Anyone planning a trip to France?

Hi, everybody. I just signed up to Swaylock’s. I am French, living, surfing and shaping in Guéthary -about 3 miles south of Biarritz- I’d be glad to exchange ideas about design and shape, especially longboards and guns. I am almost 50, 'been surfing since 1966, shaped my very first board in ‘69, and never quit since… I’m a carpenter and I’m really hooked up on chambered balsa boards. Unfortunately, balsa is pretty hard to find here in France, at least in lengths over 5’. If any of you has plans about a trip to France, maybe I can help. Meanwhile, please forgive my bad English and let’s talk so I hopefully will improve. By the way, we have a similar web-site over here that’s called Shaperoom. Mainly in French, of course, but a few people do understand English, so if you feel like giving it a try, don’t let the weird French language bother you: I, for one, may answer. Just allow a few days to look up my words in the dictionnary… Just kidding…

A quick look at shape room… cool spot…nice to see a commonality whithin us there is hope for the world…interesting how politix has little bearing on surfers saving the world for the purpose of surfing…let us know when you are coming so we can arrange for wood for you to take back and shape…I live on Kauai and we have Hau wood…ambrose…aloha

Ambrose, you lucky bastard! Do you realize that living on Kauai is any French surfer/shaper’s dream? Unfortunately, I’m afraid I won’t be able to fly over to Hawaii before year 2052, and then I doubt I’ll be in perfect shape either to ride your great waves or to shape any board, be it made of foam, balsa, red cedar, or Hau. Hey, what is “Hau”, actually? Didn’t know about that wood. I heard about cactus boards, I heard about eucalyptus boards, but I never heard of this one… Any opportunity to have some sent over here? What would the price be like?

Hey, look: I join Swaylock’s for the first time, post some basic message, and the first answer I get comes from thousands of miles away and where from? Kauai! Now, that’s something! You know, one or two years after I started surfing, -must have been '67 or '68- Billy HAMILTON stopped by GUETHARY to ride a few waves together with Nat TOUNG and other travelling surfers whose names I don’t remember. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and this kind of memories never fade away. Is Billy still living in Kauai? Last year, I was lucky enough to have Laird sign an autograph for my daughter and it made me feel weird, you know, like, well, another generation is taking over.

Thanks a lot for your answer, Ambrose. See you someday, be it in Hawaii or in France or somewhere else. Just like you said, politics won’t keep good people apart. All of us surfers just want a better world for our kids to live in.

september in plaskett creek will be over 1/2 way to kauai from france…the power of the Euro dollar will make all dreams accessable…including kauai surf…I believe mr. hamilton lives on kauai for months at a time while not traveling to fulfill personal appearance commitments world wide…I have not seen him in years… . hau is grown wild along streams and rivers characteristics include light color and weight…difficult to useqnd tedous to acquire…ambrose…aloha

As a matter of fact… I’ve been thinking about an extended trip to France, Spain and Portugal, possibly in the autumn of 2005, two months of surfing, eating and learning/looking around. I’d be fascinated to see how a French charpentier does things, as thats how I make a living myself, as both a carpenter and a boat carpenter. You know how interesting it is to see somebody else’s workshop, how they do things just a little differently.

I’ve some friends in the Biarritz area, though I haven’t spoken to them in a long time.

Your English is better than mine. Nothing anyone needs to forgive at all. Now, I should, perhaps, start reading Shaperoom to work on my French, which does need improving.

As balsa is getting harder to find, would it perhaps be worthwhile to consider using it slightly differently, solid-but-chambered sections for rails and plank-and-pillar sections for the body of the board? That is, instead of chambering solid pieces, use solid on the ends of a section and thinner strips and smaller blocks in the midsection, possibly reinforced with very light glass fabric?

It would be trickier to lay out, certainly, but you would save a lot of balsa and perhaps you could use heavier but stiffer woods that might be easier to obtain for the planks and pillars, saving the balsa for the nose, rails and tail where they would do the most good? Just an idea, which you’ve probably thought of already.

Also, let me check on how easily 2 m and larger pieces of balsa can be obtained here, as a friend just up the road goes to Biarritz every year to visit his wife’s family and he could perhaps be asked to bring some along the next time he goes.

Best regards



thanks a lot for your answer which I read quite late yesterday night. I just had had a pretty hard day’s work and I must admit that I was too lazy to drop you a line by then. So, here we are, tuesday evening (must be afternoon over there?)

My 16 years old daughter was reading over my shoulder, not understanding much, when she came upon your words about my English being better than yours. You should have seen her eyes… Now, THAT was something really good for old Dad’s ego.

(Of course, I don’t believe one single word of it, but thanks anyway…) Well, seriously, writing is relatively easy, talking would be quite another challenge since I’ve been out of practice for some time now.

Hey, that would be great to have you around here by autumn 2005. I’d be glad to show you my very small workshop, but don’t expect too much: when I say “small”, I mean it. Something like 36 square feet, I think. I’m planning to have a new one built, but we already built the house a few years ago and it’s been rather heavy money-wise. So I’ll have to wait a bit, I’m afraid.

