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Design and construction of a

windsurfer longboard
By Malcolm Jones

November 24, 2008

(Updated May 19, 2010)

The following began as my working notes when designing a windsurfer I recently
built. I’d do a bit of the design, leave it, come back to it and forget what I’d done and
which design I was going with. Therefore these notes were written primary to remind
me of what I did. Once I started building it I decided to continue the documentation
just in case I was every crazy enough to do it again.
The design was from scratch and this was my first attempt at building a windsurfer.
I’d done small repairs before and built a canoe using a mould so had some prior fibre-
glassing experience but had not done any vacuum bagging.
The notes are not a step-by-step how-to. More importantly they are based on a first
time backyard board builders experience. I’m sure there are many things I did which
could be improved or done entirely differently. There is not that much info on design-
ing and building a windsurfer. However info on building surfboards, canoes, sailing
boats is more plentifully and can be useful. The best reference that gives detailed step
by step information for windsurfers was at the website It
is titled Building a composite windsurfer and gave details on building a speed board. I
found any info provided on the web to be invaluable hence I decided to put these notes
out there for anyone else attempting a similar project.
Before embarking on building a board you have to ask the question why? If it is
to save money don’t do it. The material costs equated to roughly half the retail price
of on equivalent board. However if you factor in labour there’s certainly no savings.
Realistically it was equivalent to a month full time. I took 6 days off work and spent the
best part of a month worth of weekends on it. It took far longer than I had anticipated.
This is partly because it was my first time and I was learning as I went. I’d make small
mistakes which then took time to fix.
For me the motivation behind the project started with an old raceboard that was
leaking. I’d previously fixed the centre board box and suspected it was leaking. So
I took the drastic step of cutting a 1 × 0.1 m slot down the middle of the board and
rebuilt the centre box. It turned out there was no water there, however there was water
getting in the front. The board was already 18 kg and with more major repairs would
be getting close to 20 kg, also it was 20 years old. Time for a new or better 2nd-hand
board. Only problem is new boards of this kind are hard to get. Exocet and Starboard
have started making them and Mistral appears to resurrecting the equipe. On the 2nd-
hand market a couple of boards appear every 12 months Australia wide. So with the
centre board box built and some vacuum bagging skills acquired I decided to go all the
way and build from scratch. I also liked the idea of designing and building myself.
Would I do it again? Probably not. Overall I was happy with the result. While
it’s obviously an amateur build it came out under weight and without any flaws that
would effect performance. Basically this is my light wind “sailing” board, maybe I’ll
give racing a go but it wasn’t build with that in mind. I’d tried wide-style early planers
but found them a bit one-dimensional. My biggest sail is 8.5m2 which on a 85cm wide
board gives me planing threshold of ∼ 8 knots minimum (i.e. realistically a “steady”
wind averaging 10knots). But if it’s a summer’s day with an average 8 knots I’d be
tempted to venture out and end up struggling in the lulls. So I experimented with an
old raceboard and found I was having heaps more fun in the 8-12knots winds.

1 Board design 5
1.1 Maximum dimensions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.2 Rocker profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.3 Deck centre-line profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
1.4 Vee, concaves, tail kick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
1.5 Planshape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
1.6 Deck cross section and rails . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
1.7 Data files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.8 Design weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1.9 Material costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
1.10 Time required to build . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

2 Centreboard 15
2.1 Design of centreboard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.1.1 Aerofoil section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.1.2 Planshape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.2 Construction of centreboard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.3 Centreboard Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

3 Mast track, fin-box and footstrap plugs 20

3.1 Mast track . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
3.2 Finbox and Footstrap plugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

4 Board Construction 22
4.1 Shaping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
4.1.1 Templates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
4.1.2 Core . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.1.3 Rocker and deck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.1.4 Vee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.1.5 Planshape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.1.6 Rails . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
4.2 Laminating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
4.2.1 Carbon/HDF to bottom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
4.2.2 Carbon/HDF to deck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
4.2.3 Fitting the fittings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

4.2.4 HDF to rails . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
4.2.5 Outer lamination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
4.3 Finishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
4.3.1 Filler coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
4.3.2 Gaskets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
4.3.3 Painting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
4.3.4 Deck grip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

5 The finished product 35

5.1 Photos from Inverloch 25/04/2010 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

A Tooling 44
A.1 Compressor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
A.2 Vacuum controller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
A.3 Hotwire cutter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
A.4 Hotwire voltage control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

B References and links 49

Chapter 1
Board design

1.1 Maximum dimensions

maximum length = l = 3800 mm

maximum width = wm = 640 mm
maximum thickness = tm = 180 mm

1.2 Rocker profile

The bottom rocker profile, ρ (in mm), is defined by the equation

 0, x < 800
ρ( x ) = ( x − 800)4 (1.1)
 , x > 800.
3 × 1011
where x (in mm) is the lengthwise coordinate and ρ is measured relative to the hori-
zontal datum z = 0 where z is the vertical coordinate as defined in figure 1.1. Hence
at the stern of the board (i.e. for x < 800 mm) the rocker is a true flat. Forward of
x = 800 mm the rocker is defined by a quartic giving a maximum rocker value at the
bow of the board of ρ = 270 mm. The quartic curve generates very little rocker initially,
it’s only around x = 2000 m that the rocker starts to kick in.
Actually the rocker profile given by (1.1) can be expressed in terms of two inde-
pendent parameters: the maximum rocker, ρm , and the coordinate where the rocker
begins, x f . Rewriting (1.1) in terms of these two parameters gives

 0, x < xf
 !4
ρ( x ) = x − xf (1.2)
 ρm
 , x > xf
l − xf

where l is the maximum length.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

1.3 Deck centre-line profile

The deck profile was generated by sketching a spline, keeping in mind I didn’t want
the trailing edge of the centreboard to protrude through the deck when it was in the
retracted position. The centreboard has a maximum chord of 170 mm so the maximum
thickness of the board was set to 180 mm.

