Compass Handplanes are UK based premium shapers of quality wooden handplanes for bodysurfing, dedicated to bringing handplaning to the masses.
Born from a mistimed kickflip, Compass Handplanes began our journey with nothing more than half a broken skate deck. Having read about handplaning and watched a number of YouTube videos on the sport, we figured a handplane would be a necessary addition to our quivers. What started as an alternative to surfing, handplaning soon became our new reason for hitting the water. ‘I just got barrelled more times in that session than I ever have while surfing!’ Mark, co-owner of Compass, excitedly barked at me as he removed his swim fins. With bodysurfing recently popularised as part of Keith Malloy’s awe-inspiring documentary ‘Come Hell or High Water’, this easy and emerging surfing subculture simply requires your body to harness the oceans energy allowing you intimately ride the surf it sends your way. This stripped back form of surfing embraces simplicity in its essence and connects you with the purest stoke the ocean can provide.
Handplaning, an enhanced version of bodysurfing, ensures you get the most out of your surf, providing you with long clean rides, allowing you to stick to your line, change direction and even attempt a barrel roll if you’re feeling confident. More than anything else though, it’s immensely fun. Free from being tethered to a surfboard or bodyboard, and without the stress of having to pick the perfect wave, you can just play. What was a little known form of wave riding, previously isolated to surfing’s Hawaiian and Polynesian infamous history spots, is now fast becoming a recognised watersport sharing the table on surfing’s world stage. With the first C.I.C UK Bodysurfing Championships taking place in Newquay this September, momentum certainly is with the bodysurfers.
The accessibility of the sport means picking up handplaning couldn’t be quicker or simpler. Whether you have experience from surfing or bodyboarding or if handplaning is your raison d’être for getting amongst the surf, paddling in front of a peaking wave with a handplane out in front of you will provide enough propulsion to get yourself flying down its face and soon hurtling through your first barrel. Something everyone dreams about doing, but so few actually experience.
It only took us just one swift session to soon realise handplaning was special, however our basic plywood skate decks were clearly holding us back. We headed into our small workshop, tucked away in the Southwest of the UK, and set about creating something cleaner, lighter and more secure. The months that followed consisted of design and redesign, testing and retesting and now providing the masses with the equipment they need – so with the help of Compass, you can now experience the handplaning phenomenon for yourselves.
‘With little effort, I was able to cruise down the line of the wave and enjoy the unique feeling of bodysurfing with my Compass Handplane’ – Ash, Cornwall
At Compass, we know that not all spots have that perfect right hander that works all year round and that wave conditions are as variable as they are consistent. Yet the most satisfying thing about handplaning is that even on those blown-out and choppy, or flat and lifeless days, you can still find yourself riding a wave when others around you aren’t.
At present we have four different board shapes, all of which embrace subtleties in the way they look, ride and feel on your hand. The Stub board is our shortest board, designed for a range of conditions and especially suited to steep, powerful waves. The Fish and Crescent board are our mid sized boards, great all rounders with smooth cutaway tails contributing to their namesake. These shapes provide a larger surface area, without adding excess length allowing for increased grip and control. The Pin is our longest board and great for all conditions, big and small. This shape provides a long tail with smooth lines and a deep concave. It allows you make the next section as well as hold your line when searching to hit the barrel.
Every board that comes out of our workshop has to stand up to our meticulous standards, so each handplane not only rides sweetly but also looks and feels stunning both in and out the water. We only use the finest species of solid hardwood for our boards which we source from a local timber supplier. Boards are shaped out of classic woods including Elm, Sapele and Walnut but we also cannot resist experimenting with more exotic woods like African Wenge or Bubinga. We don’ t believe plywood or laminate alternatives will provide a good enough ride, not to mention their inability to stand up to the demanding conditions when being thrown around in big surf. We understand the need for a smooth, concave planing surface on the underside of our handplanes, and so we avoid introducing hand hold cut-outs which would compromise this surface. Like a surfboard, our handplanes are made to last a lifetime and stand up to the most testing of conditions. Everything on a Compass Handplane is designed and constructed with care and attention. We stitch together our own fully adjustable hand straps as we appreciate how important it is to have a comfortable and adjustable fit in every riders hand. A large chunk of time is spent creating a perfect silky smooth finish, followed by numerous coats of natural Tung tree nut oil. This provides a fully durable waterproof finish, whilst retaining the elegant and natural feel of the wood. It takes hours of shaping to create our handplanes and we want each rider to enjoy spending many more in the water.
‘This thing is amazing. It’s definitely a high quality piece of art’ – Shane, California
We are on a mission to bring handplaning to the masses both around the UK and Ireland and beyond. So far Compass is being represented on the surfing shores of America’s East and West coasts, Canada, the Falkland Islands, and spanning all the way across to the fierce waters of Western Australia and New Zealand. So check us out, join the Compass family, and give yourselves no excuse to ever miss out on a surf again.
‘Stunning handplane. Impressive handcrafted style, high quality design and elegant
finish. I cannot recommend Compass Handplanes enough’ – Craig, O’Neill UK
We have a website fully stocked with handplanes, and we also welcome custom ideas and designs. Check out our website and get in contact if you have an idea for a board. Compass Handplanes ship worldwide.
Authors: Adam Rees and Mark Wiggins, co-founders of Compass Handplanes
Instagram – @CompassHandplanes
Twitter – @CompassSurf