawaii and Alaska, charges vary. See our FAQs on international shipping if you need to.
A little...because our original intention was to develop a kit for people that were like us - surfers with just a basement, some tools and a desire to surf boards we built ourselves. The excitement that comes from making it yourself is what we were after!
We have thought a lot about how to support other aspiring builders, but so far haven't come up with a good framework for supporting this. Stay tuned. If you are interested on whether there is any news on this front, send us an email asking if there are developments. We are all interested in seeing more wooden surfboards out there so we will continue to think about this pretty carefully.
I see that the Grain board line is growing ever year. Why are only some the new boards available as kits?
One of the things that we're constantly trying to do is find new ways to evolve wood board building techniques. "Grain Labs" (the corner stand where we do most of our experimenting) is pretty much constantly testing out new materials (bio-resins, organic laminating cloths, etc) and new construction techniques in order to build boards that have never been built in wood over frames.
So over the years, we've been developing an increasingly sophisticated little bag of board-building tricks some of which vary from board to board. This has been great for the boards, a benefit to our customers and challenging for us.
The hell of it is that some of our newer boards are just more complicated to build and that makes it harder for us to properly support Home-Grown builders who would do them as kits. Even fitting all the different variations into our manual would be a problem. As time goes on, we'll look for ways to get past this on some of the models, perhaps simplifying the designs for kits, launching the "kits" only as part of a class where we can gauge the ability of home-builders to execute the designs or creating a set of manuals where each one is specific to the kit purchased. Each of these choices has its own downside, so as we work through this, we just feel that it's more responsible to hold some of the designs back from the kit line. The good news is that every board is available custom-built at Grain and that'll make your new board that much more unique than boards available anywhere else. We'll also help you build any of our boards if you're interested in a class - just you and one other builder to guide you!
You sure can. We want to support those who would like to use more local materials, recycled wood or stuff they have left over from other projects. You can order lots of the kit components right on our online store and we are adding more all the time. If you don't see what you want there, just give us a call and we'll try to get you what you need. The only exception is the Builder's Manual which only comes with the kit.
Most people that are considering this option already have some experience in building wood surfboards - for example they have already built a HomeGrown Surfboard Kit.
You sure can! For a long time, we just didn't offer these, but now you can get them for every board we offer in the kit line. WARNING: Building a wood board from plans is a particularly challenging undertaking. We intend these plans for people that either understand the basics of this construction method, have already built a kit or taken a class, or are simply interested in inventing some of the process themselves. If you think you may need more guidance, you might consider taking a class or getting a kit first because the manual that comes with our plans is an abbreviated one.
Kits usually ship within a week or two. We don't maintain a huge inventory of materials for the kits, so we often have to mill stock for your kit after the order is placed, and this takes time!
Delivery time for boards is harder to predict because there is so much labor involved and we get backlogged pretty easily when we get a rush of orders. Ask when you call or email about the timing for delivery. If you have a deadline (such as when the board is a gift) make sure you place your order as far ahead as you can manage - at least a couple of months - to have a good chance that we will get it done on time.
If you're going to order a board, we should really talk...both because you will probably have a lot of questions, and because there is a lot to talk about when you trust us to build a board that you want to treasure. But to get in our queue right away, you can go right to the online store Board Deposit Page and place a deposit for the board you want. We'll email or call just as soon as we can to finalize the details. Or if you have questions, or if you are international customer, just call or email to start a dialog about your dream board.
Kits are available online from a couple of sources but you can also get them from our own online store where you can also get tools or supplies, most board components, andapparel. You can also call or email us directly to order kits, tools and clothes but we may have to ring you back if we are in the middle of glassing or surfing... Sorry, but the store can handle orders only from the USA. If you are in another country, check out our FAQs for International Orders, and then give us a call or email to order.
You should also ask at your local surfshop... Kits are available at selected shops around the country, and that means you get your kit immediately instead of waiting the two weeks it takes us to process orders. We have been talking to even more shop owners about carrying kits and some are carrying our boards. They would love your business and it's great to do your part to keep your local economy ticking along.
We think so. We are pretty sure that we can ship anywhere. Costs vary widely, though it often has less to do with how far you are from Maine than it does with the remoteness of the final destination. Look at the FAQs on International Shipping for more information.
