Making a surf ski

Is this possible ?

Well I know that it must be as there are manufacturers who do make them. I am assuming that they make them by hand and that this is not an automated process.

I am interested in making a fibre surf ski like a Huki/Futura/fenn/Custom.

A mate is a boat builder with experience in moulds and so on and I am ok with other materials.

Are there any kits or plans to do such a thing ?

The reason I ask is that it costs soooo much to have a surf ski shipped here. I looked into this last year on this forum and discover that the initial price from South Africa for a Custom Mark-1 or a Fenn Mako was pretty reasonable but the shipping cost the same as the kayak !

Sooooo… my current ‘ride’ is a Cobra Expedition (18 foot by 21 inch beam plastic SOT) which is nice but I am looking for a more minimal kayak.

Must be SOT… must have a stiffer hull than my current kayak, be lighter and longer… Nothing much out there as far as I can see except for surf skis.

I don’t want to rip off a design / hull from an existing surf ski so do any of you know how I can make one ?

Or do you think that I need special vacuum moulds ? ie you doubt I can get it lighter than 45 pounds in the lay up ?

I’d be very curious to find out what any one knows about this and if you think I am in with a chance :slight_smile:


try wood
To get the weight down, try cedar-strip or plywood construction. CLC just came out with a plywood sit-on-top kit, but even that weighs 48 lbs (same as your Cobra) and is only 15’-6" long. So, you could order the plans, and stretch it out a few feet, but it would gain weight accordingly.

You can add a sit-on-top cockpit to any kayak design, or you can have a local manufacturer do this for you as a custom job. This will result in a heavier kayak than the stock sit-inside model.

If you are going to subject the boat to the rigors of the sea, with lots of rough landings and launchings, you may not want to go with a standard surfski anyway, as they are made to be light, but only as strong as necessary, to keep the weight down for racing. Of course, there are exceptions, but that is the general rule. So, if you want the durability of a sea kayak, and you want the extra long length, you will have to pay for it in weight.

Force Ten, a California extreme-conditions sea kayaking team, paddled specially-made “Odyssea”, high strength touring surfskis. They are 19’ and 58 lbs. with hatches and heavy-duty construction. You might contact them for more information.

See also:

there are plenty of used boats around for reasonable prices. look in the classifieds on there is a nice carbon mark on in conneticut. you will spend a lot of time and money for what will most likely be an inferior boat. shipping for the east coast on a huki is only $450, and you could get an X or R for as low as 1800 in glass new.

he lives
he lives in the channel islands… shipping would cost a fortune like he said. You should be able to build a strip wood boat under 45 lbs. The molded seat/cockpit of the surfski would be the hardest part to build, though you could make it only out of glass or carbon I guess and not have to worry about tight wood bending… Also, you might check out photos of the new Van Dusen Mohican for ideas. It has a hybrid cockpit style (sit-in cockpit rim but with bulkheads and molded surfski style seat, K1 style footboard). There’s some pics on the Yahoo olympic kayak group.

you might check out and their kayak building forums. Also, if you need plans, you might start with this boat ( and modify to your needs.

I think
… that it boils down to how much I can shoulder.

Even though I have made a trolley I still find 55 or 58 pounds to be a little on the hefty side (I am a mere 6’2" and about 190llbs as opposed to the ‘human shovel’ mentioned in the article on Odyysea kayaks - got an actual link for those ? I googled but came up blank).

I will experiment but think that the upper limit might be 40 pounds. Of course I can lift more but I think that you have to make life easy for yourself ! Paddling should be (for me) a kind of … 'I’ll grab the ‘yak and walk down the beach and go for a paddle…’ thing rather than, ‘… oh it does weigh alot… hmmm maaaaybe I’ll just go freediving instead’…

Anyway - I will look at the links - first impressions are that a wood one might not be as durable as a fibre one… And then there is maintenance too.

Yes - shipping is a killer here. Guernsey is near England/France - small rock in the sea :

Anyway - any more advice welcome as I read these links and look at plans.



Not SOT, but…

Valley in Nottingham is making a fast new boat called the Rapier, just set the Channel record. You might be able to ship it on the ferry.

Force Ten and Tideline
Force Ten, paddlers of Odyssea Surfski, can be found here:

They should be able to point you in the right direction. They may even provide plans for the Odyssea, or at least advice on where to start.

Another (earlier and more detailed) version of the article on Steve Sinclair can be found here:

While I have only found a 1992 post for a used Odyssea on Google, there is a photo of one in “Extreme Sea Kayaking” by Eric Soares and Michael Powers. There is also some limited footage of them in Tsunami Rangers videos.

