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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Brownfish Hand Plane ($140)

The Brownfish "Barrel Rider," made with Paulownia wood and designed for hollower beachbreaks, but still with enough volume to get you up and planing. Measures 15" x 7.75".

A hand plane and a pair of flippers, that's really all you need to go out and get yourself a few proper barrels ... regardless of the size of the surf. "We laugh," smiles Jason Kenworthy, a contributor to this site and part of a herd of Dana Point hand plane fanatics. "On small days you see all these surfers sitting, just sitting and bogging, meanwhile we're swimming into these glassy little suckers getting some pretty good tunnel vision."

Armed with Brownfish planes by San Diego craftsman Gary Murphy, Kenworthy and his Killer Dana cohorts are part of a growing resurgence in body surfing. "You can't necessarily get in the water every day if you only surf," continues Kenworthy, "but you can fill those gaps with body surfing, and literally get tubed everyday."

Nothing too technical about it, think of it as a surfboard for your hand. A hand plane sort of works the same way as a hydrofoil on a boat. As you get up to speed it helps focus the energy and get your body out of the water, which in turn reduces drag and gives you even more speed as you trim down the line.

"I never realized how much a hand plane makes a difference," tells Murphy, who hand mills and shapes all his Brownfish planes. "It's a completely different feeling than surfing. I started putting my limited surfboard building knowledge to work, and also pestering every decent woodworker I met. Lots of trials with wood types, finishes, coloring, and straps, and these boards are the fruit of that labor."

Dana Point's Dirk Sanchez sliding into home at "The Strand."

You can't deny that body surfing's a lot of fun. It's so free and easy. Everybody from Keith Malloy to Kelly Slater to Barak Obama's doing it. And besides a good pair of fins and trunks with a sturdy drawstring, the only other tool you may need is a hand plane. And the Brownfish shapes are designed to enhance the experience all that much more.

"'The Brownfish'" is the original design," says Murphy. "It has went through several modifications since its inception. It is shaped with a super deep single concave from the the front-middle third, through the tail. It is a good all around plane and works well in both softer and hollower waves. If you want to have just one plane to throw in your trunk along with your fins, this is the one you want. Perfect for those not-so-surfable days and also as a post-surf pick-me-up, to get your stoke back on. Don't know how many days I have gotten out of the water frustrated after surfing, only to turn it around with a nice mellow planing session."

With planes for small, crumbly beachbreak, to point waves, reefs, the Wedge and Pipeline, there's literally something for anybody that can drag their sandy carcass into the water. Built with Paulownia wood and treated with Waterborne environmentally conscious finishes, there's a natural beauty to all the boards that Brownfish makes. And with a custom, adjustable handstraps you'll stay locked in as you get locked in.

Check the Brownfish blog for the latest. Seems the Brownfish planes go pretty quick, so you'll have to reach out to them directly if you want something custom. You can order the stock shapes from their online store . And if you're passing through the San Diego area you can try the Patagonia store in Cardiff, Surfy Surf in Leucadia, or Infinity in Dana Point.