Foam-and-glass bellyboard. Any suggestions?

Okay, I bought a house and Clark went under. Those are my two big reasons for not starting my shaping project yet. Now that there’s foam at the local shop and I’m moved and mostly settled… I’m looking to get going again. My friend and I are especially wary about glassing our own shapes, and so I came up with a project to give glassing a test-run.

I’m shaping a really silly bellyboard out of the remains of my first longboard. It was snapped in half a couple of summers ago. I stripped the glass off, and sawed a blank out of the usable section of foam. I’m pretty limited in my size options, since the original was a bit over 22" wide and not too thick. The usable section I’ve cut is probably just a little bit longer than 24" and narrows considerably on one third (it was narrowing into the tail)…

At any rate, I’m figuring I’ll use it upside-down and backwards… reshaping the original-deck to give it some hull on the bottom, and scooping out the original-bottom of the board to give the thing some concave to lay in. The front is going to have to narrow to maybe 16-18 inches, because that’s what I’ve got to work with, and I figured I’d try to glass on twin keels, to complete the monstrosity.

I really don’t expect much of anything usable out of this project, just some marginal-shaping experience and a test-run glassing cut-laps and fins.

Has anyone done something like this before? Is there any hope of it being any fun? If there’s a chance I could make this into a useable project with a bigger piece of foam, I may look around for other broken boards or even split a small b-quality blank with a friend so we can make two…

At any rate. Let me know if I’m nuts :slight_smile:


Bellyboards from broken surfboards is a not uncommon origin. Check out the bellies on this site and you’ll see several that were made that way.

For even further out design ideas, Roger Wayland’s stuff is still up on Vagabond:

Wow, thanks! Great sites… Makes me feel better about investing time and patience in the project.

I made my first one about 40 years ago from the tail section of a 10’6" Greg Noll Slot. Three separate laminated stringers of redwood-balsa with a redwood tail block and what looked like very thinly sliced redwood in the skeg.

Okay, a few things -

A bellyboard, or paipo, is a kinda specialised item, and standard surfboard design doesn’t work. At all. And why make something bad when you can in fact make a pretty good paipo? If ya just want glassing experience, well, glass some 2x12s or something.

You want a flat or even slightly concave bottom on a paipo, not convex or bellied. You go with a rounded bottom board and ya wind up falling out of the waves, 'cos with that little planing area you gotta be where it’s steepest, not out there like a 9’6". You need a hard edge. So don’t flip it over. Leave it as is and thin it out.

Not too thick is good. 1" maximum is what you want. More and it makes it difficult to get under waves. Floatation is meaningless and counterproductive with paipos. It only needs to float itself.

Not too long either. Yes, there were paipos up to 4’6" back in the day. They were pretty useless too. Shoot for nothing over 48" and ideally around 37" to 40". Save the tail width, you’ll need it.

No need to narrow it up, flip it over or any of that sort of thing. Thin it out, yeah. Narrowing the back of the board - well, think about that. You got something maybe three feet long and the last half of it is what is doing the lifting. If it’s too narrow, it’ll bog. Like I said, surfboard thinking does not work with paipos.

Now, let me commend to your attention and the links from it. Especially - I had one, and would love to get my grubby mitts on another. It worked and worked well, in a fast wave that would eat 90% of the recreational boogie boarders alive. This, not to put too fine a point on it:

That’s what I learned on. Though in winter, when it was colder and bigger. In some ways, the reason I am still associated with this schizophrenic, looney tune sport/art form/ exercise in masochism, egotism and general lunacy is the rush I got out of pushing my limits in large versions of that up there.

So, build yourself a good paipo and then I’ll show ya how to get the most out of it…


Wow, thanks for the info! I measured my blank last night and I’ve only got 27" of length, which seems pretty short from what you’re saying. I’ll have to ask around and see if I can dig up a bigger piece of foam for this project.

Thanks again!

de nada - there was a very interesting copy of a Concave Vector made not all that long ago: - some lumberyard foam, a little resin and there you’d be.

hope that’s of use



I measured my blank last night and I’ve only got 27" of length, which seems pretty short from what you’re saying

I’ve been trying to watch this thread as the morning rips by…I’m expecting phone calls so will zip this out…

27" will make a pretty nice mini-paipo or handboard (handboard in the looser sense as in not the small ones strapped to hands and bodysurfed - there is a company I think called “The Handboard Company” that makes them commercially out of wood for some examples). You will be surprised at what 20"-24" of minipaipo will do for you…in fact it would be hard to make something that size that didn’t work to one degree or another…

That said, I personally have managed to make such a beast that didn’t really work. Too many design variables, although I did keep the bottom flat. Rails were semi-bodyboard but the whole thing was way too thick and the concepts different…just like everything doc mentioned. This was a first experiment with foam, used a broken board, played with resin and glass and airbrush and surform and abrasives and sanders. Had all kinds of fun.

End result of that experiment and the wisdom of a little more water under the bridge? No more playing with broken boards, for one thing- more work than value. I’d probably buy a blank and cut it in half. Another is my personal observation that practicing on very small items in miniscule workspaces seems to create hopefully unnecessary problems for me. But if you are just practicing, why not? Every time you make something you learn all kinds of things. Especially early in, you learn way more than you actually end up with.

CAn’t remember if doc put this url up…it’s full of info and the first paipo place on the net…

The world of paipos and bellyboards is an absolute kick in the pants. If you really get into building them figure you can make two for the price of one surfboard. Somewhere on there are dimensions for some of the Newport Paipo boards, and I have some of the dimensions stashed somewhere.

I use broken boards when I can. Not really worth it though if the pieces are all dinged up and/or waterlogged.

After seeing “El Paipo Grande” by Paul Gross here on Swaylocks and in person courtesy of Proneman, I realized there really needn’t be any specific limits to dimensions for a bellyboard.

The folks in UK ride on their bellies atop long wooden planks.

I like your idea of flipping it upside down and backwards! Twin keels will give lots of drive and power.

My personal experience is that a wide slightly concave tail is quick on take off and gets on plane quickly. A scooped out area on the deck makes it easier to slide aboard once the wave is caught and gives you a place to settle in.

Here’s one made from a broken Stewart longboard I found in a dumpster… I think the width right at the tail was around 20". It seemed like a really fun ride the time I tried it out.

Since this appears to no longer be a broken board re-habilitation project I guess your options are wide open. Bag the Concave Vector, paipos don’t need vertical skegs and one inch is way too thick. I gave up riding modern skegged bellies, that were better designed than old Newports, three years ago in favor of this:

The neutral buoyancy of these boards means they stay in the vicinity when you lose 'em. No leash AND duck diving deep is no problem. Paipoboarding like this is more akin to bodysurfing than board surfing. I’ve recently been trying to extend the finless paipo even more in that direction:

If you’re going to buy new foam, get yourself a sheet of 1/4" Divinycell. And spend time at Rodntube, Vagabond, Lamaroos, and Flexspoon for out of the box ideas vis-a-vis prone craft. Swaylock’s is heavily weighted for pros towards what sells in the commercial “surf board” industry, including graphics and beautiful crystal clear glosscoats etc… and they think that well documented FRP lamination techniques that have been standard in industry for decades are some sort of secret ju-ju.