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Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in India.

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 11:24 am
by Boucaneer
Hello guys,

I'm a British guy doing some marine service in India for 6 months, when I'm not working I have walked along the beach and the small waves look perfect for paipo or body boarding. I prefer the natural look of a plywood paipo and it's history, so I have set my mind to building my own paipo in my spare time. Swimming is great but the waves are strong and my friend was pushed down onto the seabed and had a large graze on his forehead. Still that's all part of the fun, at least it's not boring. :-)

We are a long way from home and decent home depot stores, so I have looked around at the local plywood and can buy some of dubious quality, still we will give it a go.

So basically my friends, we thought we would ask you for a link or email to good template/rails to follow. We could experiment ourselves but we have only 6 months in before rotation back to England and would like to spend that time boarding and not too much time designing.

Saying that though, I would like or prefer to have a nose curve on the flat board for myself.
We were talking in the canteen the other day and it seems all sixteen of us would like to have one and it would be a great day on off duty and there is even talk of a end of posting championship between us. Yes, you can tell the boredom is setting in. Lol

We have three guys to start the fleet of unit Paipo's, myself being one. So a few questions I have to ask if I may?

I was thinking of half inch thick ply, maybe laminating two quarter inch plys together, although I was in town today and the hardware shop didn't have any waterproof glue, still I hope to track some down.

Failing that it will be half inch ply.

Now can I bend a nose curve in the half inch ply?

I shall try if I can. I want it to look detailed and pretty in a natural way.

As for waterproofing/sealing the ply, I was looking at some household varnish, but we have a large ration of paraffin issued to use for cooking, so we may use that and warm it up with a heat gun to soak in and seal it.

Any advice for us would be great.

Some of our mob are starting to climb the walls here and there's another 5 months and two weeks to go. Lol

We are here to teach the villages how to survive a tsunami or flood, and we've eaten enough curry for a lifetime, so fresh fish and fries and paipo boarding would be great for morale and esprit de corp. :-)

I used to do body boarding in Cornwall many years ago, and the lads are from many coastal towns around the coast of Britain, England, Scotland and Wales.

So if anyone could share with us a good template/rail design or tell us the dimensions, that would certainly set us one our way and have a bit of relaxation time.

The DVD collection has been exausted to dispair, and I keep telling the lads we should get out on the water, this isn't the army. Lol and they agree.

Very kind regards to all your boarders, and thank goodness this website exists.
The may be abke to save our sanity. ;-)

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 1:23 pm
by krusher74
I think maybe as far as templates if we could know what size plywood you could get we could work on a template to get the most from the size, are we talking 8by4's or smaller.

What equipment do you have ,electric jigsaw, normal saw, what sand paper etc can you get.

I would suggest looking at the tom wegener surfie. 4’ long (121cm), 14 ½ wide (37cm), and 7/16th thick (11mm) or similar to fit the ply you can get.

You dont need rocker, here is a video on what you need to learn to do on it :D ... -surfboard

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:22 pm
by bgreen

There are lots of threads about first builds.

This one features different shapes and discussion. Three guys - make three different shapes and swap/test what you like. A great chance for a natural experiment:

More board examples here:

There is also the old paipo forum

Two build threads on interest - contains links to bending advice - ... 3&start=10

Mr Mike & shapes:

Hopefully amongst all the above you will find the photos Mike once posted of adding/shaping a nose block.

Do a google search: Swaylocks + "alaia build"

Varnish will be fine. You'd need some wax though.

The basic methods for nose lift are: 1)steaming, 2) shaping it into the nose (Mike had a recent board he did this on -, 2) adding a nose block and shaping, 4) wedges and bending. 2 and 4 are probably the easiest for you.

If you had waterproof glue or epoxy, you could coat with epoxy.


PS- Surf in India - you may have seen this:

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:55 pm
by Poobah
Mr. Mike and I have both tinkered with boil bending solid timber boards. Sometimes using several clamps, and two being the minimum.
So what can be done in the bush with zero clamps? I've never tested it, but I think you could use the weight of a car to bend the boiled wood. Jack up the car or jeep, and then carefully lower the tire onto the wood while the nose of the board is resting on something (block of wood, bricks, or curbing.) Something similar could be done by having the jack under the wood, and jack upward against the wood. The wood then pressing against the bottom chassis of a vehicle or some other heavy object.

