DISCOVERING DRIFTWOOD HANDPLANES
WOODEN OFFCUTS TRANSFORMED INTO WAVERIDING WEAPONS
There’s something appealing about a simple surfboard with a natural look. When we came across Driftwood Surfboards, it was this simplicity that caught our eye. Forget garish sprays and corporate stickers: it’s the natural grain of the wood that gives these boards their character.
Based in Newquay, shaper and designer David Forsyth makes artisan wooden surfboards from reclaimed and sustainably-sourced wood. After making the boards, the Driftwood team couldn’t let the excess wood go to waste. So, they decided to use the offcuts to make solid wooden handplanes.
Handplanes are small egg-shaped wooden planks designed to be strapped to a bodysurfer’s hand to help them catch waves. The handplane rides on top of the water but your body travels inside the wave.
“It’s a really fresh way of enjoying the surf,” says David. “Once you’ve surfed for fifteen years, it’s nice to try something a little bit different.” David says he’s only used his surfboard a couple of times this year. “I’ve been bodysurfing with a handplane most days instead.”
Surfers used to rule the waves but now there’s much greater variety out on the water. “There’s a really nice shift towards people just enjoying what they’re doing, it doesn’t really matter what they ride.”
David has been making handplanes for three years, but barely sold any until last year when they brought out the new range. “Now we’ve been selling so many of them, just through word of mouth. People have told us they are better than any other they’ve tried.”
One particularly happy customer bought a Driftwood handplane at Cornwall Design Fair in Trereife and came back with it a year later. “He was absolutely delighted. It was in better condition than when he’d bought it because he’d oiled it and the colours of the wood had come out more. He had been surfing for over 30 years and this was the most fun he’d had in the water for a long time.”
Driftwood currently make six varieties of handplanes, each with a different shape inspired by flat fish. Like surfboards, it’s the shape that determines the ride. The long, slender Dover Sole is said to work best in larger waves, while the chunkier, rounded Turbot gives a more all-round smooth gliding experience. The more popular planes are made from marine-grade plywood (above) but Forsyth does still make solid wood versions. “Each one looks completely different, so customers can pick a shape that suits them or we make a custom one.”
Even if you’re not a bodysurfer, Driftwood’s handplanes will make you want to become one.