I’m not handy or crafty. Nor do I know my way around power tools. But when I saw that Grain Surfboards was offering a “Shape Your Own Paipo” class, I jumped. I was to be among the lucky few who would create a magic belly slider with the grand wizard himself, Jon Wegener. How else could a mere mortal like myself transform a few planks of wood into something so remarkable, except by magic? Sixteen hours of hand shaping and a lot of expert guidance later – I was spellbound.
You Can Take Away, But You Can’t Add
It dawned on me about an hour into our first day of class that making a Paipo was going to require more than a little pixie dust. Once my crude shape was cut with all fingers intact, the real business of hand shaping began. Jon’s oft-repeated mantra for the day was, “You can take away, but you can’t add.” At first glance, this Wegenerism sounded fairly straightforward. But, as I would soon learn, the line between too much and not enough was not.
Measure Twice, Shape Once
I still don’t really know what 3/8th of an inch is, but making a Paipo requires a lot precise measurements and a steady hand. As I would learn over the course of our two day class, there’s an amazing amount of subtle design that goes into a well-crafted Paipo: the concave underbelly, beveled rails and slight rocker in the nose. Jon’s expert guidance provided an invaluable road map; our passionless Paulownia planks were finally becoming graceful Paipos!
Don’t Fight The Grain
I was starting to get in a groove, when Jon threw out this curveball: “Don’t worry too much about measuring …” To the ears of this newly baptized shaper, this was sacrilege. Shaping requires a precise shape, right? Well, yes and no, as it turns out. Each piece of Paulownia wood has its own unique character, just like us. And at a certain point in the process, you have to let go of the measuring tape and go with the grain. This is where a little bit of magic happens and a Paipo is born.
Burning The Midnight Oil
Jon Wegener’s passion for all things Paipo is contagious. How else can you explain our plan to meet at midnight, in a barn in Maine, for a final coat of linseed oil? As the oil soaked in, we stood back in awe of the powerful grain patterns that graced each of our boards. There was nothing to do now but wait for some early morning sun and surf.
After a summer of double-over-ankle waves, Hurricane Leslie had blessed New England with chest high surf. “Pepper,” my aptly named Paipo, was ready to rip! After a few false starts, a large outside wave approached and lifted us up, up, up. Almost by instinct, I pulled Pepper back under my belly, and the wave spit us out like a watermelon seed. Pepper charged across the face. But what struck me more than the remarkable speed was how beautiful the wave looked from this new perspective. Enveloped by rich green-blue hues and intricate textures, I was deep inside the pocket of the wave’s awesome and magical power. Thank you Jon Wegener and Grain Surfboards for the wonderful ride.