A little. We often post pictures of customer's boards, and we are happy to field emails when you are wondering how things are going. And we don't hesitate to call or email you when we may have a question for you. We really, really want you to feel as great as we do about these boards, so stay in touch!
Mmmmmmaybe. Give us a call. If you've ordered a kit from us before, let us know, there are ways that we can save you a little money on your second order.
Once upon a time, we wouldn't consider this. The team we have now is absurdly dedicated to helping you get in the water sooner. Give us a call when you order, and we'll let you know what the rush charge is. We're lucky to have a bigger team of people working with us now, and that means that no one gets bumped when we rush your order.
Usually about a foot longer than the board you are ordering, and six to eight inches square. You will also receive epoxy and stuff you need for the glassing in a separate box about a foot tall by nine inches square. The only exception to this is that some of the longboards can be created with "puzzle-joint" planks which lets us send those kits in half-length boxes.
You make it sound like Grain boards are "green" yet you use glue and plastic in them. Defend yourself.
he folks that work at Grain have a real desire to make our love of surfing mesh with our concern for the environment. That's why we are choosing not to build boards made primarily from non-renewable foam. We are serious about facing up to our responsibility for the environmental impacts of surfing but still to surf a great board.
To begin with, there is an important distinction between full-on "sustainability" and being simply "more green" than the alternatives. The standards for the latter are pretty easy to hit, as our culture is one of mindless consumption, addiction to convenience at any cost, and cheap knock-off manufacturing that uses materials that promise the greatest short-term profitability possible regardless of their non- renewable nature or toxicity to the environment. We can all do better than that.
"Sustainability" for a manufactured product requires a whole other level of commitment, cost and complexity. Our wish is that we could build a totally "green" surfboard today. But today, we can't. Tomorrow is another story though, and as a small start-up company we have a lot to aspire to, yet feel limited in how much we can do right now. See our separate FAQ on Sustainability for more information.
Here is a list of what we know we are not doing and what we are pleased that we are doing on the environmental responsibility front:
Commendable! We will sell only those parts of our kits that you want or need with the exception of the "how-to manual“ that only comes with the kits. You can find some of these items listed in our online store. For anything you don't see, call or write us for prices. You can purchase plans if you want as well - those do come with a manual, though it is has some abbreviated content because there are not all our kit-building components to describe the use of.
The only thing we feel responsible to remind you of is that we have spent almost ten years figuring out the best techniques for board building in this style. Before beginning your own solo project, you should feel confident in your knowledge of these techniques (a kit, class or friend that knows how can help) or be titillated by the challenge of finding your own way. We can't support solo builders to the same level that we support kit builders, so be ready to meet the challenge!
Let us know how that works out: we want to do that as well. The original Tom Blake style hollow wood boards used no epoxy, but in order to achieve lighter weight boards Grain has developed a construction method that we think requires some structural/waterproof skin. You might try epoxy coated fabrics like hemp/silk hybrids as a greener alternative. Some experimentation with increased internal support and/or different adhesives may be required before we feel that we could develop a reliably watertight structure (without the use of glass and epoxy).
What other kinds of "green" surfboards or wood boards are there? Do they all use non-biodegradable synthetics?
Almost all of the boards being built today that we are aware of use glues, fiberglass, epoxy and other non-renewable elements. Boards advertised as "wood" are often foam blanks with wood veneers. Some green boards claim sustainable use of bamboo, which often has to be shipped from afar. There are a number of fine hollow wood surfboard builders around the world, and all of them seem to use at least a resin coating, and most also use carbon fiber and/or fiberglass cloth or some other structural skin as well.
There are more great, new ideas all the time, but sadly, there are also those who see the "green" buyer as a market segment only, and will say whatever they need to in order to sell you something. As a result, there are many, many cases of manufacturers and self-styled sustainability standards setters who - because it's convenient and marketable to do so - just set the bar of sustainable performance way too low. We live this ethos, and want to be as clear and honest about our sustainability performance as we can be.
Grain Surfboards has undertaken the production of surfboards made principally of wood in part to provide surfers an alternative that is "greener" than foam. Our efforts in this regard cross virtually all aspects of our production and operational methods (see FAQ Section 5, Environmental Responsibility).
