Carlsbad Bodysurfer Creates Handplanes from Reclaimed Wood and Broken Skateboards

Handplanes create lift giving the bodysurfer both increased speed and improved position on the wave.

Courtesy www.kainalusurfhandplanes.com
Courtesy www.kainalusurfhandplanes.com
Mark Ley is a local bodysurfer who started shaping a device called a handplane a few years ago from reclaimed woods and broken skateboards.

"I hand shape each hand plane one at a time. Each handplane is unique depending on the elements I have to create it. Some call it upcycling. I see it as re-imagining. All of my shapes are hand tested, in variety of surf conditions to ensure maximum stoke. From grinding reefs to mushy beach breaks, our custom paddles have smiles and glide in their soul," explained Ley.

Ley sells the handplanes on his websiite www.kainalusurfhandplanes.com. Patch caught up with Ley to learn more about bodysurfing and why created this product.

Patch: Why did you decide to make these? 

As most surfers do, I got my start in the ocean on my stomach and learned to bodysurf before I could ride a surfboard. Somehow I never outgrew it. 
A few years ago I watched a very good friend get a series of remarkable barrels in Hawaii using a handplane and I was in awe. I had bodysurfed plenty over the years, but never had I ridden a wave with the style and speed that he did. I had always heard that a handplane could help a bodysurfer gain speed and hold a better line on a wave. The closest I’d come to using one was the McDonalds trays we “borrowed” as kids to bodysurf the shore pound in Hawaii. 
After watching that session, I picked up an old skateboard in the garage, cut out a template and hacked it into something resembling the board I had seen my buddy ride. A quick trot down to the beach at Terramar, a few clean waist high waves and I was hooked. With bodysurfing you sit deeper in the pocket and it’s always overhead! The lift and handling that a handplane gives a bodysurfer, makes it easier to ride the wave and enjoy the sensation of traveling along the face or getting barreled. 
That first session sparked a tidal wave of ideas relating to shape, size, handling and other elements of design. I began tinkering in search of greater control, speed and pure stoke. There is a pure joy that comes from that creation. I also enjoyed the process of building the handplanes from re-claimed products. Old skateboards led to off cuts from the cabinet makers and carpenters in the neighborhood which I eventually started using to create my own blanks. As a result each handplane created is completely unique. From the patterns in the wood to the scars on the skateboard.
We’ve got a pretty cool network of people who provide materials. It gives me a chance to work with my hands and stay connected to the water. I love the sensation of bodysurfing and I’m still stoked when I find a cool batch of wood or shape a really clean rail. I love to watch people jump in and catch a wave with their handplanes. That ear to ear grin as they feel the sensation of gliding along the face or looking up into the lip of a wave as it crests over their head and they are enveloped in the barrel. It’s cool to see young kids getting excited about being in the water and those of us a few decades older finding the same amount of joy. 

Patch: How much are they?
Our handplanes range in price from $60 - $120 depending on size, shape and materials used to create the handplane. Most bodysurfers use a single handplane on their dominant hand so only one is needed. 

Patch: Do you have another job or is this your main job? 

I do have another job. I handle business development for a luxury resort in Napa. Kainalu handplanes started out of my passion for bodysurfing and the joy of building something with my hands. Now it’s growing into something more. We’re developing a community of bodysurfers young and old. As we like to say, we’re all in pursuit of simple stoke! 

Patch: Anything else you want Patch readers to know?

Bodysurfing is an easy way to get comfortable in waves and highly recommended for those who are looking to learn how to surf. A few days out and you'll be amazed at how comfortable it becomes.  Handplanes create lift giving the bodysurfer both increased speed and improved position on the wave. Handplane size and volume can easily be compared to that of surfboards. A large handplane is like a long board, smaller handplanes are more like short boards (usually more performance oriented).
They are great for small wave days and plenty of fun in larger surf as well. It is imperative that you are a strong swimmer and highly recommended that you use swim fins while bodysurfing. Although you can have plenty of fun just pushing off from the bottom as well. 


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