Is Craigslist evil? Or is it the best thing ever? How about both? For a surfer it holds so much promise yet most often ends with frustration. Stick with it and ultimately you will be lead to some unexpected boards in your Quiver. This is how the Lazy Fish came to life.
I had seen an ad on Craigslist for a 9’4” longboard right here in my hometown of Laguna Beach. The price was only $100, so I knew that it was either in really bad shape or would be snapped up within minutes by some poacher. I ignored the ad because I already had several longboards sitting in my garage. To my surprise it popped up again a week later priced at only $75. I had to call. Turns out the seller lived about two blocks from my house, so I headed over to check it out and found the expected beat up old longboard that had been patched too many times to count. As always happens, I bought it. I don’t know what gets into me. I liked the fast talking old salty surfer trying to tell me what a great board it was (Hey passion is always exciting, even if it is skewed). I guess a part of me wanted to save the board and bring it back to life.
First I waxed it up and took it out to a local surf spot to experience what the shaper had created. The board had a lot of rocker and it was hard to find a sweet spot when paddling. Also, it seemed to lack stability for a surfboard of this size. It was probably suited best for bigger stronger surf, but here in California you get a lot of smaller slower waves. I was about to take my last ride when I noticed the surfer who sold me the board paddling out to the lineup. “It took me a long time to find a sweet spot on that board,” He yelled to me. Okay, I’m changing the shape of this board was my next thought.
The board was about 23” wide and 3” thick. I decided to cut a foot off each end which would make the length 7’4”. This meant that I would lose the large center fin, but would still have the two sidefin boxes now located further back on the new tail. Unfortunately the original O’fishl side fins were lost years ago. My plan was to add two larger fins further up the board and ride it as a twin fin, and later try it as a quad fin once I found some old O’fishl fins (O’fishl changed their fin boxes so the newer fins do not fit). I wanted the shape to be an “old school” looking fish. I found some free surfboard templates on the Green Light Surf Supply website and decided to base the shape on the Fishcuit design by Al Merrick. The tail of the board was left extra wide to make a floaty/stable platform. At 6’5” 215 lbs I like a little extra foam under my feet.
It was scary sticking the saw through the nose of the board for the first time, but it was also very exciting. I immediately discovered that someone had reattached a completely broken nose. I even found old rusty nails inside the stringer. It was a mess. I used every carving and sanding tool in my garage to reshape the board and remove the dirt and wax (and some awful yellow boat resin). I was determined to use only tools already existing in my garage. The only materials purchased were laminating resin, sanding resin, fiberglass cloth and white spray paint. Oh, and a leash plug which cost about a buck.
Then I received an unexpected phone call. It was the guy that sold me the board. He said he found some O’fishl fins on another board and asked if I wanted them. So now my project board had fins for the rear boxes. Of course when I got home and tried them on the board, they did not fit. These were the newer version. Oh well, at least they were longer than the slots. All I had to do was grind the fins down until they fit. The Dremel is my tool of choice whenever something doesn’t fit. I used the sanding band attachment to quickly take a little plastic off the front of the fin. And guess what? Now they fit. I just needed to find a way to make them secure so they don’t fly out on the first strong wave. I decided to drill small holes angled in towards the base of the fins so that I could secure them with a screw similar to an FCS fin. They won’t be perfect, but hey, who has ever of a Craigslist seller making a follow up call?
After too much time sanding and scraping, the board was taking shape. Two layers of six ounce fiberglass were saturated with laminating resin and placed on the nose and tail of the board. Once the resin was hard, I trimmed the excess fiberglass and filed down any bumps or imperfections. Sanding resin was brushed over the top of those same areas. This is the first project where I used a resin product that reacted to UV rays for hardening rather the adding catalyst. This was also most likely the last project where I will use the UV resin. I loved the idea of using a resin that reacted to the UV rays of the sun. The leftover resin could be poured back into the container rather than being thrown away. It’s great in theory, but I didn’t feel like I could control the timing of the resin setting up, and often got caught with ugly bumps instead of smooth areas. This product would work better in a controlled environment, but I was mostly working outdoors which meant that the UV factor was prominent. With traditional resin I can control the amount of catalyst and therefore control the amount of time before the resin begins to harden.
Because of all the discolorations on the original fiberglass, I decided to spray the entire board gloss white using Rustoleum Universal All-Surface spray paint purchased from my local hardware store. My apologies to Evolution longboards, but I needed to get a uniform finish on the entire board. The white paint actually made it look much less bumpy. I realized that it would be nearly impossible to make the board look new, but the goal was to make it functional and fun. Besides, imperfections can be beautiful too.
Now it was time for the most intimidating part of the entire project. I decided to glass on the front fins. I thought about making the fins out of wood, but soon decided that it would be wise to visit a surf supply shop in California called Foamez and buy a pair of their fins so I could talk to the experts and get their recommendations. Then I proceeded to watch every YouTube video on glassing fins along with reading a bunch of articles. And believe me, there is a lot of information out there regarding glassing fins. A couple days before I started on the fins a friend left his quad fin board with me for a day. I proceeded to study and measure every inch of his fin area. I was writing notes like I had just discovered a formula to stop aging (perhaps in a way I had). Anyway, I followed all the directions and put those suckers on the board and they looked really cool.
The board was exactly the shape and style that I was hoping for, but needed some character. I found some acrylic spray paint in the cupboards and decided to give it a nice Lemon-Lime vibe by spraying the nose yellow and putting a lime green stripe directly below. I painted the fins to match. She just needed one more element to bring her to life. I proceeded to Google hundreds of pictures of fish before I found the perfect cartoon which I recreated on the deck of the board using Posca paint pens. Something made me draw those slitty little eyes, and the Lazy Fish was born. I decided to put one last thin coat of sanding resin over the entire board to protect the paint and artwork.
At first I hesitated taking her in the water for fear of disappointment, but I finally got up the courage to take the Lazy Fish down to the same surf spot where I had ridden her before the changes. I decided to set her up as a twin fin. The Lazy Fish felt a little heavy, but paddled easily. She was very different from her former life. The first wave I caught was a breeze. The board was wide and stable for its length. I felt like I was standing on a dock. I started to wonder if I was trying harder with this board because I wanted everything to be perfect, so I asked my friend to switch boards with me. He immediately caught three waves on the lazy Fish. He would be the first to tell you that he never catches three straight waves on any board. I was completely stoked that this board had become the laid back, old school cruiser that I was hoping for.
So was it worth the trouble? Well let’s just say that she was a true labor of love. Even though reshaping a board is much harder that repairing a board, the experience of bringing new life out of an old discarded surfboard was extremely satisfying.
However, I do have to admit that the third time I took the board out the surf was much stronger and both fins got ripped clean off. Riding the Lazy fish without fins was a real adventure. I discovered that the old resin and fiberglass under the fins was very weak and had easily separated under the pressure of turning and holding the heavy board in the wave. I glassed on another pair of fins, but this time I used extra strong epoxy under the fins and glassed the fins down over a much wider area than recommended. They have been fine ever since. I also added the rear fins and have enjoyed riding it as a quad (the quad set up is a little looser which helps turn a board of that size).
Those of you who have always wanted to shape your own magic sled; I hope you will consider recycling an older board. At least keep an open mind and keep an eye on Craigslist for that hidden gem. It might not be the one you expected.