We also believe that wood surfboards are a net gain environmentally in surfboard manufacture compared to foam in that wood boards are primarily constructed of a renewable resource (i.e. wood - whether certified sustainably harvested or not) that is so durable and beautiful that it is unlikely to be discarded - ever.
However we don't want to give the impression that our process as a whole should be considered "sustainable". The concept of sustainability implies a conduct of human activity the result of which is a society - or a company - that is able to meet its needs in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, maintaining these ideals indefinitely through planning and continued sustainable actions.
We still use some materials at Grain Surfboards that are chemical or petroleum based and - though we believe the exceptional strength and beauty of Grain boards will give them longer life - we cannot document the full life-cycle of the components that we use once they are delivered to the customer. This sort of "life-cycle" planning would be a requirement in any comprehensive sustainability framework.
How do sustainable concepts relate to finished products (like surfboards) or raw materials (like wood)?
Sustainability concepts can be applied to small systems (for example, in the use and management of a particular natural resource) or to large ones (such as when considering the future of the human race). In some cases, "standards" of sustainability have been developed. One comprehensive standard called "The Natural Step" (TNS) is a framework of sustainability concepts and performance standards that are being adopted by companies the world over. A laudable example is Interface, the world's largest commercial-flooring company which became the first in the U.S. to adopt the TNS framework. The goal of CEO Ray Anderson is to produce zero waste and to "never take another drop of oil from the ground." Innovations include leasing carpets instead of selling them and powering a factory with solar energy. These products would be considered "sustainably produced" under the TNS standards. These would be fine goals for our young company to work toward in the future.
By some accounts, the term "sustainability" was originally coined in relation to the management of timber, and accordingly, there are certification standards for timber management as well; some are developed by the industry (e.g. SFI) and others are overseen by independent organizations (e.g. FSC). Certifications can be earned by a particular woodlot when a forest management plan and subsequent audits of harvesting and land use practices are verified. Another type of certification can also be stamped onto forest products (like furniture) when "chain of custody" documentation can verify which components came from lands that are certified as sustainably managed. All certifications of this nature are expensive for land managers and manufacturers to acquire and maintain, so there usually has to be enough demand for "certified products" to make it worth the expense.
Sadly, there are no sustainability standards for surfboard manufacture that meet Grain's own minimum standards - we exceed any that we've reviewed by leaps and bounds though we're still not satisfied with our own performance. We do participate in some of these standards none-the-less in order to assist them to improve their criteria by making them more stringent.
What about Grain? Do you have Chain of Custody Certification or use "Certified Sustainable" raw materials in Grain Surfboards?
Grain Surfboards has undertaken to primarily use sustainably managed northern white cedar in our boards. But investigation with large Maine timber land managers, the Forest Stewardship Council (the FSC certifying authority) and the Maine Forest Service have determined that there are no producers of northern white cedar in Maine that are actually certified for sustainable harvesting of that particular forest product.
While Sustainability Certification would definitely be a guarantee of sustainable practices, the absence of that guarantee doesn't mean that the forest product isn't sustainably managed. In fact, Peter Lammert, a leading forester with the Maine Forest Service, has told us that it would be difficult to find a forest management plan anywhere in Maine that targets sustainable harvesting of northern white cedar in Maine simply because it grows so abundantly there. In other words, the resource sustains itself without active management at current harvesting levels.
In the long run, this is no consolation - human history is riddled with failed civilizations that once thought their resources were so abundant that they didn't have to plan to preserve them. Also, FSC certification includes standards for habitat preservation, forest soil conservation, and metrics related to sustainability of other than the forest product itself - none of which are guaranteed just because cedar sustains itself without management in Northern Maine.
Portage Mills, Grain's principal supplier, ensures us that they share our concern for a lasting forest resource. Their website promises that "Portage Mills purchases superior cedar logs from local professionally certified logging contractors whom [sic] practice sound sustainable forest practices." In response to our direct inquiries and citing their own interests as well as those of environmentally minded consumers, they were unequivocal in stating that "We do in fact care [about] the preservation of our forests."
