paipo boards

Howdy, people. Looking to make a paipo board outa plywood. Does anyone out there in the surf mecca know where to start regarding material? I’ve got a design in mind, but not sure if I should use 1/2" or 3/4" ply. 3/4 seems pretty heavy. I plan on glassing the sucka as well.


Marine plywood is best but expensive. I’d use 1/2", any lack in strength can be overcome with glass. If you are planning on more than one layer of glass I don’t see why marine plywood would really be necessary either, though still better.

I used 1/2 in marine ply and coated it with marine varnish and it worked great for years. No need to glass since the ply is pretty heavy already.

Just make sure you sand and then seal using a combo of varnish and thinner (50/50) to penetrate the edges and all before you apply straight varnish. (2-3X). You could try some of the polyurethanes but I never have.

Some guys would use a good exterior grade ply and it seemed to work fine and it is alot cheaper but marine ply is definitely better. Never had a board delam.

Pick up a 2 door skins (1/8th" ply) and a sheet of 1/2"EPS from Home depot. Make a sandwich with the EPS between the door skin, use urethane glue. Cut 'er out, shape a rail, and glass with epoxy. Viola, super light paipo with plenty of material to spare for a couple more.

Thanks Aquafiend! Now I know what my next project is going to be. I haven’t ridden a Paipo since I was 12 years old.

Can’t wait!!!

Sr Pato

If ever anything represents the soul of surfing it’s the Paipo board - the roots of surfing - predates surfing, actually predates Hawaii. Those made of solid redwood were the norm in Hawaii through the 20s and 30s. Many of the California board shapers of the late 50s and 60s made “bellyboards” with standard foam and glass, as stock items for sell. A friend of mine has an original “Bing” that’s in perfect condition.

Strange how the shortboard craze exploded on the scene and brought the end to longboarding and “traditional paipo” riding at exactly the same time the Duke died in 1968. Are paipos making their way back too? The inflatable mat ahead of it’s time? For some good reads:

use 1/2 inch and shape it then just use a good glossing resin or i guess now the urathanes—i built one while in grad school and couldn’t take a board on the research vessel----worked great in any port we stopped at----still in good shape 30 years later—keep it simple----if the wood to resin ratio work best you;ll have a board with neutral bouyancy that will slowly float to the surface after a wipe out and not wash all the way to the beach, but endup right next to you…

I recently got some closed cell foam from Kragen made to be used as flooring. It was real cheap $9 for four 2’x2’ sheets, about 1/2" thick, pretty dense. I’m using it on a surfboard for padding/traction. After sanding the smooth side of the foam I used contact cement on the foam and board to stick it on, worked well. Something like that would be really nice to add a little flotation and padding to a paipo.

Vary the thickness and vary the flex. Control the direction of flex by where you put your thickness. Here’s something I call a Canard-Runner Paipo. Cheap 3/8" BC grade yellow pine plywood with runners salvaged from a broken IKEA chair. Since this photo was taken, I added four funiture bolts to each runner and gave everything four coats of spar varnish. The jury is still out on the testing. The board flexes down the middle and at the rear corners. The board can be tweaked by the tusks during the wave.

If that doesn’t excite you, then try one of the ideas on Poobah’s drawing board, like a Flex Cat Paipo. In this diagram the yellow areas are more rigid and the red areas are more flexible (thinner.) The yellow pontoons have nose kick formed when the ply layers are glued together.

Or perhaps a Split Nose Paipo. Laminated from three layers of 1/8 inch wood, or some combination of sheet wood and cork. Glue in nose kick on a rocker table, and slit the nose (once or more) after the glue sets so that the nose kick doesn’t inhibit the flex down the middle of the board…

Or another variant…the Scarab Nose Paipo.

Or perhaps combine the flexible aspects of the splitnose and the variable thickness paipo, like in the Medfly Paipo.

Or even…

I think there’s still a lot to be done with plywood paipos. Flex can also be achieved in parallel profile (even thickness) paipos by varying the width, like a guitar or dog bone shape. You could also vary the density with cork strips or cork-filled chambers in the core.