1.4 Vee, concaves, tail kick

The reference board I used during the design was heavily concaved, figure 1.2. I’m not
sure how one would accurately shape these contours. In any case most modern boards
seem to have abandoned concaves. A simple vee should do the job of counteracting the
slapping tendency of a flat hull, which concaves also serve to do. Concaves may assist
is lateral resistance but probably add drag, there seems to be very little information on
their effect. In the end I decided to go for a small amount of vee only; no tail kick or
concaves. The actual vee is constant at 1 degree along the full length.

1.5 Planshape
Figure 1.3 shows the planshape of the bottom of the board. The rails are parallel for
approximately the range x = 1700 to x = 2100 mm, where the width is the maximum
value wm = 640 mm. The planshape was generated by a spline sketch and hence
cannot be represented in equation form, although its not far off an ellipse.

1.6 Deck cross section and rails

Finally the deck and rail profiles are required to completely specify the geometry of
the board. Raceboards have sharp rails which run almost the complete length of the
board. This feature greatly simplifies the design since one cross sectional profile can
be specified and simply scaled appropriately based on the thickness and width of the
board at a given x coordinate. I played around with using quadratics, arcs and the
like to define the cross section but in the end it was simpler just to sketch a spline that
looked about right. Figure 1.4 shows the normalised cross section used for all locations.
I’ll probably knock the corner off this profile near the nose of the board where sharp
rails are more of a liability.
Individual cross sectional profiles for the back half of the board are shown in fig-
ure 1.5 and for the front half of the board in figure 1.6. The area bounded by the
individual cross sections can be calculated by numerically integrating the curves and
hence the volume of the board is calculated from the summation
V = A1 ∆x1 + A2 ∆x2 + A3 ∆x3 + . . . + An ∆xn = ∑ Ai ∆xi

where Ai is the area of the ith cross section and ∆xi is the “thickness” of the cross
section slice. For the data given above the volume turns out to be
V = 252 litres.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

The surface area of the board can be found by calculating the length of individual
lines show in figures 1.5 and 1.6. For the deck and rails this length is given by integrat-
ing the upper curves using the formula
s  2
Z w/2
S= 1+ dy.
−w/2 dy

If this is done for many x locations on the board then the surface area is given by the
A= ∑ Si ∆xi = 2.56 m2 deck and rails.
A similar calculation can by done for the bottom of the board but it is much simpler
since the lines are straight and at a given x location
cos θ
where θ is the vee angle, which is small, and hence S ≈ w so
Z 3800
A= w dx = 1.95 m2 bottom,

where w is the width of the board which is a function of x.

1.7 Data files

Plain text files containing the coordinates for the:

• rocker

• planshape

• and deck

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

ρ = 270

tm = 180
t( x )
l = 3800
1000 2000 3000

ρ( x )

Figure 1.1: Centre-line profile

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 1.2: The board used as a rough guide for the design. The actual board I designed
is quite different, the only dimension I matched was the maximum rocker (nose kick?).
It’s good to have something to reference your design against just to ensure you don’t
design something “off the scale”.
Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

y (mm)


l = 3800 mm

0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500
170 320 1375 2180
535 x (mm)

Figure 1.3: Planshape

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard



-1 -0.5 0 0.5 1
Figure 1.4: Spline defining the deck and rail, normalised curve.

150 x=500
z 100 x=1500
50 x=1000
-350 -250 -150 -50 y 50 150 250 350

Figure 1.5: Individual cross sectional profiles for the back half of the board. Note
constant vee of 1o . Note in these figures I’m really plotting z − ρ, i.e. I’m not including
the effect of the rocker which would shift each successive curve upwards as you move
forward along the board.

150 x=3000
z 100 x=3600
50 x=3250

-350 -250 -150 -50 y 50 150 250 350

Figure 1.6: Individual cross sectional profiles for the front half of the board. Note
constant vee of 1o .

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

1.8 Design weight

Summarising, the design volume and total surface area are

Volume = 252 l and Area = 4.5 m2 .

The construction will be carbon sandwich with the following layup: 200 gm−2 car-
bon fibre then high density foam (HDF) 80 gm−3 with a thickness of 5 mm then another
carbon layer (200gm−2 ). Epoxy resin will be used and assuming a fibre to resin ratio of
40 : 60 (see FGI data) then each layer of carbon will require 300 gm−2 of resin. Hence
an individual carbon lamination will weigh 500 gm−2 (note FGI quotes 480). The HDF
will add 80 × 5 × 10−3 = 400 gm−2 . So HDF sandwiched between two layers of carbon
the skin weight is 4.5 × (2 × 500 + 400) gm−2 which gives a total of

carbon sandwich weight = 6.3 kg

The core is low density polystyrene with a density of 14 kgm−3 which gives a

core weight = 0.252 × 14 = 3.5 kg

and hence the subtotal of board without fittings and paint is 9.8 kg.
The other components are estimated to weigh:

• centreboard case 1.2 kg (HDF, carbon construction)

• Mast track 1.1 kg (0.55 kg RSX part +0.55 kg for reinforcements)

• Fin Box 0.6 kg (Tuttle std. and reinforcements)

• Footstrap plugs (×12) 0.4 kg

• Fibre patches around fitting 0.5 kg (1 m2 ?)

So total weight of fittings is 3.8 kg.1 For filling and painting the estimates are:

Filler =0.2 kg
Paint =0.5 kg maximum estimate assuming 1 litres of paint

total weight = 14.3 kg
excluding centreboard (which weighs 0.85 kg) footstraps & fin.
Note an additional full lamination adds 10Y g where Y is the fibre weight is gm−2 ,
i.e. 130 gm−2 glass fibre adds a further 1.3 kg. For comparison the claimed weights
of currently available production boards are: Starboard Phantom 13.9 kg, Exocet Warp
13.5 kg and Mistral One Design 15.5 kg.

