Seeing what (and where) the likes of Peter Coetzee (on his SUPfisher), Fred Davis (on an inflatable SUP) and Andre Wyk (on his enviable BOTE) fish, I’ve always been super interested in the possibilities and versatility of a SUP-style craft on our local estuaries. Never a shy of an up-cycle, or DIY ‘improvement’ project I’ve been looking around for something that could work, without having to bleed too much pay cheque (although I would invest in a BOTE in a blink). I was scouring local boat yards and sales pages and even went as far as to contact a company that manufactures small catamaran hulls for water bikes (no, really, it would be the ideal, go ask Google).
Now, over the years many of these endeavors have not quite ticked the ‘improvement’ box but there have been some interesting lessons along the way. One of the more successful projects of was the conversion of my first tender-style 3m dingy into a flat-deck mini bass boat of sorts. I did the conversion about 10 years ago and I’d had her since I was 16, so when sold her – complete with registered trailer and 4-stroke 5hp – she’d done a very good innings.
Shadow was a good ship and I miss her still.
Anyway, back to the paddleboard project. I’d kind of given up, when I stumbled across a rather ungainly, strangely-painted craft in one of the many local ‘antique’ (a.k.a second-hand) stores. The sticker said R100 so I offered the proprietor 85 bucks. He took it with a smile, no doubt happy to be freed of this weird-looking, hollow fiberglass craft that was clearly no-longer sea worthy.
I’d never seen anything like it before: Rounded-square bow, rolled deck, with a removable, double-sided inlay which evidently allowed you to convert it from either a sit-on-top kayak to a windsurfer. It was completely wrecked, (largely from neglect and age) with major damage all along much of the fiberglass tape on the front. This thing was years away from a BOTE, but the dream was real.
TO THE DING SHOP
Kendrew Johnstone and his son Kane do super neat ding-repair work out of their garage just down the road from me. With our surf breaks being as rocky as they are they run a brisk business, but Kendrew took on the project with gusto as something of a personal challenge.
The biggest job was to clean up all the old fiberglass tape and cracked bits up front. To be honest during those early stages I had my doubts and thought the damage was terminal. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get that connection true and stable again. But Kendrew worked some magic and managed to make it water tight (and very possibly stronger than when it was fist molded).
Kendrew pondering the challenge of rejoining the traditional fiberglass tape construction.
Seaworthy once more
NEW INLAY & SOME SPRAY
Kendrew happened to have some marine-ply off-cuts laying around. We used the old inlay as a template and cut a section for the ‘interior’ deck. This got a few licks of varnish as well as grip tape and heavy-duty cable ties planted vertically for line management. I initially wanted to use surfboard grip for the non-slip but the tape was a neater, faster solution. I might change that up this coming season. Inlay is still removable but the little deck area
After this I threw on a few layers of spray paint in the same nasty, backyard style in which I’ve been painting my own surfboards since I was in high school. As my old mate Stan Badger always said: ‘A colourful board is a happy board…’
The rail got some ‘ripple-effect’ detail thanks to the mesh of an old landing net and my 7-year-old’s painting skills.
Blue and black have always been good mates. A few coats of Clear laquer and the job was done.
As with these things, the job is never done though. And I fussed over various smaller details (such as the size of the fin and how to organise gear on the deck. And, and.
I was pretty stoked with how the first water trial went.
I carried very little on that first session, mindful that I could well be in for a swim, but she held up well and I managed to blood her (without blood of course) with a few feisty young garrick.
The deck is smooth and wet and she was gently placed for a very quick snap before being returned to the water. It definitely isn’t the most stable of craft and there is not much room for movement (back and forth or around) so you have to have your end-game, landing-strategy down and a fish of consequence is going to be interesting.
Another thing I learned very quickly (and which Fred warned me about) was controlling the tangles. Said Fred: ‘If fishing off a SUP will teach you one thing, it is line management.’
A cooler fits neatly into the back of the cutout deck for seating and storage. It is secured with broad, flat bungees which are screwed into the original strap holders (not unlike those straps of the original Macski paddleskis) . The cooler has a rod and net holder on the back and has gone through a few upgrades since this pic. I can now comfortably take two rods and a long-handled net. Up front is a converted shopping basket. It is secured with a thin bungee cord and holds a small kettlebell which makes for the ideal, low impact, low noise anchor (thanks Mavungana Flyfishing for the idea).
I had a foam road holder on the basket for keeping a rod ready to cast but it wasn’t very effective. I recently saw Drew Chicone post a MacGyver hack where he glued some foam pedicure pads together and attached them to his Bote. (Check that out here, I’m definitely making a trip to the chemist…)
I have a few other plans in the works over winter. Updates to follow soon.