Fiberglass Hand Gun (for bodysurfing)

These are my first three hand gun prototypes. (in order L-R). The
first two on the left are shaped from surfboard foam, i.e. broken
longboards :frowning: ,  and glassed like a normal surfboard.

   The far
right board is my latest design. It is constructed with a laminated
fiberglass plate for a planing surface, which was made by layering 25
sheets of 4 oz. glass and a strip of kevlar onto a mirror,  which was
coated with carnuba wax for mold release. Then I layed another mirror on
top, and compressed this sandwhich with 50 pounds of weight. Once dry, I
popped the fiberglass plate off, cut and sanded the template, and
softened the edges.

   The handle is shaped from surfboard foam,
and attached to the fiberglass plate with laminating resin. I had to
glass the inside of the handle before attaching though, to be able to
access that portion. This final design has worked out the best. I really
like the look of the transparent fiberglass plate, and i’m now looking
into using unidirectional graphite for reinforcement, weight reduction,
and badass looks!

   The handle is placed so that the center
point of your hand aligns with the center point of the board, making a
perfect pivot point, so you can manipulate the board in all directions.


[img_assist|nid=1053856|title=Hand Gun with fiberglass plate|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=899|height=678]






[img_assist|nid=1053857|title=Fiberglass plate hand gun|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=900|height=679]


Nice! They look cool! Post a ride report when you get them into the water! We have a small tribe of handplaners here on the surf-coast! Check out S.C.A.B.S. for pics of our various handplanes and wotnot! If you like, I can add you as a contributor to our world-wide cult of handplane and miscellaneous surf-craft aficionado’s!!!

I made a bunch of handboards/handplanes back in the day, but haven't ridden any of them lately. (Only one has survived my misspent youth, but I took it ot Pipeline a few times).   They can be dangerous when you tuck under and out if you've got a lot of speed.  They have the potential to seriously wrench your shoulder, and heaven (or the lifeguards) help you if one comes back in your face.

I started with ends of blanks and made them about a foot long, heart shaped, 10" wide. Knifey rails are dangerous but I used 'em anyway. Thickness at center no more than 3/4" because you're never using it for flotation. Keel fin 2/3 to 3/4 the length of the item, not more than 2" deep. They can get too "finny" with too much keel, BTDT.

Option: once shaped one as usual, but with several layers of cloth on the bottom.  Then sanded down from top to the cloth, 2" wide all round, leaving only a mound at top center, like your #3 but I think much easier to make.  Those thin edges were a caution and I was never really comfortable with them.

Option two, one I shaped but never really used:  shape to 1-1/2" thick then position holes 1" deep for each of your fingers.  Easier to grip with finger tips, but harder to glass nicely.  Obviates the need for any strap over your hand.

I used glass loops (as for leashes) to anchor home-made straps to the top, which fit over my hand (four fingers worth, anyway, thumb free).  These were enough for my purposes.

 As noted, hand boards can come back and smack you.  I got to not like them in waves with power, but at Makapuu I could put both hands on one and get my bod out fo the water from the knees up.  This made for a bit more speed than prone bodysurfing, and got your head out of the splash zone so you could see much better.  It also made for better penetration across flat zones, so you could get from the outside to the shorebreak inside.  Anyway, used 'em at Point Panic, Makapuu, Sandy Beach, several spots at North Shore including Pipe, Log Cabins, Rocky Rights and Gas Chamber.  Nowadays the spongers have mostly made an end to bodysurfing, may they ROT.

In smaller, slower waves I like to use a bigger, strapless “cubit” or forearm board. It gives you much greater planing speed, and you can also do proper cutbacks and bottom turns!

Here’s my mate Jason’s assembly line of cedar handplanes. He likes the finger-hole type, but I got him to make me a custom one with a strap!

Wow! Thanks for the comments! I’ve taken my #3 fiberglass plate board out half a dozen times now and it works wonders! i’ve had only positive responses from 5 of my fellow lifeguard coworkers as well, regarding performance.