1 will lose about .35 kg when polystyrene is routed out

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Material Density Quantity Weight kg

Polystyrene core 14 kg/m3 (est.) 0.25 m3 3.5

1st layer of carbon 200 g/m2 4.5 m2 0.9
1st layer of resin 1.35 litre 1.35
HDF 80 kg/m3 0.0225 m3 1.8
2nd layer of carbon 200 g/m2 4.5 m2 0.9
2nd layer of resin 1.35 litre 1.35
Carbon patches 200 g/m2 1 m2 0.2
Resin patches 0.3 litre 0.3
Filler 0.2
Paint 1 litre 0.5
Footstrap plugs 8 footstraps 0.4
Mast track 1.1
Fin Box 0.6
Centre box 1.2

Total 14.3

Table 1.1: Summary of design weight.

1.9 Material costs

Table 1.2 lists the actual costs of the materials that go into the board. If you where to
build in glass only you could probably get it down to $1300. There is excess HDF, but
2 sheets isn’t quite enough. There is also the cost of consumables:

• paint brushes, rollers

• sandpaper

• masking tape

• gloves, masks

• material for templates

• measuring beakers

I didn’t keep track of the cost of the consumables but it’s of the order $100. The other
costs include: footstraps which for a the full 8 straps at $25 each would be $200 (luckily
I had some old ones I could use) and a fin $150. One thing I hadn’t factored in was the
uni/extension. I tried to adapt an existing uni by replacing the pin to suit the rsx track
but it seems the pin is unique to the rsx track so I could not source a suitable pin. In
the end I had to buy a new rsx mastfoot, which was incompatible with my extensions,
therefore a new extension too, all up another $120.
I have not included the cost of any tools I had to buy e.g. sur-form, set-square and
any of the electronics associated with the vacuum pump and hotwire.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Material AUD
Fin Box 29.00
Mast Track 80.00
Glass 130g/m2 × 4m 25.70
Carbon fibre 200g/m2 12m ×1.27m 496.32
HDF sheets 5mm ×2 218.89
HDF sheets 3mm ×1 92.43
polystyrene core 244.50
Resin epoxy 5kg 92.16
Hardner epoxy 1kg 28.14
foot strap inserts 20.00
paint 200.00
filler 40.00
vac bag, peel ply, breather 116.00


Table 1.2: Actual material costs in Australian dollars, August 2008. For comparison:
Exocet Warp 380 raceboard $3500, Starboard formula $3150, Starboard Futura (freeride
board) $2500 or Neil Pryde X9 - 490cm mast $1600. For the complete board also factor
in footstraps and fin and possibly the uni/mast extension. These items take the cost
to around $2000 which is more than a Exocet Kona. My point is you have to have a
compelling reason to build it yourself other than cost.

1.10 Time required to build

This was the most challenging aspect and I would advise anyone thinking of building
to realistically consider whether they have the time available to complete the project.
For me the project changed from being enjoyable to a chore at about the 75% complete
mark. When this happens you tend to start rushing and trying to take short cuts.
I made the first hotwire cut on 29 September and applied the last coat of paint on
8 November. Prior to starting the board I’d made the centre board, centre board box,
mast track box and finbox reinforcement. I worked on these bits and pieces over about
6 months on and off. Also factor in the time to make the templates. The following is
roughly how much time was spent on each step. I estimate at least 100 hours of labour,
maybe closer to 200 hours.
Job When Days
Building the centreboard, Sporadically 2-3 weekends
fittings & templates
Hotwire cutting and board shaping Weekend 2 full days
Laminating 80% done Week off work & weekend 7 full days
Final deck top lamination Weekend 1 full day
Filling the weave and sanding Weekend 2 part days
More surface prep. Week nights 1 day equivalent
Painting & fitting gaskets melb. cup 4 day long weekend couple
More painting Before and after work 1 day equivalent
Finish painting Weekend 1 full day

Chapter 2

2.1 Design of centreboard

The physics of the flow around an aerofoil is not trivial. Motivated by the desire for
efficient and fast flight a great deal of scientific and engineering research has been
devoted to the problem. Methods for predicting the performance of aerofoils involve
approximations which are quite accurate at low angles of attack, more challenging is
predicting the stall characteristics.
In designing the centreboard there are two main aspects to consider:

1. the aerofoil section which includes the maximum thickness of the aerofoil and
point of maximum thickness;

2. the plan shape.

Since the centreboard is a symmetric aerofoil, camber and twist are zero, and the para-
metric design space is somewhat reduced. A considerable effort can be devoted to the
design process. However it is worth keeping in mind that hand shaping techniques
will ultimately limit your ability to accurate produce it.

2.1.1 Aerofoil section

Based on wind tunnel experiments a large database of aerofoil characteristics was com-
plied in the 1930’s by NACA (National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, now
NASA). Figure 2.1 shows the what is referred to as the NACA0010 aerofoil section.
The important parameter is the maximum thickness of this aerofoil which, in this case,
is 10% of the chord length, c, (hence the 10 in NACA0010, 00 means no camber). Note
the chord is the straight line joining the leading edge to the trailing edge. The numbers
in figure 2.1 refer to selected x, y (mm) coordinates on the upper surface relative to the
origin at the leading edge, where in this example the chord c = 170 mm, which is the
chord length at the root of the aerofoil (i.e. at the point where the centreboard is against
the hull). Left of the vertical red line is where I used the balsa wood moulding which
just happened to fit the NACA0010 profile quite well. The maximum thickness of the
aerofoil is at x = 51 mm where y = t/2 = 8.5 and hence t = 17 mm (i.e. 10% of c)
where t is the thickness.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

NACA0010 profile c = 170 mm

32, 8 51, 8.5 75, 8

20, 7 94, 7 108,6 121,5 132,4 143,3 153,2 162,1

Figure 2.1: The NACA0010 aerofoil section, plotted for a chord length of 170 mm. This
figure is to scale and can be used as a template if you print the page at 100% scale.