But mills like Portage only buy and sell timber from logging operations - the mills themselves are only certifiable as "sustainable" when they confirm that the wood they buy comes from certified timber management operations (unless they become timber managers themselves). This is called "chain of custody" (CoC) certification which is costly to establish and maintain. When there is little demand for certified lumber, mills can't justify the expense of the certification. This is currently the case for northern white cedar - no Maine mills have CoC certification. This means that it is impossible for Grain to obtain the certification either - unless we purchased whole trees directly from FSC certified lands and opened our own sawmill.
This also means that we have no choice but to fall back on other indicators of sustainable harvesting. One modest indicator is that Maine loggers that supply Portage Mills are certified annually by the state as Certified Logging Professionals (CLPs). This certification is not a "sustainability certification" but it does include a component of training on sustainability issues and ensure that loggers have familiarity with timber harvesting "best practices" that contribute to resource sustainability. Forestry laws that logging operations must adhere to also help contribute to sustainability of forest resources by protecting soils, seed trees and habitat.
Despite all that, we continually have difficulty sourcing the longest clear planks that we have used in longboards - which to us, is an indicator of scarcity and poor resource use. We'll continue to work on ways to best use the wood resources available to us in the most responsible way we can. And, in the coming years, Grain Surfboards will be examining ways to make all of our operations approach sustainability, seeking out vendors who pursue similar goals.
Grain was born out of the desire of Mike LaVecchia and his friend to build and surf their own boards. Together, they tried a number of techniques with which they were familiar from their experience in boatbuilding. Their first board had caulked seams and bronze fastenings - just like a ship! Once they hit on an adaptation of standard boatbuilding techniques that resulted in a strong, light, beautiful board that used a minimum of non-renewable resources, they started building for themselves and for friends. Some weird timing and press interest got Grain national exposure almost immediately, and soon it became clear that people wanted these boards as an alternative to foam and plastic.
From his original partner (who had other interests to pursue) Mike bought the intellectual property that they had developed together over a single summer, and Grain was born. Assembling a small team of new and old friends, they moved the shop out of the garage and to a facility they are still developing in a renovated barn. Brad Anderson joined Mike as a co-owner early on to help develop the boards and company into what it is today. New friends have continued to appear at just the right time with just the skills the small company has critically needed thanks to some strangely wonderful synchronicity that we try not to wonder about too much, each and every one helping us to make better stuff every year. See the company page for more about Grain and the current crew.
Aside from the boards, the thing we love the most about our company is the friendship and warm interest that supports it. Our logos, apparel art, website, photos and marketing advice all come from super- talented folks we have known for years. We also enjoy personal relationships with our customers - which is important to us. It feels like an ever-widening circle of new friends. Some of them have come to the shop to select wood for their own boards and we sometimes see them out on the line-up at our local break.
We feel fortunate to be part of a growing clan that all share the pure joy of what we are doing. That's really the key thing that makes Grain Surfboards so important to us.
Sure, we would love to show you around... we are there most days - unless there are waves. If you want to talk to someone specific, it is a good idea to call ahead. We generally have a ton of work to do, so don't be offended if we keep working while we visit, though!
Our shop is located at 60 Brixham Road in York, Maine. There're two 60's on Brixham Road - one in York and one in Eliot. Ours is the one furthest to the north east, just within about a half mile of Route 91.
Definitely. We ship everything, everywhere. You may find that epoxy and adhesives are cheaper and easier to obtain locally.
If you're interested in a Home Grown Kit, and you live in Europe, you'll save a significant amount in shipping and duties if you order from our partner in the UK, Fyne Boat Kits. The kits and manuals are the same - just made from local wood, with domestic shipping rates.
We are happy to quote shipping for those ready to order a Home Grown Kit or Grain Surfboard. But if you're just trying to get a general idea of what it will cost to ship as a way to decide whether you'll order or not, we'd ask that you first do a couple of things:
1. Read through all the FAQs on International Orders.
2. Understand that international shipping for the odd sizes that kits come in can be a little difficult. You may be contacted if we find that the shipping quote utility we have in the store mis-quoted you. If you want the best idea before you buy, you may want to email us to ask for a quote for shipping.
