Check Out My Wood!

How a carpentry-challenged nonsurfer built a classic wooden longboard with his own kook hands.
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  1. I'm not the obvious candidate to design and build my own surfboard. I don't surf, and I'm not very good with tools, so I'm like a guy who can't play piano deciding to construct a two-story pipe organ. Knowing the distance between who I am and what I strangely want, I've signed up for an intensive, weeklong workshop offered by Grain Surfboards, a New England–based manufacturer of classic wooden waveriders. For $1,575, Grain's craftsmen will teach you how to make your own custom board, which they call "a totem to the past, a nod to the sport's noble roots."

    I like that kind of talk. Still, as I look up at the blond and glassy totems lining the shop walls at Grain's rustic headquarters, in the coastal town of York, Maine, each seems to be saying the same thing: "Not in your lifetime."

    My fellow students seem like a better fit. During lunchtime introductions around a large dining table in the "builders' lounge," Christopher Angell, an organic-candy-bar maker from Solana Beach, California, says he surfs every day. Duncan Regonini, a firefighter from York, started surfing when his wife suggested it as a joint hobby, to which he replied, "Are you shittin' me?" Yves Vachey, a Parisian, was on his way home from a boatbuilding class in Annapolis, Maryland, when he saw his first Grain surfboard in a shop window. "I thought to myself, I must build that," he says.

    And then there's me. As I confess to the four other campers and Grain's two co-owners, I'm still trying to figure out why I...

Originally published in Outside, October 2009