Figure 2.2: Contour plot of what we want to achieve, with hand tools and limited skill
this is a challenge!

As will be seen in the next section we will choose an elliptic planform so that the
chord length progressively reduces towards the tip of the centreboard. This means
we must continuously scale down the profile in figure 2.1. Figure 2.2 shows the sur-
face contour of the centreboard required to achieve a NACA0010 section at all cross

2.1.2 Planshape
Mathematical analysis of wings is difficult. However a classic result obtained in the
1930’s is that for unswept wings an elliptical planform gives the minimum possible
drag for a given value of lift (i.e. it achieves the best Lift/Drag ratio). So why not
use the elliptical planform, if nothing else it looks better than a rectangular shaped

2.2 Construction of centreboard

The centreboard is built using laminated cedar strips wrapped in a layer of carbon/glass
fibre using epoxy as the resin. There are several useful articles on design and construc-
tion of centreboard on the Internet (see for example Phil’s Foils & Composites, Moth
Hardware: Phil Stevenson and Design and construction of centreboards and rudders, Paul
Zander .)
I used a rough-sawn cedar weather-board and ripped strips of around 35 mm wide.
Since I was cutting from a weather-board I could rip pieces of different thickness and
build up a coarse approximation to the final aerofoil section. The strips were glued
with epoxy. For the leading edge I used a piece of balsa around 12 mm wide which
was pre-shaped into an aerofoil leading edge (try a model aircraft shop).
The centreboard is shaped using an electrical sander with coarse sandpaper. I only
made a template of the root sectional profile. So at the end of this stage I had a rectan-

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 2.3: Cedar strips (approx. 35 mm wide) and rounded balsa lead leading edge.

Figure 2.4: After laminating a layer of carbon/glass.

gular planform with a constant sectional profile. Next I cut the elliptic planform with
a jigsaw. The aerofoil section needs to be progressively thinned down towards the tip
(i.e. trying to keep the ratio l/c constant to achieve the contour of figure 2.2). To do
this accurately you’d need several sectional profiles for several different locations. In
the end I couldn’t be bothered with trying to accurately produce figure 2.2 and just
thinned it out by eye. Figure 2.3 shows the centreboard at this point, low spots and
imperfects have been filled (pink coloured epoxy filler).
After cutting the required shape of the area that goes through the board it’s ready
to be laminated. I used 200 gm−2 carbon fibre, double thickness from the handle to
around 50 mm below the root. I ended up adding an extra layer of glass (130 gm−2 ) as
I thought I’d used too much resin and wanted to soak it up. I did it all in one go and
wrapped it in a vacuum bag and held it under vacuum overnight while it dried. The
vacuum isn’t essential but does improve the result. A photo of the centreboard after
removing from the vacuum bag is shown in figure 2.4, the excess fibre on the trailing
edge is easily trimmed off with a knife and sanded smooth, don’t make it razor shape.

2.3 Centreboard Box

The centreboard is highly loaded when working to windward. Therefore it is necessary
to reinforce the board at the location of the centreboard. I chose to build what I call a
centreboard box which serves the same role as the fin box, that is it provides structural
support for the lateral loading. The difference between a fin box and centreboard box,
apart from size, is that the centreboard box must also provide a pivot point and a
sufficient cavity for the centreboard to fit in when in the retracted position. The side

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

walls of the box are made of 25 mm thick polyurethane foam with 2 sheets of HDF
laminate onto the surface (between each layer of foam is 130 gm−2 glass). To provide
a pivot point a 5 mm thick piece of marine ply is used, with a channel cut into it. This
piece is plywood is recessed into the top HDF layer, which also has a channel cut into
it. Figure 2.5 shows the foam and plywood layup and figure 2.6 shows details of the
pivot point prior to the final lamination. The final lamination is made up of a layer of
200gm−2 carbon and a layer of 130 gm−2 glass.
25 mm urethane foam

1000 mm

180 mm

5 mm PVC
5 mm plywood

Figure 2.5: Layup of sidewall panels for centreboard box.

Figure 2.6: Plywood reinforcement provides support for centreboard pivot.

The width of the centreboard box cavity is ≈ 25 mm and chocks of foam 25 mm

thick are glued in between the side wall panels. At the front of the box I used a trian-
gular shaped piece of HDF and at the rear I used polyurethane foam shaped to follow
the shape of the trailing edge of the centreboard, figure 2.7.These chocks of foam were
first laminated with fibreglass before gluing them in between the side panels. After
using the board a few times I discovered a small leak at the rear of the box between the
central piece of foam and the sidewalls so I’d recommend also laying a layer of fibre-
glass over the join. By sanding or building up the strips you can adjust the amount of
friction holding the centreboard.

Layers of
HDF foam 25 mm foam

Figure 2.7: Foam panels placed in between the sidewall panels.

Ideally the centreboard should be a firm fit in the box otherwise, when in the re-
tracted position, it has a tendency to flop back down particularly when bouncing over

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 2.8: Centre board box, bottom view.


sidewall panel

friction strip

pivot pin of centreboard

Figure 2.9: Friction strip which fits in the channel in the centreboard box.

choppy waters. Unless you are able to achieve high tolerances when manufacturing
centreboard box, it is difficult to achieve a tight fit without having the centreboard jam
when it is rotating. It is better to leave some clearance in the centreboard box then pack
the centreboard tight with, what I call, “friction strips”. These are simply strips about
5 mm thick which are placed in the rebatted channel (shown in figure 2.6) after the cen-
treboard is in place. Initially I used plywood but found it wore out quickly so I ended
up using sections from a sail batten built up to the required thickness with layers of
carbon fibre and shown in figure 2.9. The strips are screwed down to the deck of the
board. Make sure you place an adequate screw plug in the board. Make the strips long
enough so that they are in contact with the centreboard pivot pin figure 2.9.