I found a few pros and cons for this board #3 design:


  1. The cutout for the hand hold doesnt penetrate through the bottom, and I get more speed and less water splashing me in the face.

  2. Due to the weight of all the fiberglass and resin, the board is just barely above neutral bouyancy, which makes it much easier to push under water and pull out the back of the wave.

  3. The bullet shape has worked out really well. I would like to try new templates, but this shape has worked so well for me. Then again, i’ve seen kids bodysurfing with McDonalds lunch trays before! maybe it’s just about having any sort of planing surface period. The nice thing about the fiberglass plate design is that I can just sand and reshape the template.



  1. Due to the neutral bouyancy, if I lost the board in turbulent shorebreak, it may be difficult to spot, similar to losing a floating swim fin. Perhaps i’ll color the foam a bright orange to make it easier to spot.

  2. As Charlie pointed out, the sharp edges are hazardous, similar to surfboard fins. One suggestion I heard was to round off the bottom square corners for safety. Then again, i’ve hit my fins damn hard with only small cuts, and they’re razor sharp compared to this handboard, which is about 3/16’-1/4" thick, with rounded edges.

  3. Popping out the back or getting worked may injure your shoulder if the board gets pulled in the wrong direction. I’ve found that with this handle, it’s very easy to just let go if you need to. I’d be very concerned about having my hand in a strap, which may be more difficult to release, or force my whole hand and wrist into undesirable positions.


Adjustments for the future:

  1. When flexing the glass plate with my hands, I cracked the 4 oz fiberglass layer on top 1/2" along the edge between the plate and foam handle. I bought some uni-directional carbon fiber for stiffness. On a future board, I’m going to put a strip over the foam and down onto the plate to strengthen that boundary.

  2. I’m considering adding concave or channels to the bottom shape to prevent water from spilling up over the edges of the board. I’ll have to make a mold, but it should be a simple shape to create.

More pictures to come! Thanks for the pictures and advice!

Stay thirsty my friends,


Beautiful boards! True carpentry is an art! I admire your craftsmanship.

How have your tail designs been working out? I’ve considered losing some surface area and adding a pin tail shape to my boards for bigger surf.

On small waves (waist to shoulder high) my bullet shaped outline has worked out well, but in bigger surf I think it may have too much surface area.



[img_assist|nid=1053997|title=Cutting Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber Sheets|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=843|height=636]




[img_assist|nid=1053971|title=Mold Release|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=842|height=635][img_assist|nid=1053972|title=Fiberglass and Uni-Directional Carbon Fiber layers|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=842|height=635][img_assist|nid=1053973|title=Layup|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=842|height=635][img_assist|nid=1053974|title=Mold Release|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=841|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053975|title=Layup|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=840|height=644][img_assist|nid=1053976|title=Sandwhich|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=848|height=636][img_assist|nid=1053977|title=Weight Press|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=847|height=639][img_assist|nid=1053978|title=Glass/Carbon Plate|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=847|height=639][img_assist|nid=1053979|title=Foam Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=847|height=639][img_assist|nid=1053980|title=Foam Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=847|height=639][img_assist|nid=1053981|title=Foam Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=846|height=638][img_assist|nid=1053982|title=Foam Tint|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=844|height=637][img_assist|nid=1053983|title=Laminating Inside Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=843|height=636][img_assist|nid=1053984|title=Laminating Inside Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=844|height=637][img_assist|nid=1053985|title=Laminating Inside Handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=842|height=635][img_assist|nid=1053986|title=Inside Handle Hot Coat|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=842|height=635][img_assist|nid=1053987|title=Gluing Foam Handle to Fiberglass Plate|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=841|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053989|title=Top Lamination|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=841|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053990|title=Top Lamination|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=841|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053991|title=Top Hot Coat|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=840|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053992|title=Sanding|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=840|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053993|title=Finished Hand Gun|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=840|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053994|title=Hand Gun|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=839|height=633][img_assist|nid=1053995|title=Hand Gun Bottom|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=840|height=634][img_assist|nid=1053996|title=Hand Gun|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=841|height=634]


the cedar/laminated handboards look really nice.  I'd forgotten that some cut a grip completely through their hboards.