You may be able to get a kit in Europe from our partner, Fyne Boat Kits, that make the same kits we do, only from wood that's local to the U.K. Shipping is way cheaper. Contact them through their website or by email.
Our shipping quotes get the product into your country and will result in delivery to the address that you give us. There are sometimes additional fees to pay (such as tax and/or duty), though we have no access to the details of when those charges are levied, so we don't quote them.
Generally, the farther from the nearest port of entry, and/or the more difficult it is to get to the delivery address, the more expensive shipping will be. If you are willing to travel to the point of entry (often your nearest international airport) you can sometimes save some money. This has saved more than 50% of the charges in some cases. For those already in urban areas, or located near the port of entry, there is usually little savings possible in picking up at the port of entry. If you decide you would like to order after reviewing our list of past shipping rates, and you want us to quote shipping when you order, let us know if you're willing to travel, and we will get you two quotes; one to your delivery address, and another to your nearest port of entry.
Shortboards and shortboard kits are usually less expensive to ship than are longboards. Shipping multiple kits or boards to the same location also reduces the cost per item significantly. If you are planning to order a board rather than a kit, you can count on costs about 30% greater than those shown.
We can't document import duties for every country in the world, so you'll have to consult with your national government to find out if any will apply. You may need the Harmonized Code for surfboards and surfboard kits which is 9506.29.00. That tells your customs agency what the product category is. If you find that you are being asked to pay duties, it's possible that you can avoid it if we send a letter to the customs brokerage that indicates that all components in the surfboard or surfboard kit are sourced in the USA. Email us a form letter (which you should be able to get from the customs broker that contacted you)and let us know where to email the letter.
We really can't predict this accurately, but if you want a tracking number, just send us an email and we'll send one along so you can follow the progress of your item.
Our classes and Open Shop sessions are intended for those who want to build a board for themselves, or to learn to shape and glass their own boards. There aren't really any age limits, though young people who aren't going to be in the company of their parents should be somewhat self-directed and must be able to follow directions. Building wood boards requires alot of time on your feet, so those that don't feel physically up to that will have some trouble. Parents: if you're sending your kid, great! But not only is this a working woodshop, it's also full of surfers. Expect your precious one to hear some salty language.
Our experience is that people get a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction out of building their own board. But if you have a partner that wants to do a board with you, that's great too. We'll only charge $500 for the tuition for the second person so that you're not paying for board materials twice.
Nope. None of our classes are certification courses - in other words, we aren't in the business of training future commercial board-builders. Our one and only goal is to pass on the great feeling we got when we built our first boards to people who want to build their own too.
Build your own and surf it. You've never experienced anything like it and you can't get a better diploma than a great new wood board you built yourself.
If you have 'em, bring 'em - you'll feel more comfortable with your own tools. If you don't have any, we have some here you can buy when you get here, or you can get them from our webstore, or you can just share a few of ours with the other students. If you buy new tools, chances are that they didn't come sharpened... we can help you with that when you get here. Some people prefer to bring their own dust-filtering respirator (3M 6000 series or better recommended). We also usually have some of those in the store, or you can wipe out with disinfectant one that's been used previously.
If you're bringing your own tools (besides the respirator) the most important ones are probably the edge tools - spokeshave, block plane, and a few sharp chisels. Drawknives are great if you have them, though it is an uncommon tool these days. If you have your own whetstone, that's a good tool to have with you as well. Your clothes are likely to get a bit of glue and epoxy on them so don't pack your tux. Bring a shop apron if you like to use one.
Skills, no. Sense, yes. If you can build a model airplane, can follow instructions, can be patient and stay focused for sometimes longish days, then this will be a snap for you whether you can whittle or not. But even seasoned woodworkers will enjoy building a wood surfboard because the process itself is not obvious, and there are plenty of "extra touches" that skilled woodworkers can add to their boards to add to the challenge.
You will be using some sharp tools and limited power tools and, while none of them is dangerous, they have to be handled with care and attention. No one should feel nervous about that, just sensible enough to know they have to pay attention.