Chapter 3
Mast track, fin-box and footstrap plugs

When placing fittings into the board it is important to reinforce the board around the
fitting using a higher density foam than the polystyrene core. My approach was to
build up a block of foam around each fitting. I used 25 mm polyurethane, 5 mm HDF
and fibreglass to make sandwich panels that go around each part. These panels help
spread the load and increase the top surface area of each part so there is more area
for the deck or hull lamination to adhere to. I prepared all these parts before I started
building the actual board. This gave me practise in vacuum bagging on a small scale.

3.1 Mast track

The part I had most difficulty getting was the sliding mast track. I was quoted $200 for
a mistral one-design track or $80 for a RSX track. I opted for the RSX, the only draw-
back is that they don’t have as much travel as a traditional raceboard track, figure 3.1.
Figure 3.2 shows the mast-track-box made out of high density foam. The actual track
is screwed into the channel. I used footstrap plugs as the anchor points for the screws.

Figure 3.1: RSX mast track.

3.2 Finbox and Footstrap plugs

I used a standard tuttle finbox. You may wish to use a deep one instead but I believe
formula style fins (or a fin > 50 cm) are unnecessary for longboards so a standard
should do. Foam sandwich panels are packed around the finbox and footstrap plugs
to provide reinforcement, figure 3.3.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 3.2: Mast track box made of urethane/HDF/fibre sandwich.

Figure 3.3: Finbox and footstrap plug reinforcements made of urethane/HDF/fibre


Chapter 4
Board Construction

4.1 Shaping
The board is shaped as much as possible using a hotwire cutter. Since the hotwire is a
straight wire you cannot shaped doubly curved surfaces with it e.g. rails and deck, for
these areas I shaped with sandpaper. The sequence of shaping is as follows:
1. hotwire cut rocker
2. hotwire cut vee
3. hotwire cut planshape
4. hotwire cut linear approximation of rail profile
5. hand sand deck and rail to required curve.
The idea is to do as much shaping with a hotwire using templates to guide the cut.
Even when it came to fairing in the deck and rails I used cardboard templates of the

4.1.1 Templates
I used A3 paper to print out templates of the centre-line profile (i.e. rocker) and plan-
shape. When creating these templates I subtracted the thickness of the HDF foam off
the template outline so that the specifications given earlier are for the built board not
the core. To plot the profiles in full scale I used the vector graphics language Asymptote.
Since an A3 piece of paper is 594 × 420 mm I printed a section of the profile on each
page then joined them all together. These are the pdf files containing the templates

• core-centre-line.pdf

• planshape-port.pdf

• planshape-star.pdf 1

1 Note the maximum half-width of the board is wider than an A3 sheet of paper so the planshape in
these files is referenced to a line offset 25 mm from the centre-line.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

4.1.2 Core
The core is made of polystyrene, I used two blocks measuring 2.0 × 0.6 × 0.3 m, fig-
ure 4.1. Polystyrene is available in two forms expanded or extruded. The lightest but
weakest is expanded which comes in different densities, from around 12 − 14 kgm−3
upwards. First I glued them together using liquid nails, make sure the glue stays
within the cutting path of the hotwire. Note I could have bought the block as one
piece but did not have a vehicle to transport such a long block in, I wouldn’t risk it
on a roof rack. Check the squareness of the block and take this into account when
attaching the templates.

4.1.3 Rocker and deck

The rocker/deck centre-line profile is transferred to a two pieces of MDF (medium
density fibre?). These templates are aligned and then screwed into the sides of the
foam block. I did the deck cut first, then flipped the board and cut the rocker profile.
Figure 4.2 shows the core after the rocker and deck centre-line profile has been cut.

4.1.4 Vee
The design has 1o of vee along the full length of the board. For a block 700 mm wide
this equates to a drop off of 350 × tan(1o ) = 6 mm at the edge of the block. Therefore
one rocker template is lowered by 6 mm. To provide a guide on the other side the
opposite template is raised by 6 mm. Note when you do the 2nd vee cut you need to
raise the opposite side 2 × 6 = 12 mm relative to its edge. To make sure the wire does
not cross the centre line I placed a strip of masking tape along the board’s centre-line
(see figure 4.2).

4.1.5 Planshape
I used cardboard for the planshape templates. These are taped and pinned to the top
and bottom of the board again alignment is important. The hotwire cutter is then used
to cut the planshape. Actually I did this cut by myself but even though the width of
the cut is smaller than for the rocker and vee it’s still difficult to keep an eye on both
templates and there is a tendency to lift off every so often. You end up with a hump
which is easily sanded back but for a perfect cut 2 people are best. Figure 4.3 shows
the core so far.

