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INFO: Early summer 2009, I found a makeshift handplane on the beach. Probably made out of leftover fencepost. No strap, no hole, basically just a piece of wood with a rounded nose and slight belly in the nose on the bottom. It was sitting next to the kids boogies. It sat all day with nobody to claim. At the end of the day, I threw it in the back of the van and their it sat for some time. Fast forward a month or so. Another beautiful day on the beach. After surfing all morning, I took the kids out to the low tide sand bar to boogie. Perfect reforms taking them quite a ways to the beach. I noticed a nice waist to chest high wave breaking pretty fast over the sandbar. Once the kids were tired, I grabbed my fins and did some bodysurfing. Next day, same thing. This time, I decided to try the little hand plane that I had found. That session, changed my waveriding perception forever. I never realized how much a hand plane made a difference. I was actually trimming down the line for 50+ feet, which was unheard of for me and my limited bodysurfing experience. It was a completely different feeling than surfing. I was hooked and immediately went home to make a better one. I put my limited surfboard building knowledge to work and also pestered every decent woodworker I met. I had a blast on that first one that I made. I then made one for a friend, then another, one thing led to another and another, and well, you know the story. Lots of trials with wood types, finishes, coloring, straps, etc. These boards are the fruit of that labor. All made of Paulownia, Waterborne environmentally conscious finishes, and Custom, adjustable handstraps. They are made from the best materials I have found in my 5+ year obsession of handplanes. I hope you enjoy them.
THE BROWNFISH MISSION: To make the most functional handplane available in the industry, with the best materials possible, while leaving the smallest footprint.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE NOTABLE PEOPLE WE HAVE MADE HANDPLANES FOR? - Kelly Slater, Mark Cunningham, Tom Curren, Mick Fanning, Josh Kerr, Jordy Smith, John-John/Nate/Ivan/Alex Florence, Koloho Andino, Lakey Peterson, Alejo Moniz, Jamie O'Brien, Rusty Priesendorfer, Peter Townend, Fernando Aguerre, Kasey Curtis, Jason Kenworthy, Shawn Parkin, Monica Byrne Wicke, Ola Oleogram, Dax and Finn Mcgill, Noah Beschen, Wyatt Mchale, and the list goes on.
WHY WOOD?- Most don't realize this, but, unlike a surfboard, a handplane is not a floating device. It is a planing device. It still needs to float though. When you start making a handplane like a surfboard, ie. foam and fiberglass, you create something that has a high buoyancy. A handplane is best with a neutral buoyancy, meaning it needs to float, but you also need to be able to easily penetrate the water with it. When you are swimming, every stroke you take with your handplane strapped to your hand, needs to penetrate the the water easily. If it doesn't, then you will end up tiring out valuable muscle while swimming. You also don't want something strapped to your hand that sits too high in the water. This can cause loss of control in the pocket. Wood has a great neutral bouyancy, especially Paulownia.
WHY PAULOWNIA WOOD- thats a good question. There are a lot of other types of woods that are cheap and easy to obtain. Paulownia is only grown in certain areas, and is extremely hard to find at any local lumbar or fine wood store. Plus, it is about three to four times more expensive than your average piece of Poplar. So here are our reasons: Paulownia is very light- meaning that when your hand is in the strap, and you are swimming with it, it is less taxing on your muscles. It has an incredibly high strength to weigh ratio. It has a great water resistance to it. What they call water phobic. Lastly, Paulownia is extremely fast growing, considered a weed in some parts. It can grow up to 20 feet in one year when young and can be harvested for saw timber in as little as five years. Meaning it is highly regenerative as a building material.
WHY DO YOU HAVE DIFFERENT BOTTOM CONTOURS ON YOUR MODELS?- Just like surfboards, different bottom contours, fin clusters, etc work better or worse in different types of waves. On handplanes, Concave and flat bottoms work well in slopier, softer, weaker, and smaller waves. This added to planing surface (ie a larger plane) will help you handplane in even the tiniest of conditions. When the waves get steep, hollow, and bigger (or vary often steep, hollow and powerful when it's smaller), those same contours (flat or concave) can cause your handplane and arm to skip down or side slip down the face of the wave. I've seen some beautiful pictures circulating of people handplaning perfect waves, and the handplane is actually way out in the flats, when it should be locked into the wall with the bodysurfer. To combat this, we came out with the Hobbit and Short and Fat Model Handplanes. Both have a two super deep channels with a spine separating them. This helps lock the handplane into the face of the wave, and deters the handplane from skipping or sideslipping down the face. Tail shape matters least when designing handplanes. Don't let other brands fool you into thinking they have multiple models that work differently, when really, all they are doing is changing the tail shape.
WHAT SIZE HANDPLANE SHOULD I GET: Generally speaking, larger handplanes have a larger planing surface, which works well in smaller, weaker waves. A larger handplane can become a liability in Bigger waves. Smaller handplanes have less surface area and work better in bigger more hollow and powerful waves. Waves that have enough power where the handplane just adds a bit of speed and control over straight bodysurfing. Our Hobbit design, developed late spring 2011, was one of the first production handplanes that really addressed this issue.
WHY DO YOU USE A STRAP INSTEAD OF A HOLE: There is something to be said about a handplane that uses a hole in the middle for a handle. It is very simplistic and actually looks cool too. Less parts to break. Just a piece of wood, some fins, and you are off. My question is this: When not using a handplane, do people ever body surf with a closed fist? It's just not natural to bodysurf that way. Bodysurfers usually use an open palm. So, it just makes sense that our palm is open when we use a handplane. Same thing with swimming. The other reason is hydrodynamics. I've heard many say that it just doesn't matter if your fingers are going through to the underside, or planing side. People will argue this point, and thats ok, but my brain just can't wrap itself around having a closed fist with fingers hanging out into the planing surface. We put a lot of time in developing our strap system so that it actually flows with the board. No visible hardware (ie. screws), adjustable, and most importantly, comfortable.
WHICH HAND DO I USE IT IN?: That really depends on preference. I would say that most, including myself will switch hands, pending direction they are going. Left hand going left, and right hand going right. With that being said, the're are some that like to keep in the same hand, regardless of direction wave they are sliding on.
SHOULD I USE A LEASH?: It really depends a little on the above question. If you are going to be switching hands, then using a leash wouldn't be possible. If you do not switch hands, then by all means, a leash is fine. Also you could wear a leash if you are only going to be sliding in one direction, basically you are at a wave that only breaks one way. A quick and easy way to leash a handplane is to use a shoestring, tied to the strap, then around you wrist.
HANDSTRAP ADJUSTMENT: Most people aren't aware that the strap on a Brownfish Handplane is adjustable. It looks like a thick piece of neoprene. If you pull back the neoprene, you will notice that it is polyester webbing and velcro underneath. Here is how to adjust:: With the nose of the board, pointing away from you, pull the neoprene from right to left, really cram it down to the left side. Undo the velcro on the right side and adjust it about 1/2 inch (direction pending if you want it looser or tighter. Don't pull the velcro all the way apart. Just tighten/loosen it at the end and work it back toward the crammed up neoprene. You won't be able to fasten the velcro all the way to the other end due to the crammed up neoprene being in the way. Fasten it as far as possible, then pull the neoprene all the way to the other side, over the lump you made, and fasten the rest of the way. It is a bit of a pain to adjust, but once you have found the snuggness that you like, then you will never have to adjust it again.
To Review the early years of Brownfish Handplanes, please visit the Handplane Goodness Blog below: