The First Otter Wooden Surfboard, Ten Years On10 . 11 . 18
The first wooden surfboard that James made has just celebrated its tenth birthday, and it’s still going strong! Whiz is a 5’10” classic twin fin fish, constructed in western red cedar and named after James’ first dog. It was the precursor to our Fetch model that has a slightly wider tail and an updated rocker profile to name but a few improvements that James made as a result of surfing that first board. Whilst lessons have been learned and improvements made since those first few wooden surfboards, they are still good and surf-able and are living proof of wood’s longevity.
Strip the wax off Whiz and it looks like new, save for a couple of “storage scratches” and a rough patch near the tail that didn’t receive a proper sanding coat when James glassed it in his front room – we refer to that early oversight as Whiz’s “permanent base coat” as it provides the perfect key when applying wax. Considering how many house and workshop moves Whiz has been through, and how often it’s been surfed by lots of different people, the fact that there are no noticeable pressure dings is testament to our assertion that wood lasts. We’ve always said that we want our surfboards to be heirloom items, but how durable and hardwearing our surfboards are (which is also an element of wooden surfboards’ sustainable credentials by the nature of them not having to be replaced) can only be proven with the passing of time. Whiz being in such good condition at ten years old fills us with hope that we’ll be taking it out for a surf in another ten years time, and then ten years after that, and so on. Would any of us have the same confidence in saying that about a standard foam board? Probably not, unless it was mothballed for the decade between those surf sessions.
Exactly when Whiz turned ten, James is a little unsure of. He made it through the autumn of 2008, during his final year at university at Plymouth where he was studying the Designer Maker course. He was experimenting with wooden surfboard construction techniques and applying them to other items (his penultimate project being a wave-form bench made using bead and cove rail strips), and Whizz made up part of his final project. He glassed it in his bedroom in his student house and recalls first surfing it late in the autumn of that year, at Porthmeor in St Ives.
Right now, Whiz is stood in the corner of the workshop waiting for a pair of hangers to be made so that it can be displayed on the wall of the workshop (and still be in easy reach when we want to take it for a surf). This important piece of our company’s history is no longer the first surfboard that we reach for when we’re shooting photos, and hasn’t been for a long time (simply because it’s not representative of the shapes that we offer now), but you can’t keep a good dog down and it still gets taken out every now and then, and we’ll continue to make sure that even if hung on the wall, Whiz won’t be left to gather dust.
Happy birthday, Whiz! Here’s to the next ten years.