'Building the Dragon Board' article by Roy Stuart from Australian Amateur Boatbuilder magazine.

by: Roy Stuart as featured in the Australian Amateur Boatbuilder 2004

Riding a huge timber surfboard is a great way to surf. The pilot of an Olo longboard is able to open up virgin territory and ride previously unsurfable breaks. Even normally crowded surf spots can provide epic solo sessions in conditions which are outside the range of normal surfing equipment.

A really big board like the olo is able to connect scattered breaking wave sections together so efficiently that surf which appears to  irregular or blown out, often proves to be easily cruisable.

Gliding on big unbroken swells is another relaxing pastime, and if the craft well designed it can also slot into hollow waves when they occur:

Shown here is the 13'9" Dragonboard, part of a quiver which includes a 12' and a  17' model. All three of these boards have proven themselves over the years to be capable of riding just about any wave that comes along.

The extreme pintail design is usually associated with paddle boards, but is really he best possible tail shape for an Olo. By providing the most planshape curve over the longest distance , the circular arc rail line of the extreme pintail allows better manoeverability than a board with a more parallel outline. These boards are ridden from the middle of the board without walking up and down.

Early hollow plywood boards built in Australia show similar planshapes to the Dragonboard.

The Dragon differs in that it has more rocker curve, a much more substantial fin, a lower centre of gravity, a round rail, and fore and aft flexibility.

By departing from the usual system of fore and aft taper (viewing the board from the side), in favour of a parallel profile, the board gains a swooping deck curve which exactly matches the bottom curve, giving a lower riding position and far better control than the ponderously thick,  flat decked  types.

Construction wise the machine is a simple four layered  'sandwich' built over a mould.

The plans shown here have been developed from the original Roy Stuart balsa pp system to allow the boards to be built from heavier timbers. Using a double diagonal internal layer torsion box construction  we get a strong flexible hollow structure. Plywood can be substituted for the fore and aft planking on the deck and bottom if a more tradtional look is desired.

Unlike foam or balsawood surfboards, with a board built from a harder timber ( Redwood, Cedar, lightweight pine and Paulownia are favourites) glassing with cloth is optional.

Turning a continuous round rail is the only shaping that is required.

There are possible variations on these construction layouts and the board dimensions can  be quite easily altered over a surprisingly wide range. The thickness of the board can be tuned for more buoyancy and less sensitivity.

The bottom curve can be increased by up to two inches for hollower waves and more manoeverability, or reduced by the same amount for maximum paddle speed, wave catching and glide.

By building the board as drawn, however, satisfaction is guaranteed.

To a builder with a boat or two to his credit, the board building procedure should be self explanatory. For first timers there are step by step instructions at this link.