Handplaning sweeping San Diego shores: 10news reporter tries rare surf sport

Local men create handplanes out of broken boards

SAN DIEGO - Imagine shooting headfirst on your stomach through the middle of a 12-foot wave. It's a surf sport called handplaning, and it's sweeping San Diego.

Walking into a small garage in Encinitas, it's hard to believe thousands of handplanes are made there. Ed Lewis and Kipp Denslow are co-founders of Enjoy Handplanes, which, if you're wondering, look like tiny surfboards that you strap to your hand.

"It went from a one-time thing to a full business, which is amazing because it's the most fun either one of us has had doing work," said Lewis.

The two have found huge success. Each handplane takes five days to make and sells for around $155. What makes them so extraordinary is that they start as old, broken surfboards or castoffs from the surf industry.

"When surfers catch a big wave, sometimes your board breaks," said Lewis, "and typically, it can't be mended."

Lewis and Denslow have found a use for what would otherwise be trash. Three years later, they've sold so many they've been able to quit their day jobs. Even President Barack Obama has one of their handplanes.

Meanwhile, their supply of broken boards has never run out.

"Everyday we'd run low on broken boards and we'd go outside and find a pile of them that people had dropped off," said Lewis.

Perhaps part of what is giving handplaning its resurgence is that enthusiasts say it's easier than surfing, as there is no falling involved.

10News reporter Natasha Zouves put this claim to the test, and after 30 minutes in the freezing cold water, and with Lewis' help, Zouves managed to not catch a single wave.

"I lost a contact lens, I have salt water up my nose, but it was really fun," Zouves admitted.

Handplaners aren't the only ones thrilled with the newfound popularity of the sport.

Local marine debris experts say more businesses should model themselves after Enjoy Handplanes.

"Anytime you have something in the water that isn't supposed to be there, it's a bad thing," said Mallory Watson of San Diego Coastkeeper.

Making handplanes out of old surfboards means the boards stay out of the ocean. Not only are the handplanes made out of old boards, the handles are made out of old wetsuits and even the epoxy is made out of nontoxic pine.

Watson said there isn't enough research on the toxicity of surfboards specifically, but materials like foam, plastics and paint are known to harm marine life.

"They do have toxins and chemicals that leach out. Whether it's being in the water or being hit by sunlight they photodegrade, and that's something we're really concerned about," said Watson.
For Lewis, being eco-friendly is just icing on the cake.

"It's a lot of work right?" asked Zouves.

"It's long hours, but Kip and I say we're basically toy makers," said Lewis, who still handplanes every chance he gets. "It's everything that I love."

Learn more about handplaning by going to Lewis and Denslow's website http://www.enjoyhandplanes.com.


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