The new handplanes variety for bodysurfing

Bodysurfing is a modality that uses handplanes and it originates from water sports related to waves like; surf, paddle boarding or bodyboard and many others.

It started in Hawaii as surf but it´s older. It´s in the Pacific islands where there exists for centuries a culture linked to the sea and its waves. Here we leave you an article where we explain the history and aspects to take into account when bodysurfing.

As we´ve already said before, bodysurfing has the objective of sliding or riding waves, but: What is the difference between surfing and bodyboarding? In surf you move through the wave on a board, while in bodyboard you slide on a boogie. In bodysurf our arms and hands are wings that let us slide and ride the waves with our body. A handboard is a natural extension of your arms so that you may slide over the waves.

Interview with the CEO and founder of Colibri

With much eagerness we interview Carlos Ruiz, Founder of Handplanes Colibri. He tells us why his initiative for creating this brand and the characteristics of his product.

This brand is based on a humming bird, a small bird with shiny feathers and lively colors, long and fine beak, that lets it drink nectar, short legs and long wings; it flies suspended in the air, thanks to its strength and speed at which it beats its wings, and it´s the only bird capable of flying backwards.

1. What is Colibri Surf Handboards?

Colibri Surf is a band of artisanal handplanes, also known as handboards, to use for bodysurf which started 18 months ago.

Colibri surf handboards

2. How did the idea for this project come about?

We started to be interested in Bodysurf after my kids surftrip to California, there they saw it in the beaches. They did it with their hands, with panels or handplanes. We were surprised that in Spain this sport wasn´t practiced. Talking with my surfer friends we saw this was an unknown surf discipline.

3. In what did you base yourself on? Why bodysurfing? You think this is a good market to enter?

We investigated on the internet; we saw videos of bodysurfers doing spectacular maneuvers. It seemed to us like a very interesting variety of surf because of its simplicity of material: fins and handplane, also called handboard. And when we got into the water to try it out, we saw that it was easy to get the hang of it. Two hours in the water is enough to learn and get good vibes.

We chose to get in this as a family project; we know how hard it is to introduce anything new into any market.


4. What the process for making the product? What materials do you use?

The handboards from Colibri Surf that we make use Paulownia wood, also known as Kiri and it originates in China. We want to highlight their lightweight similar to balsa wood, with a density of 250kg-290kg/m3, with a resistance to weight relation that’s analogue to aluminum.

Paulownia is a sustainable crop tree, it´s impermeable and imputrescible through salt water. The first native in Polynesia used it as alaias to catch waves, and make paipos in the Isles of Hawaii. Other manufacturers use different strong woods or laminated woods, but we wanted to use Paulownia.

We have a workshop in Madrid where we work some hours a day. We make handmade handboards , with carpenter tools, one by one. We´ve improved the technique and the use of materials to reach the product we make today, very aerodynamic, very light, very resistant and very beautiful. Each shape that we develop we try it first in the water, with the help of our ambassadors.

Paulownia wood handplanes

5. In Single Quiver we are very ecologically aware; is the production sustainable?

As we said, Paulownia wood is a sustainable crop tree, ecological agriculture, which comes from reforested forests. The tree grows very fast and consumes little water. The wood is cut respecting the roots, in a way that the tree can regrow.

The bag that we give with each Colibri board is a jute sack that is recycled, used to transport grain coffee to Spain from countries that are producers (Nicaragua, Honduras, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Kenya,…)

The string, label, leashes are all made from recycled components.

Lastly, the linseed and turpentine that we use is 100% natural, from vegetable origin. The paint and varnishes are an acrylic base, lead and heavy metal free.

We also try to use very little paper or carton for packaging, which also comes from recycled origins.

6. Who is behind this and who has helped push the product out? Team/Financially

As we said, this is a family project, my son Carlos, in charge for everything we do in the water and product testing, and me that works in the workshops.

We are financing it ourselves, reinvesting constantly, we aren´t expecting return on investment in the short or medium term.

We live 500 km from the nearest beach with waves, for us it important to count with audiovisual material to show our handplanes in action. We´ve created a network of Ambassador Bodysurfers for Colibri Surf for the whole world, which give us images, test our products and spread our brand. They are and important pillar for our project.

7. How long did it take you to develop the product?

We had to share this project with our job as publicist and Carlos with his studies, in such a way that we scratch a few hours of work a week. The first commercial handplane we developed in 2 months. We had to do and learn everything. We talked to American and Australian shapers, developed designs, blueprints; we learned techniques for shape and carpentry. We bought tools and developed specific machines for some processes.

Finding Paulownia wood was the hardest part, and then came the jute bags, seamstresses for the bags and cinches… Also creating the brand, the web, etc. We started this project from scratch, through hours and money, trial and error.

8. Where can we find this product? Online we suppose, but will it be distributed through brick and mortar stores?

At first we thought we would only sell through our website, but we saw that bodysurf was so unknown that we had to count we the support of physical stores. The first store that opened the doors to us was Caribbean in Madrid. We are eternally grateful to them since they bet on this project since day one. Now we are in 17 stores in Spain and Portugal and in 4 surf schools.

Colibri handplanes bodysurf

9. Is there a plan to promote this product?

Yes of course, we´ve participated in a lot of events like sponsor the first Spanish Bodysurf Championship in Cantabria in 2017, in Patos Day in Nigran thanks to Novalbos, we gave a talk in the Madrid Surf Film Festival 2018, in the inaugural event of Kamaina, we´ve had interviews in specialized media like Surfer Rule, and we´ve appeared in El Pais, Expansion, El Mundo (Spanish newspapers). We use every opportunity to talk about our story.

10. What are the expectations for the market response? The Spanish public, have they assimilated the product well?

This year we sold double what we sold last year in 2017, so we´re happy. The product surprises a lot, when you see a bodysurf video people are really interested. The handplanes are well received from people. We only need volume, that will come slowly. We also can´t forget that this is a very seasonal product, sales are concentrated when good weather comes and we have to take advantage of this push.

11. We´ve seen that the product is present in stores all over the peninsula (Spain and Portugal), do you have any plans to expand to the European/World market?

We are constantly talking with new stores in Spain, trying to commercialize. Through the website we sell practically in all of Europe, and a few South American countries where bodysurf is present like in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica…

12. Tell us a sort term plan and a long term plan

We would love to expand and be in physical stores in Europe and in the next phase, stores in US and South America.

To do bodysurfing correctly we recommend, apart from fins and handplanes, just like Carlos Ruiz says, that we should have a wetsuit. Here you can choose yours, taking into account the water temperature where we do bodysurfing.