Nolan Collins is the Lead Instructor at Grain Surfboards – a Maine-based surf shop that specializes in designing handcrafted wooden surfboards. As the Lead Instructor at Grain, Collins teaches courses that guide others in the art of board making. We sent Nolan and his crew on an Odyssey to explore and craft a board a few hours north in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Written by Nolan Collins.


Surfing… It’s just the most fun thing I can think of doing.

As the Lead Instructor at Grain Surfboards, I am fortunate to fulfill my dreams traveling scenic shores around the US showing others how to build their own surf crafts and deepen relationships with the sea. My odyssey was to take a trip to Canada with some of my closest friends and fellow shapers to surf some new waves, explore new territory, build a board along the way and gift it to a waterman in need.


Departing Maine, Andy, Matt, Eduardo and I were stoked with the blank canvas and board aspirations lying ahead. The vehicle was stacked with boards, bikes, bags and of course the tools required to shape our mission.


Although the waves were small for most of the trip, it informed our decision to shape a Paipo, a traditional Hawaiian bellyboard. The first recording of a Paipo was in 1778 when Captain James Cook saw Hawaiian villagers using the boards on his trip through the islands.

I’ve found that it’s important to ride all types of boards in all conditions. Especially here in New England, it’s hard to get consistent surf, but riding all sorts of waves and shapes inspires what the next evolution in shaping will be.


Shaping this board out of the shop was out of context in every way imaginable. Without additional power tools and distractions, we connected in a new way and collectively created the shape in between surf sessions and long scenic drives. At every spot, a small pile of biodegradable wood shavings was all that was left–an offering to the Gods.


I think people have an innate connection to making things with their hands. And this is why I can’t get enough of instructing others on board building. The rooted satisfaction that comes from building one of our boards, or for that matter, anything at all, is a fundamental aspect of our collective humanity.

In the end, after all the jokes and adventurous days, we decided to leave the board on a beach with perhaps some of the best surfing set-ups we came across. I had an early morning solo session and as we completed the board, determined it was just the perfect place for a like-minded waterman to discover it.


So to you, whomever surfs this special paipo, please write a chapter of your own, and pass it on. #OdysseysAwait


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