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Surf’s up in the Midwest, yo! As someone who used to live steps from the Pacific and did a lot of ocean swimming, bodyboarding, and even some surfing, there are still so many days I wake up itching to hop into those waves! So I decided to DIY the next best thing for a corn-country gal on a limited budget and make a surf-inspired balance board.
If you’re lucky enough to live by an ocean, this is the perfect way to help younger kids ease into surfing. If you live in the middle of endless fields (like I do) this is an awesome substitute for the real thing and a great balance trainer. Take it out in the sun, turn up some surf tunes, and it’s about as close to the Pacific as the Midwest gets!
Whether you’re hanging ten (five for pros), practicing your popups, or just rolling around having fun, this is the perfect summer sports toy for kids and adults. And by making it myself, I saved more than $115!! Brand name balance boards usually run anywhere from $50-$180, but I spent a total of $35 on supplies for this beauty of a board (including some of the extra stuff to make it look cool – like wood stain, decorative stripes and grip tape). Don’t have some of the tools or supplies, don’t worry! This is super easy to modify.
This particular board size is recommended for kids ages 8 and up, but you can easily modify the dimensions for a smaller board, or even start with an old skateboard and small roller!
If you’re digging this summer DIY, you might also like making our upcycled flameless camp lanterns, the cutest (and simplest) crab softie from a recycled teeshirt, or a shoebox nature explorer kit for popup nature science!
To make your own balance board you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Plywood (16″ x 30″ for the balance board + (2) 8″ x 1.5″ rectangular pieces for the bumpers)
- Jigsaw (Optional – the board can easily be modified to just have straight sides if you don’t have one)
- Safety Glasses
- Sandpaper – coarse, medium and fine grit (a small palm power sander isn’t required, but will speed up the sanding process)
- Wood Glue
- (4) Small Screws
- Power Drill or Screwdriver
- 1/2 Pint Clear Gloss Polyurethane
- 4″ diameter PVC pipe cut to 18″ – OR – a 6.5″ diameter 18″ high-density foam roller (like this one on Amazon)
- Our Cut Template Free Printable PDF
- 1/2 Pint Wood Stain
- Grip Tape or Duct Tape (Optional, but advised)
- Paint, Decals, or Washi Tape for decoration
DIY Balance Board Instructions:
- Find a suitable piece of scrap wood or buy a piece of 2 ft. x 4 ft. 3/4 in. plywood
Find a suitable piece of scrap plywood – 3/4″ hardwood plywood works best if this board is for the whole family, as it can easily and safely hold the weight of an adult.
*Note: One of my favorite super-secret tips: if you don’t have wood cutting tools at home, most big box stores or lumber shops will cut a piece to size for you if you ask.
- Trace the basic shape on to your plywood
You can download our template, tape it together as shown in the PDF and trace onto your plywood. Want to keep it simple and speedy? You don’t have to use the template or cut curved lines – a straight-sided board works just as well!
- Use a jigsaw (and goggles!) to cut around the outline of your board
Grab your safety goggles and fire up the jigsaw! Clamp your plywood board down and cut along the outline (or your desired shape).
- Cut simple rectangular bumpers for the underside from leftover wood pieces
For added stability, I put bumpers on the bottom of my board. This gives the roller a stopping point and keeps the board from flying out from under you if you slide to one side too quickly. You can use scrap from the ply you cut away for two long blocks that will create the simple bumpers. Mine measured 8″ long by 1.5″ wide.
- Sand your balance board pieces
Sand, sand and sand some more! Starting with a coarse grit sandpaper, go around all of the edges, top and bottom. Sand again with a medium grit, then again with a fine grit. I used a palm-sized power sander to speed the process up, but you don’t have to! If you have a small spare block, you can wrap sandpaper around it to make sanding a little easier.
- Use a tack cloth or damp rag to clean your pieces after sanding
After thoroughly sanding, wipe down your board and bumpers with a damp rag or tack cloth.
- Stain your board the desired color
If you want to stain your board, this is the time to do it! Apply a wood stain (if desired) to the board and bumpers and let dry for a solid 5-6 hours in a well-ventilated, dry area. Apply additional coats for a darker color (I applied two).
- Apply polyurethane
I highly recommend doing 2-3 coats of polyurethane with sanding in between – mostly because I like to use my board with bare feet for better stability, and a few extra coats of a nice thick finish means zero-chance of a surprise splinter. Splinter-free is the way to be. I did 2 coats of clear gloss, painted my stripes on just with some leftover paint I had, and then applied one more on top, to seal in the stripes and give it a glossy, super-smooth finish!
*Note: You’ll want to let dry for at least 8 hours between coats – if it’s still tacky, it’s not dry. Once you’ve put your last coat of poly on, you’re going to be dying to test this thing out – resist! Make sure you give your board a solid 24-48 hours of dry time before you hop on – take it from me…sticky feet are a real bummer.
- Screw the bumpers to the bottom of your board
Attach your bumpers using two screws at opposite ends for each bumper. I started my screws through the top of the board, but only because I knew I was going to be covering them with grip tape. If you’re not, start the screws through the bumpers, making sure they don’t go all the way through the top of your board.
*Note: Keep in mind that the closer to the middle of the board your bumpers are, the less room you have to roll – for younger boarders who might just be learning balance, bumpers a bit closer together can be a great way to ease them into balance training.
- Add flair!
Add fun stuff, decorate, and make it your own!! Your kids can add decals, stickers, make strips with wash tape, or even paint their own designs! I also added grip strips at the edges. Since I’m prone to slipping and falling, I wanted to make sure I had something at the edges to grip on to. I included the shape I cut out in the template, but you can just cut strips from a roll if you’d rather keep it simple! For younger kids, you may want strips going the full length. These also help immensely if you like to wear socks on your board.
*Note: I purchased my grip tape at Home Depot (it was actually meant for stairs) but if you’re having trouble finding it, there are tons of places to purchase online – I even found a bunch of sites that sold cool colors and patterns like these or these.
- Add a roller
For the roller, you can either use a foam roller (I use a 6″ diameter, 18″ long roller) or purchase a piece of 4″ PVC pipe from a local supplier or box store – they’ll cut it for you. Wrap a few pieces of duct or grip tape around the pipe for added stability.
*For the original-sized board, trim pipe to 18″ and for the smaller board, a 2-inch pipe trimmed to 12″ works well.
And that’s it!! I am SO ready for a quick lawn-surfing sesh! For kids especially, starting on a lawn, carpet or rug is the best way to go! You may also want to have something for them to grab and hold onto for stability as they start learning (a chair, railing, wall, etc). It is super fun to watch kids figure this out – and almost impossible not to hop on as soon as they’re done to try it out yourself!
Curious to see how these actually work?? Check out this young boarder multi-tasking!!!
And 10-year-old Bowie has already put together a full workout on her balance board!
And this 4-year-old has it totally figured out…
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpecker Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!