4.1.6 Rails
The curve of the deck and rails can be rough cut by making a series of hotwire cuts.
Figure 4.4 shows how a series of 4 hotwire cuts achieves a profile close to the required
curve. Actually in retrospect I would not attempt the fourth cut since it is too shallow.
Use masking tape to provide the guide for the hotwire. Obviously the cross section
profile varies along the length of the board so this technique is applied to a section at a
time. Starting at the widest point of the board and working towards the tips. Always
make sure the hotwire cuts are on or outside of the final profile, since you want to sand

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.1: 4 m of polystyrene. Was this such a good idea?

down to the desired shape rather than filling back up. Actually in retrospect it would
be better to have stuck the tape guides along the entire length of the board rather than
doing a section at a time and do one long continuous hotwire cut rather than sections.
In figure 4.5 I have made the first cut at the mid section of the board.
Once the rough cutting is done it is all faired in by sanding. For the mid-sections
of the board there is very little variation in the cross sectional profile, so one template
covers most of the length here. Toward the nose and tail a greater number of templates
are required. These templates are used to guide the fairing of the rail and deck which
is done by hand with sandpaper. The exact cross section profiles that are required are
shown in figures 1.4 and 1.5. Figure 4.7 shows the final shaped core, I still have a bit
of fine shaping. Unfortunately there are a few low spots on the deck/rail area that still
need attention, these occurred due to the section-by-section approach I took. If I was
to do it again I’d do continuous rail cuts. Fortunately the hull, which is the critical
geometry, is the easiest to shape. So small deck imperfections are more cosmetic (note:
larger imperfections will cause bridging of the HDF and sites for delimitation).

4.2 Laminating
The lamination schedule is as follows

1. laminate carbon/HDF (5 mm) to bottom

2. laminate carbon/HDF (5 mm) to deck

3. glue in all fittings

4. laminate glass/HDF (3 mm) to rails

5. laminate carbon to bottom

6. laminate carbon to deck and rails

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.2: Foam core after cutting the rocker, blue tape marks centre-line and assist in
guiding the hotwire for the vee cut to follow.

Figure 4.3: After cutting the planshape

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Last cut
use masking tape to guide
the cuts

linear approx.
required profile
hotwire cuts

polystyrene block

First cut

Figure 4.4: The rail and deck is rough shaped by making a series of straight cuts. The
foam is then faired to the required profile using sandpaper and templates. The circles
in the figure show where the tape edge is placed for each cut. To determine the position
I printed full scale cross sections, drew on the cuts and then measured the location of
these points.

Figure 4.5: After make the first hotwire cut for the mid-section rail.

Figure 4.6: Shaped mid-rails, instead work the entire rail in one go, not section by

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.7: The bulk of the shaping done, just have to remove imperfections.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

carbon fibre 200 gm−2

5 mm HDF (Klegecell 80 gm−3 )
Polystyrene core

Figure 4.8: Layup used on both deck and hull, on the rails 3 mm HDF is used.

Figure 4.8 shows the general layup used although extra reinforcement patches are used
around all fittings. These are the make it or break it steps. Whereas in the shaping stage
things may not quite turn out as planned it is hard to totally stuff it up, no so with the
laminating. Epoxy has a working time of around 1 hr so while the laminating is not
particularly hard you don’t have time to muck around and if things do go horribly
wrong it may not be possible to recover. Hence preparation is the key, have everything
ready to go and at hand before you start. I actually did a dry run putting the blank in
the vacuum bag and sucking it down just to check I could actually get the board in the
bag and to test the vacuum system at full scale. For all these steps I worked alone but
I would recommend having a helper.
There are several different brands of epoxy available, in the shops near me: FGI,
West System, Epiglass. For the majority of the project I used FGI brand. However
towards the end I started having problems with it fully curing especially when mixed
with fillers so I switched to West System which seemed more reliable and is less viscous
making it easier to wet out the fibre.

4.2.1 Carbon/HDF to bottom

Using the planshape template I cut the HDF for the bottom of the board. The HDF foam
sheets are 2400 mm long so the bottom comprises 2 pieces of foam (i.e. a back piece and
front piece). There are no complex curves for the foam to follow and hence this step is
straight forward. I scraped a layer of thickened epoxy over the blank to assist in sealing
it then began the laminating. There are several methods for wetting out the carbon. I
chose to place the carbon on the HDF and wet out the side of the carbon that will be in
direct contact with the polystyrene core. Then I flipped the carbon onto the core and
continued wetting out the side that will be in direct contact HDF. I used 480 ml to wet
the approximately 2 m2 of carbon used here. I placed peel ply and breather fabric over
the HDF and then placed it in the vacuum bag, bottom down. The magnitude of the
maximum vacuum used was 60 kPa and this tended to pull the nose rocker up higher
than it should be so to counteract this the board (in the bag) was placed on top of the
rocker off-cut (rocker bed) and then using straps it is pulled down onto the rocker bed.
Once dry the HDF was sanded flush to the rail. Figure 4.9 shows the HDF laminated
to the bottom of the board.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.9: After laminating on the 5 mm HDF to the bottom. Actually this photo was
taken after laminating the deck so carbon strands can be seen wrapping around the

4.2.2 Carbon/HDF to deck

Originally the plan was to laminate the deck and rail HDF in one go. I used 5 mm
on the deck and 3 mm on the rails. The deck piece is cut 40 mm narrower than the
planshape then strips of 3 mm are used for the rails. This means there are lots of pieces
of HDF to align and while cutting the pieces of HDF it became apparent that it would
be very difficult to do the deck and rail in one go. So instead the deck piece is laminated
by itself. The carbon was cut to be flush with the bottom of the board so after this step
the rails already have a layer of carbon, figure 4.10. Therefore when laminating on the
rails I used a lighter weight fibre glass. Under vacuum the release film tended to tuck
under the edge of the HDF slightly so once cured I had to trim a couple of mm’s off the
edge of the HDF.

4.2.3 Fitting the fittings

Not strictly a laminating step but this is where it occurs in the sequence. The centre-
board box and fin box are through deck fittings so slots are cut through the board. It
was hard to bring myself to cutting a 1 m long slot for the centre-board box so soon
after laminating, it seems such a drastic step, figure 4.11. A channel for the mast track
was routered as were the cavities for the footstraps and vent plug. Thickened epoxy
is used to glue in these fittings. Note there are different types of micro-spheres used
to thicken epoxy some suited for gluing (stronger/hard to sand) and some suited to
fairing (lighter and easier to sand). I used pieces of 3 mm thick HDF foam to fill voids
and reduce the amount of epoxy filler required. I also glued a stainless steel nut into
the deck to use as an air vent.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.10: After laminating the 5 mm HDF to the deck .

