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Bodyboard Holidays head honcho Rob Barber was recently approached to crash test a wooden bodyboard hand crafted by Garry Charman. Garry has been refining his handmade boards from his home workshop in Newquay for some time now. Although pessimistic at first, Rob was impressed with how Garry’s latest creation rode.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to ride some weird and wonderful creations in my time and to be honest, I am a bit of a bodyboard snob! I know what I like to ride and I don’t really like to ride anything else. But I was so, so surprised and happy that I tried this creation. In small waves, the boards rigidity gave it speed. The buoyancy was similar to a ‘normal’ bodyboard and it didn’t sit below the water line like I expected. I was worried that when I land moves I may hurt myself on the board but it was fine. The fact that this board is eco-produced is a massive plus for me. I’m stoked that Garry asked me to ride it and would suggest that anyone interested in giving it a go, snaps up the chance!”.
Firstly introduce yourself. Who is the man behind Charman Wooden bodyboards and what is your background? How did you get into bodyboarding?
As a boy way back in the early sixties I was fascinated by the surfing culture which had not yet really arrived in the UK. Surfboards were rare and I obviously didn’t have the money to buy one, so I decided to make my own. I sent off to California for a paper template and was soon surfing the South Coast waves on my home-made hollow wooden board – to the astonishment of passers-by who had no idea what I was doing. It was long before the invention of leashes or proper wetsuits so the October storms could be challenging but it was great fun! I later got into bodyboarding and spent a lot of holidays bodyboarding with my teenage daughters in Cornwall and Biarritz.
What made you take the initial steps to go about constructing a wooden board?
When I retired after a 40-year career in IT, I wanted to go back to that childhood dream. I set up a workshop in my back garden where I live in Newquay (right next to Tolcarne beach) and began crafting wooden boards for fun. After COP26 and the protests during last year’s G7 meeting, there was a lot of talk about plastic pollution in the oceans and particularly about the problem of throw-away bodyboards. I decided that I could apply the same logic from the wooden surfboards to making a hollow wooden bodyboard that would last for many years. After a few attempts over several months, I got to the current model which Rob very kindly tested for me.
Could you talk us through the design and manufacturing process? Did you have any help or guidance, or have you figured the construction out yourself?
The current board is made from a marine plywood skeleton to give it strength and covered with a marine plywood top and bottom skin. I then add balsa wood rails and shape them. So just wood and waterproof glue so far! This is finally glassed with several coats of epoxy resin. I chose epoxy rather than PU resin as it should be more durable and is considered to be more environmentally friendly.
What are the next steps for your business? How can people get their hands on one of your boards?
Up until now I have been hand-crafting boards in my garden workshop for the pleasure of it and in the hope that I could sell the odd one to cover the costs. Obviously the number of bodyboards I can make this way is very limited. If the bodyboard idea has serious potential and could sell well for a viable price then I would have to consider trying to find a local company that would be keen on some sort of joint venture.
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