Bodysurfing handboards - Our Design Journey

PPP Handboards design and sell bodysurfing handboards and bodysurfing hand planes.  We developed our bodysurfing hand boards and bodysurfing hand planes based on the well found philosophy based on power boat configuration. it is no surprise that our body surfing handboards and bodysurfing handplanes are fast and manoeuvrable.  

Our bodysurfing handboards journey began in 2007 with triplane design and fully flexible boards.

PPP body surfing Handboards

Returning to bodysurfing in 2013 reignited our love affair with the ocean. Whilst hands only surfing brings natural joy, handboards and handplanes were beckoning.   There were products available in the marketplace and we started to test them in the hope of finding In all 15 different products were purchased, and were tested in many bodysurfing sessions.. including the “big names”. Some skipped and slid; Others held their line with dogged determination to the point where wrists and shoulders were risked; other stalled in the pod failing to get off the mark …

The original handboard for many bodysurfers was a plastic tray from one of the fast food outlets … they were cheap … most of them measured about 2’ by 1’ … and they ripped and teared !!!! Ohh and one other idiosyncrasy was they all flexed … you could bend them !!!! None of the tested products bent !!!! they are all stiff like a surfboard …. I don’t know why this lesson was lost! But that is definitely not the case the PPP Handboards Edge handboards :)

So if we weren’t bodysurfing with the trays, we were riding surfmats that sent Dad went puse when he was blowing them up! We smashed into siblings as we carved along the waves … this is where the origins of PPP Handboards began …

 

Design

Each PPP Handboard follows a proven design path forged from performance surfing drawn from lessons learned from the innovative design of George Greenough & Paul Gross as well as testing by the Triple P team.

 

Precision, Performance and Planing are the three key attributes of each PPP Handboard, all bodysurfing handboards are hand made with the precision and delicacy with which a diamond is cut.  

 

PPP Handboards are linear planning handboards for bodysurfing, more about this later. This allows the handboard’s straight tail to facilitate virtually any degree of directional change at any speed.   The bulk of the lift is generated length-wise, nose to tail when you use a PPP Handboard for bodysurfing.    The lateral, rail-to-rail lift is negligible.   This gives the handboards tremendous straight-line speed. As well, PPP Handboards use flat tail lift, which give maximum planing in weak conditions and maximum trim speed at the top end.    

PPP Handboards have two distinct designs:

  1. The Edge is a flexible handboard based on the triplane design, using epoxy and, either eglass or carbon, and
  2. The Velo design is made from locally grown paulownia wood using a combination of the original Velo shape and modifications from the input of the Triple P testing team.

Both designs have common themes incorporated into the bodysurfing handboards.   The PPP Handboards designs are based on George’s design philosophy which was drawn from power boat configuration.   For bodysurfers, it is important to have the design based on semi-displacement hulls so that the bodysurfing handboards would plane out easily and bank over in a turn easily.

So the essential ingredients in designing the bodysurfing handboards were a mildly kicked nose, flat tail rocker, a “high-in-the-nose-to-lower-in-the-tail” rail line and “neutral handling”.

This semi-displacement aspect of George’s boards, as Paul writes, can be better described as “linear planing” boards:

“The straight, back half of the rocker line allows the tail of the board to rise up onto a plane at low speeds, like a power boat getting under way.   But no matter how fast the board eventually gets going, it doesn’t want to plane-out laterally…because of the convex hull.   The bulk of the lift is generated length-wise, nose to tail.  The lateral, rail-to-rail lift is negligible.   This gives his boards tremendous straight line speed without building up side-to-side pressure…which limits banking over into a turn at high speed.”

Boards, regardless of their shape, work best when they fit the curve of the wave.   Flat rockered, convex hull boards want to run down the line.   PPP Handboards do just that…bending water is what displacement surfing is all about.

Our testing of available handboards and hand planes was, at time frustrating because we couldn’t find a product that gave us a clean power line to fire up and jump into 4th Gear.  
Most of the products tested were the flat bottom boards with nose-to-tail edge refused to carve on their rail when turning. 
PPP Handboards used the power boat configuration that George and Paul worked on, to combine both concepts...a flat bottom and edge for speed-skimming, with turned up rails for the ability to bank over on turns.   Our handboards use a wider nose and narrower tail.

 

The above two photos, courtesy of Paul Gross, are clear demonstrations of the type of water "bending" or displacement that formed the origins of the PPP Handboards design.