Figure 4.11: No magic trick, the saw really does go through the board.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.12: All the pieces of HDF cut and ready to be vacuum bagged onto the rail.

Figure 4.13: All HDF foam on, fittings in, gaps filled and sanded ready for outer lami-

4.2.4 HDF to rails

This was actually a very time consuming step. Three millimetre thick HDF was used
on the rails. Since the rail is curved in both directions many small pieces of foam must
be cut. Particularly near the tightly curved contours at the nose and tail. Figure 4.12
shows all the pieces cut and ready to be vacuum bagged onto the rail. To glue them
on I used 130 gm−2 fibreglass. Lots of masking tape was required to keep them all
positioned before the vacuum was applied. Rather than being too ambitious I did one
rail at a time as I was a little concerned about keeping it all aligned. Once the epoxy
has set any small gaps at the joins are filled and then sanded and faired in to the deck
piece. Figure 4.13 shows the board ready for the outer laminations.

4.2.5 Outer lamination

The outer lamination is a single layer of 200 gm−2 carbon, except over the fittings where
an extra layer is used. The size of these reinforcement patches is given in figure 4.14.
The hull is laminated first, I allowed about 25 mm to wrap around the rail. However
because of the width of the carbon roll the widest point of the board did not have any
fibre wrapping around the edge. I found I needed 780 ml of resin for the 2.43 m2 of
carbon which represents a fibre to resin ratio of approximately 40 : 60. The lamination
was held under vacuum for 12 hours. Note before laminating the hull I used a router
to rebate the centre board box to provide space for the gaskets to be glued on later,
figure 4.13.
The deck is slightly more difficult since you must make sure the carbon follows the
curve of the rails with out puckering. The larger surface also means around 1 litre of

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

A = 0.69 m2
111111111111 Deck

2300 × 300 mm

A = 0.48 m2
111111111 Hull
1600 × 300 mm

Total area of patches = 1.17 m2

weight = 0.585 kg

Figure 4.14: Size of reinforcement patches.

Figure 4.15: Outer layer of carbon is on.

resin is required. Working solo I only just go it all wetted out and bagged before the
resin gelled (the temperature was 30 o C). I mixed the resin in two 500 ml batches only
mixing the second batch when it was required.

4.3 Finishing
4.3.1 Filler coat
I used West System - microlight filler (407) mixed with epoxy to peanut butter consistency
(similar colour to peanut butter as well). A very thin layer was then scrapped onto the
carbon-fibre. The amount of resin used for the hull was 90 g and for the deck 120 g.

4.3.2 Gaskets
Before painting I fitted the centre board gaskets. I’d rebated about 2mm to allow for
the gaskets. I used sailcloth folded in half and glued with epoxy glue. The thickness
of the gasket is well less than the 2mm so I faired it in slightly to the hull with strips of

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.16: After a scraping of filler was applied to the deck.

4.3.3 Painting
The painting layup was

1. Epoxy primer (3 coats)

2. Two pack polyurethane undercoat (2 coats)

3. Two pack polyurethane overcoat (3 coats).

All the painting was done with a roller and a brush.

The filler is effective in filling the residual weave pattern. For filling finer imper-
fections I then applied an epoxy primer. A primer coat highlights small imperfections
so I applied filler to these. The quality of the original shaping and laminating becomes
apparent after a coat of paint is applied. There where some small bumps and lumps
on the deck and I could pick the join in the two main pieces of HDF which showed as
a slight valley. These imperfections are small and I decided to live with them. I think
at this stage filling and re-sanding would consume a great deal of time for incremental
gains. I decided to accept the imperfections of my shaping and laminating and move
After priming I hand sanded with 240 grit sandpaper. Then two coats of undercoat
followed by sanding all over with 400 grit sandpaper. Finally three coats of topcoat
with a light sand (400 grit) in between each. Note, deck grip was also applied, see
By the way I used International Paints they provide excellent info an painting us-
ing 2 pack polyurethane including a cdrom with movies demonstrating the surface
preparation and painting techniques, really useful.

4.3.4 Deck grip

I taped a perimeter defining the edge of the deck grip. Using the same topcoat paint I
mixed in grip particles and applied one coat. I mixed in way more grip particles than
recommend on the tin, my past experience is polyurethane is inherently slippery and
I wanted to make sure there was sufficient grip. The final coat (no particles) was then
applied over the deck grip coat to prevent the particles being abraded off.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure 4.17: After painting with epoxy primer.

Figure 4.18: Deck grip was mixed into the paint and one coat applied. I find mixing it
in gives a more even distribution than sprinkling on wet paint.

Chapter 5
The finished product

The weight of the bare board without footstraps, fin or centreboard is 14.7 kg. So this is
400 g above my design target. This makes sense since I tended to use more resin than
the 40 : 60 fibre to resin ratio, which is really the minimum resin require to wet out the
fibre. The weight of the footstraps is 850 g.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

5.1 Photos from Inverloch 25/04/2010

Here are some photos taken at Inverloch, Victoria in about 15 knots of wind and using
an 8.5 m2 sail.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard
Appendix A

A.1 Compressor
Probably the cheapest way to generate a vacuum is to use an old fridge compressor.
Using the suction side of the compressor a vacuum of around 80 % of an atmosphere is
possible. I bought a 2nd hand one from a whitegoods recycler. I’ve since picked up one
from the hard rubbish collection. Be extremely careful with wiring and ensure no live
wires or live connectors are exposed, if in doubt place the whole thing in an insulated
box. Figure A.1 shows two old fridge compressors, one of which is connected to a
pressure sensor and relay switch.

