It takes a Village to create a SurfSki by Ken Katz

LouAnne and Ken fueling up for the 2015 Canadian Surfski Champs.


Over the last few years Ken and I have emailed back and forth about surfskis, he on the West Coast(Salt Springs Island, BC) and me on the East Coast although I had never met Ken and his wife LouAnne until the 2015 Canadian Surfski Champs. As it turns out, Betsy(my wife) and Louanne shuttled back from the start of this race and were there to whoop and holler when Ken and I finished only seconds apart. See the finish of my video of this race and you will hear them. I got Ken in the video too. I loved it they were there. I followed Ken’s line during the race as long as possible. He was ahead of me the entire race. However, I decided about mile 6,  that he was too far to the left in Howe Sound so I took a straighter line. To Ken’s credit, he was using a short rudder for his first production wooden surfski and would have been faster with a standard rudder. He also realized that his second wooden ski(to be built) would have more bow volume, though sized for him, hence the V10L designed ski below.  This fall Betsy and I were fortunate to meet up with these guys when they were on vacation seeing family in Connecticut. I thought I would see Ken and LouAnne again at the Gorge Race in July but turns out I can’t make it this year.  Ken will be there in his 2nd of a kind “Katz Ski II”.

Below is an article I posted on Ken’s first wooden ski.

Building my Wooden Surf Ski by Ken Katz

Below is a link when Ken paddle to a 1st Place finish in the Recreation Division of the Sea to Ski Race. 


LouAnne and Ken fueling up for the 2015 Canadian Surfski Champs.

LouAnne and Ken fueling up for the 2015 Canadian Surfski Champs. (photo Wesley)

It takes a Village to create a Surf Ski (copied from Ken’s Facebook page)-Ken’s 2nd Wooden Ski!

After a few months of planning and a couple of months of intense shop time, my most recent surfski is complete and has been paddled and raced. So far, I am very pleased with the outcome. I am not particularly reflective in the midst of a project, much too much of a singleminded focus. After the dust settles I often think about the project and how it all came together. Having been a “lone wolf” kind of guy for much of my life, thinking I could always do it myself, the absurdity of that delusion has slowly become clear. This boat and most of the other things I have done would never have come together without other people’s help and input. I feel lucky to have come to a place in life where I know what I know, I know what I don’t know and fortunately, I know people that have and are willing to share the knowledge I don’t have. A real bonus after years in a community!

Ken in his 2nd Ski!

Ken in his 2nd Ski!

Last year I built a surfski that turned out to exceed my expectations on most levels. It paddles and looks great and I managed to propel it to the head of the pack in most of the races I entered. The designer, Bjorn Thomasson did an outstanding job. All boats are a compromise and can’t do everything perfectly. That is why there is always another one to build.

I know how to build a boat and understand enough design to be dangerous. I leave the technical part of boat design to those more qualified than me. For the latest build I started with a commercial design that I liked but wanted to customize it a bit to fit me and my needs. All boats start somewhere and evolve slowly into something that works better or perhaps will fail miserably. Ask me how I know. Modern surfskis are highly sophisticated designs and who better to ask for guidance on the changes I wanted than John Dixon, the whiz behind some of the most successful surfskis in the world. John made the time to give me some formulas to work with that would bring this boat closer to what I wanted. Now what? I manually pulled the lines off of the Epic V10L and created PDF files of the boats sections . At this point I needed precise patterns for the modified boat. That is where Warren Williamson came in.

Besides being an amazingly skilled paddler (check out his big water paddling videos,

he is highly skilled in Computer Aided Design and applied the numbers I calculated from John’s formulas.

With that he created a cool 3D modeling of the new boat. From there the digital files went to Ron Ateah, a friend with some sophisticated CNC machines. He cut plywood patterns from these files with a computerized water jet. Yes, water! With these I began to set up the frames that were used to create the shape of the boat out of wood strips. One of the most challenging parts of building a surfski is creating the “carbon fiber bucket” or cockpit. Paul Hansen solved that problem for me with a mold he created and lent me to use. A couple of months of being a shop rat, coming up for air or cookies that Luanne would bring me and I have a new boat, almost.

It was too cold outside and too dusty in my shop for me to spray on the final finish. It was time to head south and I wanted this boat completed before departure. Another friend that lives down the road came to the rescue. Tim Pickstone has a spray booth and offered to put on the clear coat finish. With that final bit of help, a new boat is complete. Oh, can’t forget Don Kiesling’s amazing rudders that were custom built for this one of a kind boat.

So, was it a success? Two races so far and two first place finishes. My new boat managed a third overall, second single surfski and first in class in yesterday’s HanoHano Huki Ocean Challenge 5 mile course. ( So far so good. Thanks for the help guys, really appreciate being in your sphere!












  • Russ says:

    Reading the story, I couldn’t understand how there wasn’t a single word posted about the work that went into crafting this ski…

    But then looking at the pictures carefully, I realized that after dropping one’s jaw, there really are only seven words that anyone can at the moment express. Two of them are expletives…

    Holy %$#@! Ken! Well %$#@! done!

  • Russ says:

    I know that’s only six words. The “Daaaammmmnnnnnn” said in front of them was more of a statement of expression than an actual word…

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