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Choosing a handplane

You want to get a handplane but not sure what to buy? It can be surprising the differences there are in something that is pretty small. Below is a bit of a guide that might help.

Check our video comparison page

Overall Size

The primary job of a handplane is to, well, plane. It sounds obvious in hindsight. The bigger the surface area, the easier it aquaplanes. The planning action can be further assisted by volume, especially if the material is buoyant.  The act of planning is all about decreasing the drag of a bodysurfer, lifting them out of the water and giving you a dramatic increase in speed.  This helps you get across a wave faster, enabling you to make sections easier and extending your bodysurfing ride.

The planning area can be increased by shaping techniques like concave hulls. If you flatten out a concave area – you get more planning surface area. Concave shapes also create a high-pressure zone that increases lift and drive (a little bit like how an aircraft wing generates lift by creating a high-pressure zone under the wing), whilst helping you suck onto the edge of a wave face.

However, everything is a compromise. The larger the planning surface, the bigger the board that you are lugging around in a turbulent ocean, strapped to your wrist. My general rule is that a physically bigger person can handle a larger sized board, whilst smaller people should tend towards a smaller sized board. This changes a little with experience. I find that very experienced bodysurfers are very comfortable catching waves and generally prefer a slightly smaller board making it easier to do tricks.  A beginner should tend towards a slightly larger board as the extra volume and/or planning surface will make it easier to catch waves and build experience.

Shape

The same design principals that have seen surfboards evolve generally apply to handplanes. A small amount of nose rocker (angle of the nose) helps you catch waves without digging the nose in. A flattish mid-section of the hull for speed, and a concave in the rear section to give you lift and drive.

Shapers add variation to this based on a function or design idea. You might find a deep concave helps a board hold a wave face at particularly step local shore break. Or, a larger flatter handplane helps with a mushier long riding wave.

One thing that is quite different about handplane design requirements that don’t apply to surfboards is the minimisation of spray and splash. A handplane sits in front of your face, so the last thing you want is a lot of spray from the handplane as it will obscure your vision.

We also add a fin to our design.  This adds further directional control, allowing the bodysurfer to pick a line on a wave without sliding sideways.

Material

There has been an explosion in handplanes on the market, ranging from wood, fibreglass, plastics, foam, and even 3D printed cardboard. Each material has its pro’s and con’s and I’m likely to upset someone by advocating one over the other.

We make handplanes using a high-density EPS foam, and laminating this with fibreglass and epoxy resin. We’ve done this because foam can be shaped easily and is super light and buoyant. Fibreglass is both strong, and hydrodynamic. In some cases, we use carbon fibre which is lighter and stronger again. We want our handplanes to be performant, long lasting and beautiful.

So, how do you choose one of our handplanes? Below is a ready reckoner, but at the end of the day, there is no such thing as the wrong choice!

 

  
Person Frame Size Surf Experience Break Type Recommendation
Smaller Frame Beginner - Intermediate Shore Break Go Kart
Mushy / Smaller Waves Palm Sled or Riva
Normal Shoulder Breaking Waves Go Kart, Riva or Palm Sled
Confident Shore Break Go Kart, Riva, or Palm Sled ( + Fin)
Mushy / Smaller Waves Palm Sled, Barrel Monster or Riva
Normal Shoulder Breaking Waves Go Kart or Riva ( + Fin)
Larger Frame Beginner - Intermediate Shore Break Go Kart or Riva
Mushy / Smaller Waves Palm Sled, Barrel Monster or Riva
Normal Shoulder Breaking Waves Go Kart, Riva or Barrel Monster
Confident Shore Break Go Kart or Riva ( + Fin)
Mushy / Smaller Waves Palm Sled, Barrel Monster or Riva
Normal Shoulder Breaking Waves Go Kart or Riva ( + Fin)
 
Size Guide