Building my Wooden Surf Ski by Ken Katz

I have been building my own boats since I was a kid, everything from plywood hydroplanes to steel sailboats and many wood strip kayaks.  You might say it has been a lifelong obsession.  Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing the beauty of a watercraft that was made with my own hands and using it to its full potential.  When most of my paddling shifted from kayaks to surfskis in the last couple of years I faced the dilemma of having to paddle a commercially built boat.  Don’t get me wrong, the quality of construction and performance of most of the skis on the market is impressive.  When I built my kayaks I always felt they were not only more beautiful, but better performing then most that were made from a mold.  I realized that I couldn’t build a boat as light as some that you could buy, but there are always trade offs.  Creating a wooden ski has been on my mind for years now, but I needed to paddle a few different skis to know what I wanted before I invested a considerable amount of time and effort.  I found a stock design by Bjorn Thomasson (one of the Nordic Kayaks designers) that was close to what I wanted but needed some modifications to satisfy me. Bjorn agreed to adjust some of the lines to better suit my light weight. It wound up narrower and longer than the original.


The original design by Bjorn Thomason was modified to better suit my weight (THANKS BJORN!). The hull was made narrower and longer. I removed 25% of the rocker, put a V in the foredeck, narrowed the catch zone and lowered the sheer line in the stern. LOA= 615cm or 20’2″, BOA = 46cm or 18.1″ Finished weight 29.5 lbs.

I then changed the deck lines, narrowed the catch and removed some rocker.  After around 250 hours, I have a new boat in the “fleet”.  The final boat is less than 30 lbs and is stable and fast for its dimensions.  We’re still getting to know each other.  Most of the paddling to date has been in flat conditions and I plan to get her out in some bigger water in the coming weeks.

Below is a link to Ken’s amazing project from design to finish. You will want to click this his link!!



Using Laser to set up frames

Finished Ski

Finished Wooden Surfski


Graphite Hull

Graphite Hull


Ready to Launch

Testing it out.

Testing it out.


Getting her up to speed.

Below is another article by Ken who won the Recreational Division in the Ski to Sea Race.



  • Bob says:

    Very, very cool and very impressive !

  • Michael says:

    Ken – yo u’re an amazing craftsman, outdoorsman and athlete! all very impressive!!! i’m proud of you as a buddy. would love to do a little light, leisurely paddling with you one day, maybe the four of us.

  • Al says:

    Well done.
    I began studying strip built kayaks about three years ago. A little later I bought a used kevlar kayak and began training for my first race, which was 50 miles. I’ve been able to paddle alot of different kayaks and skis since then, but could never get away from the idea of building my own and the classic look of a wooden boat. I had not been able to find a design that I felt I could dedicate the time into building. Until now. Thanks for posting the photos and details of the build. Extraordinary from start to finish.

  • David Joblin says:

    Wooden watercraft have a particular beauty about them. This ski no exception. Any thoughts on marketing a kitset Ken???

    • Ken Katz says:

      Making kits would be too much like work! I love building one or two of a design and then I like to try something new. Thanks for asking.

  • Bill Cirino says:

    As a wood wooker, boat builder and cabinet maker all I can say is WOW!.. Absolutely wonderful. One of the nicest built strip kayaks I have ever seen.
    Thanks for the photo stream of the construction, it’s truly inspiring to look at.
    It’s a really nice looking ski as well. Not just the wood but the shape is really elegant. I have chated to you before about your ski but just had to say it again… Hats off!

    Bill Cirino

  • Ken Katz says:

    Thanks Bill.

  • Walt K. says:

    First off I have to say that I love the Surfski that you have crafted. I’m sure you always attract attention with it when you are out paddling
    I do have a question about your build process. I am in the middle stages of building a custom design ski Once I saw your article on the Surfski build I thought the molded seat was a very good idea. I was able to use an EPIC V8 to make a plaster cast of the seat area. Once the plaster is cleaned up I can do a carbon or Kevlar layup of the seat to fit into my strip built ski. The one process I’m trying to figure out is the best way to secure the seat layup into the wood hull. My first thought was to fit the seat to the deck and glass it into place from the topside and inside. After I would attach the deck to the hull and find a way to support the seat off of the bottom of the hull. The more I think about it I find myself leaning toward having the deck and hull joined and then fit the seat into the hull. The issue with this is that I will only be able to glass the seat on the outside of the hull. And at the front and rear if I add an access or two on the deck. If I do the seat to the deck first the problem is trying to gain access to the area on the sides of the seat. So I’m looking toward the expert to better understand my options with the assembly.

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