It would be soooo much easier to slap a couple layers on one side of a bit of foam that already has the correct rocker, then shape/sand off the extra foam and put 1-2 layers on the top.  BTDT.  Or, using relatively thin sheet(s) of EPS, weight it on a rocker template or vacuum bag it down.  Vbagging lends to production.

This approach also allows you to leave a "bead" of foam at the edge (still a flat bottom) which when glassed over will round that edge so it's not so likely to leave you wanting stitches after a misadventure.  Maybe the edge could be made resilient using some surgical tubing....?

It strikes me that if you're using EPS for this, it can be had for essentially zero cost.  That leaves only money for epoxy and glass. 

i’ve discovered through my progression of designs that you really don’t need any rocker. the board is so small, and you already have to cock it back a little bit to get enough pressure to support your body weight. it would be easy enough to buy 1/4" foam and glass it like that, which would save tons of weight, but i like the looks and performance of glass so far. maybe i’ll try one with foam.


Although cocking it back helps support your body weight, it my experience it slows me down a bit.  My fastest handplane is a flat plank measuring 8 1/2 wide 15 long and has 1/2 inch rocker shaped up front with a flat mid-section and tail.  I decided to experiment with the flat design after reading up on paipo’s and how fast they can be because they are flat and stiff.  I keep the rails relatively sharp in the back half and have found that I can carve just fine with the combo of rails and body position.  The flatness allows me to plane really well and actually push up relatively high and pull the handplane under my shoulder into a more vertical position which increases speed even more and provides an awesome view.  When I tried this on a board that lacked any rocker I quickly pearled and ended up head over heels.  This has been my experience.

anyone else got anything to add to this , please ?


  makakilo ?


  I ask , because a friend is about to embark on making a few , using an old board ...


 and today ,


I took out the wood one that 'woody waverider' here sent me a few years back , now ...





  fun fun fun !!


made an onshore [head high , and 'overhead' ***  closeouts]  half hour a bit more fun than the mal or 6'6 woulda given me , today ... it was empty too, of course !


  cheers !



it’s ALWAYS ‘headhigh’ , or ‘overhead’ , when i’m sliding on my [lack of] belly


hi chippy! heres my latest creation minus the handle. keep in mind i ride it 2 handed just like a bodyboard. its simply foam from a broken board, airbrushed and with 2 hardpoints glassed into the deck for later attachment of handle. i make these things purposefully weak becuz in the shorebreak things get hectic and it hits me in the face occaisonally so i want the board to break, not my face. i also made some one tabber fins and so glassed in 2 fcs plugs on the bottom..the fins are an incredible improvement in performance! especially when its heaving it allows me to set an edge and drive forward in the tube rather than slide out into oblivion!


correction, the handle is attached already.

....that's excellent , cheers for the photos !


  compared to the one 'woody waverider' philips sent me ,  they are big boards , eh ?  [? 12"  x 18" ?] 


...but then , you're a  bigger guy than me , and YOUR waves are SERIOUS , too ! 


  q:  the strap attachment ... it basically two glass loops , made like the ones on fish boards , yes ?


  cheers maka !



....actually .... ARE  those inches , or cms on the T square  , come to think of it ??

Made with scrap 3/4" plywood and a nylon strap. Since its strapped to your hand you need to be carefull.

Produces a lot lo lift. Lots of fun



Here's my efforts...been selling them on my website for the past three years and all feedback has been great so far - sent them all round the world! Amazing fun with little initial skill required I've had so much fun with them.

I also got  a review on Daily Stoke - he did a great test report: If you click on this link you'll see how I deal with the hand hold/strap issue (sorry guys I tried to upload an image of that part but the computer that I'm sat at went beserk...)



Great work Thirdshade !

Is anyone doing the wood ones on a small CNC machine or is it all hand done ?

 Chippy might post some pics of my handplane as my computer has turned against me.