The best bush method might just be the old ladder method. Some verbal History popped up a couple years old bellyboard maker in Devon (?) would boil the nose end of a marine plywood plank in a big pot, and then bend it using a ladder, a few strong mates, and some rope. Can you picture that? Put the wood through the ladder. Over one rung and under the next one. Then bend the wood down and lash it to the ladder with rope or webbing. The Devon board makers would boil several boards at once and then tie them all down on one long ladder. So you just need the wood, water, heat source, ladder, rope, cooking pot, and a few helpers. It's important to move fast when you take the wood out of the pot. You want to bend it before it cools. Boiled water is barely hot enough to soften the natural plastics in the wood. That's why ship builders used steamed get it hot enough to have a longer working time (and to quickly moisten the wood.)

I presoaked my 3/4 inch timber boards for a few days before I boiled them. The extra moisture helps prevent cracking the wood on the bottm side of the bend. I once forgot about one, and left it soaking for 6 days. That was too much, because the wood thickend and warped. You have to strike a balance. For me 2 or 3 days was the best for poplar planks. I have no experience with boil bending marine plywood, and I never read anthing about the old British bellyboad makers pre soaking marine plywood.

Ideally it would be good to make that something with materials and processes that could later be replicated by the locals.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 9:21 pm
by Poobah
You also mentioned gluing two thin sheets of plywood together. That won't do. It has to be a minimum of three layers to hold its shape. It's possible you might salvage some thin plywoods from packing crates. But how do you clamp them together without clamps or a vacuum bag set up?

Again this is something untested, but something that Mr. Mike and I have speculated about. I think this could be done using sand bags. A lot of sand bags. Make your rocker table right on the ground. It could be simply a shape that gives you a rockered nose, but you could also put a concave across the tail. Cover your sand rocker table with a plastic tarp. They layer on the sheets of wood and glue. Then pile on the sand bags. Have a beach party while you wait on the glue, or come back to it the next day. Again this is untested. My guess is that a water-based glue like Titebond II might not get enough clamping pressure (or even pressure) from the sandbags. Epoxy glue would be a safer bet...I think. It's possible that the epoxy is the only thing you have to buy. If you can get the tarps, bags, and wood for free, then don't scrimp on the glue.

You might want to experiment in minature, like a two foot mini paipo.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:17 pm
by Poobah
We haven't heard much lately from Eef (Evert) in the Netherlands. His recycled plywood boards were low carbon footprint. He used mostly a saw and sanding blocks. No rocker. His simple approach makes it a good bush method.

Where is Eef? Did the sharks finally get him? Here's some of his boards: ... -north-sea

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:22 pm
by Poobah
One final tought...remember that Papillon escaped the island on a sack full of coconuts. You could do a modern variant using a Tyvek FedEx envelope filled with floaty bits. Instead of pushing the envelope of surfcraft design, you could simply ride the envelope.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:27 pm
by Uncle Grumpy
You don't need nose rocker.
Lot's of flat plywood and wood boards.

I've seen many like this that are dead flat on the bottom.


Of these , only one has nose rocker


All you need is a surface. A little up lifting shape doesn't hurt but it's not required.


Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:55 pm
by Poobah
As I see don't need nose rocker until you really need it.

I'm also a big fan of nose blocks with a slightly sanded rocker. Here's one I did on a wide mini paipo. Having a firm grip on the nose of a sub 2 foot board makes pearling almost a non issue. You can easily recover from a near pearling situation. It might be just the ticket for Boucaneer's novice riders in crashing shorebreak.
bobhotep01.jpg (37.02 KiB) Viewed 6368 times
I also pimped out a vintage ironing board. Just a slight sanded nose rocker. Rail handles on the bottom make up for the lack of nose rocker. In a close out I can firmly grab the middle of the board and plant my elbows on the tail.
Tree 006.JPG
We should also mention the traditional soldiers board...the planks and cleats or coffin lid style. I think this was WWII in Sydney.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 12:49 am
by Nels
I've found with 1/4" ply that the flex eliminates the need for for a turned up nose. You won't have any real float from the board anyway so you just use your hands and body to make the board do what you want. Flex it up at the nose if the takeoff starts feeling hairy.

For size I just piddle with the standard belly-button height. I've gone longer and shorter. I feel like you need to stay longer than a "knuckles to elbow" length when looking at the minimum length. Key thing with any ply is getting it sealed up good though. Polyurethane coating like varnish is easiest, I did a recent board with epoxy resin and that was a bit harder for me (being the first use though). Polyurethane resin would work also. An absent friend used to seal the plywood edges with a marine epoxy and then coat the board with other stuff - the edges are the most vulnerable part.

Here's a link to that last board I made...alas still untried as health issues sidelined me for a bit:


Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:02 am
by bgreen

Hope you are getting closer to testing it.