Not really. We are limiting these workshops to the boards in our line of Home Grown Surfboard Kits, but many workshop participants make slight changes to the design of the boards to suit their styles or breaks. The range of modifications that you can make are limited, but can have significant effect on the board's design. Common changes are changing the tail style (from squash-tail to pin-tail for instance) widening or narrowing the nose, or modifying the rail profiles somewhat.
Fantasy Camp students can select from the full range of boards and kits we make because in the one-on-one environment, the additional complexities can be taught without detracting from another student's experience.
In the Board Building course, students build the board from scratch, but do not glass it 'til they get home. Some students have left the boards for us to glass, some have taken them to local glassers, and others have glassed their own here during Open Shop nights that we often have during the winter.
Because of limited space and the compressed time-frame that glassing requires, it doesn't work well to instruct more than one person in how to glass their own board. Because of this limitation, we don't offer a separate glassing class to most of our workshops. We don't make exceptions to this because it wouldn't be fair to offer it to one and not all.
The only way we offer glassing instruction is if you are a Fantasy Camper - by definition, a one-on-one experience that lends itself to glassing instruction. See the Fantasy Camp page for details.
I dunno. This whole thing makes me a little nervous... I don't think I can do it. Plus, I'm afraid I'll look dopey.
Tranquillo. We've had nothing but great, fun people at our workshops. Almost all of them have helped and supported the people around them as we all work side-by-side in the shop. And everyone's made a board that they're proud of. You can do it, too. The worst that can happen is you'll have a fun week you'll never forget and a surfboard that will likely last a lifetime. You may also get in a surf and even form some new friendships that will last almost as long as your board.
We have been thinking for a long time about how great it would be to build some of the most advanced surfboard shapes ever made as wood boards. We love our own shapes, but a chance to build boards designed by true icons in the history of surfboard evolution is just irresistible.
Al Merrick is one of the most respected shapers in the world, plus CI has a reputation for professionalism, and we knew that we had developed some technologies that dovetail perfectly with the way they work. They have a killer team, the shapes are sophisticated - there are no end of great reasons for us to partner with this outstanding company.
Once we realized what a great fit CI was, we started thinking about how to communicate that. Mike's long association with Burton Snowboards (who now own Channel Islands) was helpful in getting early feedback on the idea and in inspiring some of the CI guys to get together with us for a chat. We had plans to be in Cali for a few days for Sacred Craft, so we proposed a sitdown, and the CI team set a date. We thought alot about how to present all the great collaborative elements that were obvious to us, but in the end, we just told them about ourselves, and how our efforts seemed to dovetail perfectly, and we all decided to go ahead. They sent us a computer model of the board, we did what we do to get the frames and patterns derived from it, and the first Biscuit was made.
Our arrangement is similar to those made between epoxy board makers and shapers. We pay a license fee for each custom board or kit we make, and as a result, both CI's customers and our own are able to get Al's first-rate shapes made in wood. Good for everyone, and good for the planet.
We'll see. At this point, we want to concentrate on the Biscuit, offer it in different sizes and as kits and as a board built during our classes.
We have a handful of other projects that were already in the works before we got going with CI. Partly because of the success of our partnership with them, we decided to take some time to develop some pretty hi-tech software tools that work with our CAD system that will streamline the process of collaborating with some of the world's great shapers. Stay tuned for news about other collaborations by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page.
What is the refund policy for classes if I find I can't make it? Why do I have to pay in full to reserve a shaping stand?
We understand that it's hard to lock up tuition months ahead of time, but we feel we have to require pre-paying tuition only because the classes fill so fast, and we often have to turn people away – sometimes we turn away whole groups because a class is nearly full already. Generally, people have to plan months or even a year ahead in order to block out vacation time and make travel arrangements when fares are favorable. In consideration of everyone, we want people to know for sure when class dates are no longer available before they start juggling their schedules. Finally, we can't afford to hold classes that aren't full enough, so when people cancel and we fall below our minimum, we have to cancel the entire class and the remaining enrollees lose out, which is grossly unfair to them as they may have booked non-refundable travel already.
Our sign-up and refund policy for classes reflects these concerns. In general:
1. Full tuition is required in full to reserve a seat. You can wait until the class is closer if that's a problem for you, but there's a definite risk you won't get the dates you want the closer we get.
