Have you ever looked at a product and thought, “why is it made like that, instead of like this?” Chances are you have and most likely you didn’t do anything about it because like most of us, life gets in the way of action. Dave Harris asked himself that same question about stand up paddle boards and decided to do something about it. He was able to design, patent and manufacture his own custom SUPs that are designed for wheelchair bound and able bodied paddlers. Fiberglass Hawaii in Ventura has been able to supply him with all of the materials he’s needed in order to build these custom crafts. Sometimes it takes someone with a fresh set of eyes and the desire to follow through to create the next new design. Dave sent us some pictures of the boards and we were intrigued, so we called him up to find out more about the man and the boards.
FGH: How did you get into building SUP’s?
DH: I just started building these catamarans for stand up paddle boarders and I went to a race down in Newport Beach. There’s a company that builds SUPs for wheelchair users. They’re about 34” wide and they have pontoons outside of that to stabilize it. A few people saw my board and I figured that they’d be happy enough to just paddle around on the flat water. It ended up that they wanted to enter the races.
FGH: Is that when you began to increase your production?
DH: They wanted me to make more boards so I made a 14’ x 32” so they can put the wheelchair right on there and you don’t need the ama or anything else to help stabilize the board.
FGH: Wow! So it’s more stable, narrower and the board is stable enough to use on its own?
DH: Yeah. The one guy (in the pic) who was on it was doing 12 minute miles at 5 mph on the board.
FGH: That’s absolutely incredible!
DH: So they were really happy with the boards.
FGH: Sounds like you nailed it with this design. What’s your background in board fabrication? How long did it take you to come up with a successful design?
DH: Well, I really didn’t have much experience. I didn’t grow up by the water. I started surfing when I was 14. We’d drive from Sunnyville to Santa Cruz. I made my first board when I was 15 and made maybe five or six more when I was a teenager and that was it. Then I made two boards in the 90’s. I never worked for a shaper or really “knew” anybody in the industry you know?
FGH: So what compelled you to come up with the idea, show up at Fiberglass Hawaii and buy all of the materials?
DH: My friend wanted to do stand up paddling and I told him I wasn’t interested and that I didn’t like it. Finally, he talked me into renting some SUPs. I didn’t know how to stand on it, so I’m trying to stand on it like I’m in my surf stance but I just kept falling off. So we took them back and I went home and started to ask myself, “man, why are those things so unstable?” I wanted to think of something to make a really stable board and I thought of a catamaran. So, I made one. After I made one I found out that a couple of other guys had made one, Ron House and Mark Raaphorst. Neither one of them were made to be “consumer” boards.
FGH: What do you mean by that?
DH: I wanted one with a deck on it that you could sit on, or lay on and it’s real stable and fast for anybody. The first one was just a big squared off nose. The waves kept hitting it and it was tough to control so I cut it out into that V pattern. It works so well that I actually just received a patent on it.
FGH: That’s pretty incredible. It’s not very often that there are patents in this industry on board design. What is the benefit of the V design?
DH: It allows the nose of the board to slice into the wave instead of hitting the nose. There’s almost no impact which makes the board more stable. That’s pretty much what the patent is about, mostly the deck.
FGH: This is a pretty cool story. Do you work with your hands in your profession?
DH: I’ve always enjoyed building things but I drove a truck to make a living. It’s an easy thing to do and I don’t like to be paid to think, you know. I want to do it on my own time, right? I feel like it would cheapen me if someone was paying me to be creative and then they profit off of my ideas. My job was just to earn money and I don’t want to think very much.
FGH: That’s one way to keep control over your designs and creativity. What materials did you use to construct your SUPs?
DH: I just used epoxy resin on EPS foam. I’ve been using all of [Fiberglass Hawaii’s] stuff on my boards. Many years ago I bought materials from you guys in Monterey Bay. I tried to go back and found out you were no longer there so I started ordering my supplies from your Ventura location.
FGH: Very cool.
DH: Yeah Steve and Wade are really cool guys.
FGH: There’s a lot of great knowledge between the two of them.
DH: It was pretty crazy trying to glass all of those curves and angles. I couldn’t find anybody who wanted to glass them for me, so I had to do it myself. I have more designs coming too with different deck designs and sizes. I want to get some over to Hawaii and test them out in the rough waters.
FGH: We’ll test them out for you! We love to paddle! Back to the glassing. What is the glassing schedule you used on these boards?
DH: Mine (black and white board) has two layers of your 6 oz carbon on the bottom and three layers of 6 oz cloth on top. The black and yellow board has one 6 oz and one layer of 8 oz fiberglass on the bottom. The top has three layers of 6 oz fiberglass.
FGH: Why did you put carbon fiber on the bottom of your board?
DH: I did it just to make it look really nice. People really like the way it looks. I put a blue stripe between the white and black too.
FGH: Tell us about the US Blanks foam you used for your board.
DH: It has a balsa t-band stringer with two 1/4” redwoods outside of that on the deck. It looks pretty good for a homemade board.
FGH: Between the materials and design these are highly customized boards.
DH: Yeah, I really like [Fiberglass Hawaii’s] products. I’ve tried some of the other popular epoxy resins and I was having trouble with the bonding. They would tend to flake off. Your Aluzine bonds better than any of them consistently.
FGH: We’re so happy that we’re able to supply you with the best products and knowledge needed to build these cool boards. See you around the shop!
Visit our webstore for more about the products Dave uses for his custom SUPs. Remember to tag #fiberglasshawaii in your social media posts so we can see what you’re building.