The Velo design

PPP Handboards has a commitment to the environment and sustainability and wanted to offer our bodysurfers an environmentally friendly ingredient in Velo designed handboards. Sustainably grown paulownia wood was selected for our bodysurfing handboards.

The outline of the Velo bodysurfing handboards resemble a power boat with the nose rounded off, the handboards have the deck scooped out to reduce the thickness of the bodysurfing handboard. Again, the influence of George’s philosophy with regard to power boating is clearly visible.  We find it is more stable and easier to control in all waves, but especially bigger waves, because of the scooped out deck…and because it had more nose lift and a displacement hull.

This is particularly true of the largest of the paulownia PPP handboards, the Velo G5.     This handboard flexes from nose to tail and rail to rail.     This handboard can be ridden as a paipo belly board or as a handboard.     The speed is electrifying in surf from 2’ up.

The handboards use flat tail lift, which give maximum planing in weak conditions and maximum trim speed at the top end.    The handboards work well on most small days, and continue to perform as the size of the surf increases...in conditions that are clean or bumpy.    When the swell is big and bumpy, the scooped out deck lowers the bodysurfer’s centre of gravity on the bodysurfing handboard and provides more control.

There are three bodysurfing handboards in the Velo range, which are the largest size is the VeloG5 then the mid-sized VeloMX which was designed for use with two hands and finally the smallest bodysurfing handboard the VeloSX

 

The Edge design

These are flexible handboards for bodysurfing and offers the bodysurfer an awesome experience …. With the Edge designed PPP handboard, the close proximity of the displacement hull under the nose to its dead flat planing area, ahead of the tail, is one of the unique aspects of the triplane design.

There is a remarkable degree of transition compressed into just one, two or three feet length in a bodysurfing handboard.

The degree of flex in a board was even more important than had been suspected.     Just making a solid wood handboard or glass handboard with a bit of bend in the back wasn’t enough.    It had to really flex and twist to allow the straight tail lift give way in a turn.

The advantage of flex in a handboard with flat tail rocker is that it provides the bodysurfer with an efficient straight tail rocker when they are planing or trimming, and the flex allows the handboard’s straight tail to “give way” when it banks over into a turn, facilitating virtually any degree of directional change at any speed.     Then the tail snaps back straight as the turn levels out, allowing the board to move down the line without the drag caused by tail lift.    

With softer flex, the bodysurfer can skim along a wall at high speed, then bank over into a sharp cutback without any tendency to stick in a track.   What makes these Edge PPP Handboards so much fun to “push” is that they have untold gears.    Because of its displacement hull, it never wants to peak out.    No matter how fast you are going, you can bury the rail into a bottom turn and it jumps into the next gear.  The full nose, round bottom hull and flexibility in the tail allows the displacement hull of the PPP Handboards to effortlessly roll over into a bottom turn, and once it was on its edge, the whole handboard twists like an airplane propeller.    

This is particularly true of the Edge G5 which is smaller than a bodyboard but larger than the EdgeMX.   With the Edge G5, the full nose, round bottom hull and flexibility in the tail allows the displacement hull PPP Handboards to effortlessly roll over into a bottom turn, and once it was on its edge, the whole handboard twists like an airplane propeller.    The fin(s) drives the thing along the base of the wave until it released, then the board snaps straight and you explode out of the turn.

The Edge MX and EdgeSX (smallest) handboards for bodysurfing also flex in a similar fashion to the G5.  The EdgeSX is used with one hand and is smaller, it is somewhat stiffer than the EdgeMX

 

Paul Gross & George Greenough

We would like to thank and acknowledge the generosity and insight that both Paul and George have provided to us. Their inspiration, patience and guidance to learn about spoons, laid the foundations for these handboards.   Paul enthusiastically provides drawings and suggestions.   George talks about his designs and friends who bodysurf.

 

Paul is a wonderful storyteller … here are his words about that time ….  The Edgeboard era -- 2006

 

Paul Gross wrote about the evolution of short boards that George Greenough developed.  Paul wrote 18 articles on this topic for Edgespoons. Paul is the creator of Fourth Gear Flyers, which are awesome performance surfmats. Check out the ultimate surfmats 4th Gear Flyer

Paul recently updated the story when George recently made some surfboards based on the Edge design.  Read more from Paul