2. We have accidentally over-booked classes in the past, and it detracts from everyone's experience, so we make no intentional exceptions to the limits we place on numbers of students.
3. If you find you can't make the class for some reason, we encourage you to select other dates that will work for you.
4. If there's no other time you can come build your own board, we will refund tuition (minus 20%) for cancellations but only if we can refill your seat.
5. Things get dicey closer to your class date. If you need to cancel and it's within 30 days of the original class date, we'll do our best to fill your spot and get you a refund minus 20%. If we can't fill your original seat, unfortunately, you'll lose the class tuition altogether. If that happens, it might be better for you to peddle your seat to a friend. If you want to reschedule to another date (again, if it's within 30 days of the original class date) and there's no one else to fill your seat for the cancelled class, your only option is to purchase another spot in a later class. In the event that you lose the seat for the original class and don't get refunded, we'll also send you the full kit for the board you would have built if you'd like.
6. There have been cases of family emergency in which we've helped out by relaxing this policy a bit, so let us know as early as you can if you need to cancel or switch dates, and we'll do what we can to be accommodating.
IMPORTANT! Upon receiving your new kit, open the box and have a look at the contents, even if it may be some time before you'll have a chance to get started. If anything looks damaged or missing, WE NEED TO KNOW within 10 days in order to submit a claim with our shipping company. We cannot process claims of damage or loss beyond this time period.
Returned items ultimately costs us money to unpack, inspect, and re enter into our inventory. That is why there is a restock fee of 20% of the original purchase price for kits. This is in addition to the replacement cost of any materials missing or broken required to resell kits. We hope you will read our FAQ page, look over all the kit descriptions and even call us with any questions prior to ordering a kit. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver a product you are fully stoked on from the moment you open the box and for years to come.
I bought a kit, but for one reason or another, I just haven't built it and I'm starting to think I should take a class instead. What should I do?
We can help with that, but we still think you should build the kit if you can. One way is to suck it up, put aside all that stuff that you think has been keeping you from getting started, and dive in. Another is to come take a class, build yourself a board with our help, then go back, get that kit off the shelf and knock it out in record time. That gets you some help with the process, some motivation, and you end up with not one, but two boards!
If neither of those options works for you, there's a third way - but it will be a little inconvenient for you (and, truth be told, for us too). You can send us the un-built kit and we'll apply a credit to your class tuition based on its age and condition. If your kit's more than a year old, you can probably count on a credit of around $500. If it's less than a year old, your credit is likely to be closer to the purchase price, but never the full price you paid. Naturally, if there are materials that simply can't be used or are degraded, that will affect the credit we can apply, but you will get to keep those.
The downside of this option is that we can't tell you for sure what your credit will be until the class is complete AND you need to get us the un-built kit a full month before the class kicks off so we can prep what we can use before your arrival (all of our classes require lots of planning and several days of prep on our part before the class begins. If for some reason, some kit parts unusable, we need time to plan accordingly). So none of this is ideal, but if it's what you want to do, we'll do what we can to help make it happen. Start this process off by calling or emailing. Or... you can get that kit off the shelf and just get started!
We'll exchange anything that's not the right size as long as you cover the shipping to return it to us.
We work hard to keep all our prices as low as possible - and there's not much left over to pay the bills. So if you change your mind and want to return something for refund, we'll take back all new, unused products, but we have to charge a restocking fee of 10%.
Because of our dedication to quality, we have very, very few instances where something we make or sell is just not serviceable, but when it happens, we're dedicated to doing the right thing for our customers, and we'll make it right - which means something different in every case. Let us know if you have any issues.
Scale drawing that can be printed, and used to create a simple jig that will assist in positioning mounting holes in the laminating table that will facilitate mounting of the Grain Rocker Lift Kit.
From the Grain Homegrown Kit Builder's Manual appendix: Laminating and Rocker Tables, PVC Clamps, Fairing Board, Shaping Stand
Keels and Frames in Grain HomeGrown Surfboard Kits are marked with fin positioning dimensions to simplify positioning of fins and blocking. This supplement can be used by those who want to establish customized fin positions. In order to make it understandable, we document in this Tech Supplement a very detailed method of locating fins specific to wood boards. You can also do like the pros and just "eyeball it".