In any case, the point was that a “hardened” surf ski with hatches puts the weight over 50 lbs. If you are looking to make a 40 lbs ski, you will need to be a good craftsman to keep the weight down while keeping strength up, considering you will not be vacuum bagging.

And don’t worry about the strength of a wood kayak/ski, as you will cover it inside and out with fiberglass/epoxy.

Repairs will be a little tricky if you have to replace wood, but using a wood core will help keep the weight down.

Yes, the cockpit will be the hardest part if you use the strip-building method, but as suggested in another post, you could use a hybrid approach.

I think if you factor in the time it would take for such a project and the fact that there is a large risk you might get a heavy boat, you might be better off paying the shipping for a commercial surf ski or paying a local builder to modify a sit-in sea kayak by installing a sit-on-top deck.

Patrick at Tideline (Onno Paddles) has offered to do such a custom build:

So, perhaps he may have advice on this type of modification.

paddle back?
I guess you’ve already considered having a Fenn delivered to the coast and just paddling back, stopping in Jersey even to split the distance up? Makos are pretty unstable though if you’re not used to them. I think Fenn France is near there… surely they could help you out. and it should be alot cheaper than getting one sent directly to you from South Africa. I have a fiberglass Mako Mill. that weighs about 38-39lbs. it only feels heavy if I’ve been carrying around my 20lb K1 beforehand.

I have looked…
… at the Rapier 18 and also the 20. Both look good but they seem a little heavy.

Perhaps this is my ignorance and I’ll be the first to admit I am a novice to say the least.

I think that it is an over ambitous project to build one both in terms of time / money / skills !

So if I were to buy a surf ski I have a few questions on durability.

It seems that a ‘standard’ surf ski weighs in the region of 35 to 40 pounds.

This is for a glass layup.

How long will this last ? I paddle in the sea with plenty of rocks (9m tidal range so getting to know the rocks is often a ‘practical’ experience :slight_smile: ). I am pretty careful with stuff and anyway if I was going to be going close to rocks and stuff I would be using my plastic SOT.

I know that they are designed for racing primarily but I think that getting one with a small hatch would open it up as a good choice for fast day trips to the other islands. There is a shipping channel to cross to get to the nearest island and ideally you need to cross it as fast as possible.

I think that 35 to 40 pounds is more easy on the shoulders than the current 55 to 58 pounds.

Additionally I think that a stiffer/longer/narrower hull would be fun.

I think I may be prepared to throw some cash at getting one as you only get one life (and I can always do more work to offset the cash outlay).

Last time I looked it was about a year and a half ago and I thought the Custom Mark-1 or the Fenn Mako would be a good choice.

Are these still good choices or have things changed ?

I am happy paddling the Cobra Expedition (18’ x 21" - plastic SOT) and dont find it tippy at all - I have been pitched once or twice but I was out in heavy seas to see how tippy it was in high winds and heavy seas (3mm freedving suit on to anticipate being immersed - easy to get in again too).

So if I were to ignore money are there any suggestions to getting a surf ski?

(Paddles are a separate thing I think: I have a Lendal Kinetic two piece and have made a nice Greenland paddle from cedar. Might get a wing from the same place as wherever I get the ski).

THanks for reading this long post - hard to get info here as most paddle sit in kayaks and no shops.

Second thewood/glass sugestion
I don’t think you’re going to get any lighter unless you go carbon. It would be a lot easier to work with marine grade plywood and glass.

if you have never paddled a ski you might want to consider some of the intermediate skis that are now available. Fenn makes a mako xt which is more stable and the millenium is being replaced by the mako 6. Also epic makes a v-10 sport that that is an intermediate ski vs the regular v-10.

I would suggest looking at for reviews etc…

There is a big differenve between cobra and skis and if you jump right to advance ski you could spend alot of time learning/being frustrtated vs paddling. Depends on what you are looking for (ie challenge of master difficult craft or just enjoying water). Also advantage of faster ski is often lost if you cannot commit full power due to balance issues.

Another option would be to visit a dealer and try several skis and combine trip into a vacation. This would be costly but as you say you only live once. You could always fly to california try a bunch of skis visit beautiful san francisico napa valley etc…

There is always room to dream.


My biggest warning
regarding building a ski is that most paddlers I know, self included, cycle thru owning a few different skis for the first few years before they seem to finally settle on a design…then a new design comes out. It would be a shame to spend so much time and effort only to find soemthing else more suitable soon after.

Pick your design carefully.

Best of luck, let us know the result.