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Handboards, Handplanes and Handguns: What's in a Name?

3 min read

Handboards, handguns and handplanes

Handboards, Handplanes, Handguns and More

I’ve been meaning to write a piece about the difference between names given to the boards used in our sport for some time, because I get asked all the time about it.  As is the case with most other sports, there are numerous names given to one particular activity, and riding the wave with only a pair of swim fins and small board attached to your hand is no exception.  It goes by a plethora of aliases:  handboarding, handplaning, handlids, handguns, bodywhomping (which is more bodysurfing but you can still bodywhomp with a handboard so I will leave it in). These are the most popular.  If you have heard of more, please fill us in.

Handboards handplanes handguns what's in a nameWhat you grew up calling handboards depends on the country and in some cases, names are specific to the region where you grew up. I know growing up in South Africa, we called our boards handguns or handboards (probably more commonly handguns).  As far as I am aware, so do the Hawaiians. It actually took me by some surprise then, that when I got to California, now over 4 years ago, the locals referred to the boards as handplanes.  I always thought it had something to do with the fact that most of the boards here in California where being made from wood. However, on closer inspection/thought, it is more likely the word plane or probably closer to the word plane [pleyn] in hydroplane.

"A thin, flat or curved, extended section of an airplane or a hydroplane, affording a supporting surface," or, "to plane the surface of the water”.  Makes sense.

In South Africa, we would generally shape them from polyurethane blanks or from old surfboards. It never really occurred to me to make them out of wood, however obvious it may sound.  We made the boards with almost exactly the same process as we use to make a full-sized surfboard.  It made sense for us to call the boards hand "boards" and/or handguns.

Grant Schofield handboardingMy personal preference is to call them a handgun.  Handguns, for obvious reason, it is not the best name for a fun water sport, neither is it the most intelligent marketing name.  However, it has its roots from the Hawaiian culture, or so it seems as, every Hawaiian I have met has called them handguns. That is probably where we in Saffer land inherited the name from some visiting Hawaiian surfers.  I love the name, because apart from the obvious “hand”, the word “gun” is exactly what you do on the wave: when you are using one, you gun it down the line. It is just unfortunate that it happens to share a name's with the handgun.

The handlid is a new reference I was just introduced to by an Australian using one of our boards who referred to it as a handlid. I cannot comment much on what the majority of the boards are called over in Aus. Perhaps someone from there can chime in here, but that is just another name to add to an ever-growing and popular sport.

Obviously, it matters very little what you call your board.  The idea is to have as much fun as you possibly can, and if that means planning like a mad man or gunning it down the face like a super hero, then you are all the better for it.  Keep getting shacked!

steve watts
steve watts

Growing up in South Africa, Steve spent his youth dreaming of far off places. After spending eight years extensively traveling to many of the great surf destinations of the world getting dengue fever, having a near death experience from a falling coconut in mexico, Surviving a 15 foot drop on a handboard on a Nias bomb, jumping from every rock he could find without adequate health insurance. and comprehensively debunking the myth there are no waves in Thailand, even if they are small. He decided it was time for a a degree. Steve Graduated from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London with a degree in product design. He missed his graduation to go surfing in Californian, found a kindred spirit with Venice and never left

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