Right now, I am a carpentry teacher, working with young people who broke the law one way or another, and we’re trying to lead them back into normality. Hard work, just like I said… If you take a quick glance at “Shaperoom” under the “vos réalisations” column inside the “forum”, you’ll see a few shots of the workshop I’m working in together with a few boards that I managed to have the boys (and girls) shape and paint. Well, actually, I did most of the shape job…

Talking about surfboards, I am basically a pintail fan. Maybe because one of my first boards (and probably the best I ever had) was a “Maui Model” by GREEK. Yes, that’s the board showing in my icon up left (got a magnifying glass?) and the young handsome guy besides is none other than myself (stop screaming hysterically, girls, I was fifteen back then…). But then, Guéthary is a point break with a line-up that’s currently 5 to 8 hundred yards out to sea and it’s been best described in a '68 or '69 SURFER MAG article as “…definitely a Sunset Beach setup…” by visiting traveller/shaper Bob COOPER. So, maybe the pintail was only the natural answer .

As a matter of fact, I shape mainly longboards and guns. As for carpentry, I love making stairways and some surf-oriented furniture. Can anyone explain how to post photos in Swaylock’s? I might show you a few if you like.

As for balsa, you’re damn right, Doc. Actually, I made a few chambered red cedar boards but they are noticeably heavier, probably as expensive as balsa and it still is a lot of waste to hollow out rough lumber. But, my God, a true balsa gun like one of Brewer’s or Diffenderfer’s is just a lifetime long board, so are you really doing much harm to the tropical forest shaping just one? I mean, are there so many people ready to spend long hours finely tuning lumbers ankle deep in balsa shavings, just to end up with a heavier board anyway?

Well, let’s get in touch, Doc? (And all of you out there, for that matter…)

And keep surfing and shaping, all over the world!

Tuesday evening over here now…

First off, believe it. And convince your daughter. C’est vrai. Your English really is better than mine. I read a little French, but too many hours by power tools had made me more than a little deaf in any language. Alas…

If this is the workshop…


Nice! Pretty much the same size as mine, but better organised. Give or take a drill press, a jointer and a thickness planer it’s set up with much the same sort of equipment too. Funny thing is I almost got a job doing much the same sort of thing you’re doing except teaching boat carpentry to what we call ‘troubled’ kids here in the States. Out on an island that used to be a leper colony…weird, no?

For what it’s worth, one guy who started making furniture in a shop smaller than the one you have at home wound up with this :

Let’s see- to post photos, you need either the URL or you need the photo someplace on your computer. In the first case, you then copy the URL, click somewhere in your post and then click on the little picture icon on the top right of the Post menu bar. Up will come an Insert Image box, you can paste the URL in there and click Submit.

If you have copied an image to your hard drive ( as I copied those photos from ) or made your own, then click on the Browse button below the Post text window and check the Inline box. Browse will let you pick through your hard drive and select the image or attachment you want to add ( though try to keep under 300 KB of attachments per post ) . Repeat as you need to, as I did with these. If they are all inline images, then you can insert them ( move the cursor to where you want to put them ) like you did the other variety except click the Inline button and select which one goes where, then use the Submit button again to make it happen.

If your images are over 300 KB, then I like either IrfanView ( ) or XnView ( ) for manipulating them smaller and less file size.

Stairs are fun. That’s where the finish carpenter really gets to show off some skills.

Let’s see - if not cedar, and balsa is getting tough, how about some nice clear spruce? Very strong for its weight, glues well. Though according to this, balsa is a pretty good material and it grows improbably fast. I’d suspect that the main reason it’s not so easy to find is the shipping cost.

anyhow, as I had a long day too, playing with cabinets and stainless steel, I’ll send this off and catch up with you later


I also do regularly visit and post on shaperoom bulletin board as well. One more english speaker on the french board !

bonjour guillhem,

je te répond de france sur ta question balsa !

connais tu le site “”, apparemment ils essaient de dealer un pain de balsa, ressemblant à des chutes aglomérées, l’image sur le site est assez explicite. le prix est très concurentiel.

Je n’ai pas été plus loin, no quote asked for the shipping,

sinon balsa teck fait du matériau d’ame pour les sandwich epoxy, donc en balsa, mais là on sort du bois travaillé, c’est bien moins noble et plus technologique, faut faire du sous vide etc…

bon week end

à plus

jean jacques


I want to make a Balsa long board in 2006. I’m guessing by your name that you also have an interest in Balsa boards.

My first task is to Find some Balsa wood. Where do you buy your wood from.



Surfed Guethary right last Easter Sunday / Monday. What a great wave.

HI Balsa,

I wrote you a few months ago, saying that I am in the midst of planing a backpacking trip through Europe in early Summer 2006 (from May untill I have no more $). I am thinking about flying into London, But depending on cost and a few other factors, I could possibly fly into France and deliver you some Balsa from the states. PM me and we may be able to work something out.