A.2 Vacuum controller

You need some way to control the pressure in the vacuum bag. Just running the com-
pressor continually will create too strong a vacuum which is likely to crush the core.
The pressure in the vacuum system can be visually monitored with a gauge, I used a
the vacuum gauge from a car tuning kit, figures A.2. Details of a circuit to accurately
monitor and switch the compressor on and off according the vacuum level are given
To control the pressure in the vacuum bag I purchased a differential pressure trans-
ducer ($35). I built a circuit that amplifies the (small) output voltage difference from
the transducer and compares it to the required switch on/off voltages and then sets
the output high (5V) to switch the relay on or low (0V) to switch off, figure A.6. Basi-
cally the circuit should switch off the relay when the vacuum is high and the amplified
voltage is 5 volts (rough figure from memory). We want it to stay off and give the com-
pressor a rest so the circuit is designed to switch back on at 4.5V level, that’s the theory
anyway. However I couldn’t get the switch off voltage to be lower than the switch on
voltage (hysteresis effect). For some compressors this does not matter as they will not
switch back on immediately after they switch off, they have some circuit which creates
a delay before switching back on. However other compressors will toggle on-off-on-
off if the controlling circuit does not have a hysteresis effect. In the end I used an old
computer which had analog-digital and digital-analog channels. This way I bypassed
the comparator (compare stage) of the circuit and fed the analog out signal of the circuit

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure A.1: Fridge compressors, the one on the left is connected to a pressure sensor
and relay switch.

Figure A.2: Pressure vacuum gauge used for tuning a car engine. The gauge reading is
indicating 80 kPa below atmosphere, atmosphere pressure being around 100 kPa.

to the PC. A program then samples this voltage and sends an output voltage back to
the external trigger (e.g. 5V to switch the relay on).
Figure A.3 shows the system is use. Note I have two compressors running one is
quite powerful (must be out of a big fridge) the other one is out of a bar fridge and can
just hold the vacuum (at about 30 kPa) against leaks. The reason for two is redundancy
in case one fails at a critical moment.
Note, reading analog voltage signals into a PC requires rather expensive hardware,
reading a voltage using a sound card may be possible? Sending trigger signals out is
no drama as this can be done via the parallel port. If you have no easy, cheap way to
sample a pressure sensor then an alternative is to forget about the pressure sensor and
just switch the compressor on and off at programmed times via the parallel port. The
signal from the parallel port is used to send the on/off relay signal to the compres-
sor’s relay switch. Determining the on-time off-time (duty cycle) for a given bagging
operation would require some trial and error. Once the bag is sealed you would run
the compressor until the desired vacuum is achieved then turn the compressor off and
time how long it takes for the vacuum to drop back to the desired “switch-back-on”
level, then turn the compressor on and time how long it takes to pull the vacuum back

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure A.3: Vacuum system in action. In this photo I’m bagging on the rail pieces.

down. This establishes the duty cycle and these numbers are then fed to the PC to au-
tomate the process. Obviously this method relies on the leakage rate remaining stable
during bagging.

A.3 Hotwire cutter

To find information on hotwire cutters search Radio Controlled aircraft forums. The
hotwire cutter is rather simple; just a bow that allows you to tension a wire of required
length. Figure A.4 show the 3 different length bows I used, the larger 2 are made from
6 mm plywood the small one is a hand jigsaw (make sure the frame is insulated from
the wire). The wire will extend on heating and for the large bows you need to be able
to retention, I used eye-bolts to do this.
The wire I used had a resistance of ≈ 10 Ω/m. It seemed around 2 Amps must be
passed through the wire to generate the required cutting temperature (below red-hot).
So for a hotwire of 1 m a 24 V power supply rated to a minimum of 2.4 A is necessary
(≈ 60 Watts). However it is useful to be able to control the voltage particularly if you
want to use smaller length hotwires.

A.4 Hotwire voltage control

The circuit I used to control the voltage is called a “chopper circuit” and is generally
used to control D.C. motors. The circuit takes the 24 V supply as an input and outputs
a square wave from 0 → 24 V. The ratio of off time (0 V) to on time (24 V) is determined
by an adjustable resistor (potentiometer). You could probably find a circuit design on
the internet, I purchased a kit for around $30 which saves a lot of effort and they are
easy to assemble. Note $30 is just for the controller you still need a D.C. power supply,
I bought a 24 V one rated to 60 W.

Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Figure A.4: Hotwire bows of lengths: 800 mm, 400 mm and 150 mm.

Figure A.5: Variable power supply for hotwire cutter.

Pressure sensor and switch circuit

R R Compressor
R 2K 5V

K (V1 − V2 )
+ −
−V1 + −
LM324 LM324 LM311 Relay
R − +
+ BC546
−(−V1 + V2 ) 10K
2K 220K

Note: V1 > V2 20K
and V1 ≈ Vs /2 2K
V1 V2
Analog out

Vs = 9 V
External trigger
Design and construction of a windsurfer longboard

Pressure sensor

Invert Sum Amplify Compare Trigger Switch

i.e. Subtraction

Figure A.6: My attempt at a circuit to control the compressor, not perfect.

Appendix B
References and links

• Building a composite windsurfer

• Building Custom Sailboards and Surfboards, Sail & Surf Tech Guide-4-698, SP Sys-
tems Composite engineering Systems (the only brief reference to building a race-
board that I’ve found)

• How to Build Your First Surfboard by Stephen Pirsch

• Swaylocks forum

• Vacuum Bagging Techniques, West System, Cat. No. 002150

• User Manual, West System, Cat. No. 002950

• ... need to add some more refs. here