All the best


Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:14 pm
by Poobah
Also very simple...the Oregon locals shelf boards:
oregon01.jpg (51.02 KiB) Viewed 4783 times

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2015 4:08 pm
by Nels
Also important to remember that if materials aren't too terribly hard to come by...if the first ones don't work or break down quick...make more and incorporate what you learned with the first ones. Especially in the India circumstances; this provides even more recreational opportunity. Get into thinking about decoration too, unleash the inner artist. Have a few beers and go at it with craft paint.

Fun...the Forgotten Element in the regular surf world...

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:54 pm
by Boucaneer
Thank you all for the great comments and photos.
Good news is we have been given a couple of lengths of 1/2" plywood by the Indian navy after a bit of scrounging and a bit of bribery, a bottle of Bacardi clinched the deal. :-)

When asked they told us it was Khaya plywood.

I will try the boil ladder method as we have steel bunk bed ladders that may be able to put a bend in one with some polypropene rope tied to the ladder and board holding it down.

I hope it will work on 1/2" ply, I was told that the Khaya ply is heavy, strong and of good quality, used for old Indian navy patrol boats, but if not we will just keep the Paipo's flat with straight rails.

Great to see the pictures and read the information. It's been a couple of busy days with duties, there was an electrical fire in the village so the thought of building the Paipo's has cheered the unit up quite a bit, so thank you.

We will let you know our progress, and yes, we have a section of beach near a fishermans village where we can have a beach party, which is good. Barbecued fish and a cold Kingfisher beer will be on order. :-)

Thanks guys.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:05 pm
by Boucaneer
Just one more point, Papillon is one of my favorate stories, if you can read the book it's much better than the film with a diferent story and ending.

Good old Henri Charriere and his quest for freedom.

Will let you know how the Paipo building is going.

Cheers all.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Tue Apr 21, 2015 5:58 pm
by 1handclapping
Good luck with surfing India.
I have surfed the west coasts up in the north (Arabian Sea)
There are some really good set ups but you have to be lucky, storm swells seem to be what makes it work up there.
Down the bottom of the west coast there are waves and it seems to be a bit more consistant with swell coming from the south. Tides had a big influence.
The bottom of the east coast although I did not get in the water has some interesting possibilities.
India is a great place to explore for surf spots, even if there is no surf it's still worth the effort to travel.
If you need a piapo you could get dimensions photos of what you want go find a village carpenter and I am sure you with your guidance and a few rupees you could get a board shaped out of solid timber.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:15 pm
by 1handclapping
Hello Boucaneer hope you are getting in the water over there I am not sure where you are but if you can get to a island called Diu which is on the far north of the west coast ther are waves 3 to 4 foot on the beach and a few point breaks to discover.
There is a great little pub called the Mozambique which has rooms it's a great island to stay great food corrupt cops nice locals who are crazy over cricket what more would anyone want in life.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 6:45 am
by bgreen

How's things? Did you get the e-mail I sent a week or so ago
I've intrigued by your Indian travels. I was there in 1978 but didn't go looking for surf.


Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:50 am
by Boucaneer
No Bgreen, I didn't get the email.

Things are going well, we have sourced some 9mm and 12mm ply, and was cobbled together a collection of wood shaping tools. I think some of the lads prefer making the boards to surf riding with them, but most of us prefer to be in the water on a day off patrols and operations.

We are building a Jamaican oil drum barbecue for a taste of home ( London, U.K, ) lol, as some of the guys are curried out and want a jerk chicken and rice and peas. Lol

The kingfisher goes down well, but a lemon soda for the lads on next days duty.
We are still learning to perfect the art of surf riding and once practised I think we will have a little surfriding competition. I think the first prize will be two days R&R somewhere nice, we are thinking just across the sea in Sri Lanka for a couple of days for the winner.

We just gotta figure out who the judges are going to be, so no bribrary or cheating going on. Maybe the C.O could attend and assist, he owes me a bottle of rum, so he owes me a favour. ;-)

One question, has anyone ever used 12mm/1/2 " ply?

We have only used 9mm so far.

Would 1/2 inch ply be too heavy?

If you send that email again Bgreen I will be sure to look for it.

Thanks for the recommendation 1Hand clapping, we only get a couple of days off every now and again, but if I'm near will be sure to check it out.

Thanks for all the help and good comments again guys.

Re: Building a plywood paipo in the middle of nowhere in Ind

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:24 am
by Uncle Grumpy
Here's a link to a half inch plywood board I made a couple years ago ... =+mdo#p966

I ended up gluing a yoga mat deck onto it for better flotation and a nice comfy ride.