Surfski center stringer repair and the Findeisen Shearwater resurrection!

The 90’s are back (kinda) – paddling ONEWAY again!

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I’ve really enjoyed paddling ONEWAY, my Findeisen Shearwater surfski, shown here in 2014.
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It seems like I’ve always been paddling ONEWAY! 😉

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New life for a classic surfski!

The Findeisen Shearwater surfski is a vintage ski design from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I acquired mine in 1997 from a coworker at Hollywood’s Waterways Kayak which was then and still remains to this day the biggest kayak shop that South Florida has ever seen. I paddled other skis we had at the shop, and the Shearwater was always my favorite and I dubbed her “ONEWAY”. She has the distinctive “dolphin” bow design to increase volume and help prevent pearling while surfing. I liked this ski so much that she was my most paddled boat, and I always loved the simplicity of just getting on and paddling! This Shearwater weighed in at about 32 lbs and the only things needed were boat, paddle and pfd. Compare with a typical sea kayak coming in at 50 to 55 lbs (or more), plus kit that also needed to be rinsed later. Surfski paddling I’d say has always leaned more to the “surfer” and racer crowds. I could identify with the surfer crowd, except that I seemed to be the only one on a surfski. I’ve never really been too much into racing, but I do like to go fast and this ski is a quick boat. She’s a fish form design and really likes to get on a glide!

I always used to say to myself after a workout session:

“Whoever designed this boat should get an award!”.

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A kayaking standoff in Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale, Florida circa 1998.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower -vs- Findeisen Shearwater surfski!

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Findeisen Shearwater is 20′ 5.5″ long by 18.5″ wide.

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Ride! ONEWAY on the beach in Dania, circa 2007 just after beach re-nourishment.
Paddling on Whiskey Creek at Mizell-Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park in Dania Beach.

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The Findeisen Shearwater surfski was offered in I believe four sizes to accommodate different sized paddlers. Mine was made as a #3 which has always been too short for me. It’s something I put up with for a long time but never really got used to. I put up with this for so many years because she’s a fantastic boat to paddle and the less than ideal ergonomics didn’t bother me that much. Fast forward to 2017 and two things coincided which necessitated a repair and rethink of my surfski paddling. One, I moved past the five zero mark on my own chronological scale. The fact that I couldn’t stretch my legs out properly meant that my lower back was always forced into a curved position which now no longer agrees with me! Second, the center stringer inside the ski collapsed and I could hear things moving/rattling inside. My poor ski just about cried out in pain as I continued to paddle her, making scraping and yelping sounds of sorts. She also started taking on water. It was at this point in the middle of the summer of 2017 that I retired ONEWAY – pending further analysis.

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Two very distinct hull shapes – fish form vs swede form – 20 years apart in development!
CLICK for: Stellar SES vs Findeisen Shearwater surfski comparison.

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When I was forced to stop paddling ONEWAY, I missed her dearly. As luck would have it, I chanced into another great boat, this one a thoroughly modern design – the Stellar SES! Modern skis have a a one tub design, whereas the older skis had a separate seat well and footwells. The excellent ergonomics of my SES aka GREY GHOST pointed out the inadequacies of my old ski like a sore thumb! I realized that if I was going to do anything with ONEWAY, the leg spacing would have to be increased. I determined that the easiest and best way for me to proceed was to move the seat tub back about three inches. This would go a long way towards better ergonomics i.e. leg drive! Additionally, I noticed that when surfing I could actually sit up on the back deck behind the seat and this helped the ski to plane up sooner and deliver a longer ride. Thus I reasoned moving the seat back three inches would also move the CG a bit to my benefit. By cutting out the seat I would also have the best access to the interior to fix the center stringer which is the backbone of any ski!

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Marked area around ski seat tub to be cut out. I determined this would be the easiest way to get access to the interior and to also move the seat back for more legroom.

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:WARNING:

Use any and all information at your OWN RISK!! I am describing to you what has worked for me for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you decide to open up a boat there is always a risk of structural failure and total loss! These are NOT instructions and I accept absolutely NO liability for any use or misuse of the information herein presented!!

:WARNING:

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A rotary tool with a small cutting wheel made short work of cutting out the seat bucket. Note that high speed rotary tools create a lot of fins particulates that should not be inhaled. I set up a portable fan on high and wore a mask.

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To cut out the seat bucket I traced a line on the deck right along the sides to avoid touching the hull-deck seam and allow a three inch flange behind the seat. This way I could just overlap the flange on top of the deck again for strength and to increase the leg length three inches.

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Findeisen Shearwater surfski seat bucket cutout animation sequence.

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After removing the seat bucket, I glanced inside my ski for the first time to find that the original wood center stringer had completely disintegrated over the last 20 years! The biggest chunks left were maybe only an inch wide. This was kind of a surprise and means that I had been riding the ski for several years with next to zero stringer support! Now it all makes sense, because over the last few years, sometimes I had this distinct feeling that the boat was not even remotely solid in rougher water. I remember entertaining a scenario where I end up walking back to my car with ski in pieces. This never happened, instead, the collapse of the remaining stringer allowed to underside of the deck (foot wells) to come into contact with the hull. This created a growing leak which allowed a significant amount of water in.

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This is pretty much all that’s left of the original wood stringer!

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The underside of my Findeisen Shearwater surfski seat bucket. Note the remnants of the wood center stringer.

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Findeisen Shearwater surfski with seat bucket cut out.

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The fact that virtually all the original stringer was gone turned out to be a blessing, saving me the labor of removal. I quickly realized that almost all of the stringer channels or rails were still intact, and these would make excellent anchor points for the foam stringers to be installed!

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The wood center stringer on my Findeisen Shearwater surfski literally disintegrated over the last 20 years.

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The wood stringer seems to have been a thin laminate.

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Chunks of the original central stringer rail from my Findeisen Shearwater surfski.

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Looking forward towards the bow, only small pieces of the stringer to be found!
Without any stringer the footwells repeatedly hit the hull, creating creases and leaks.

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Looking back into the stern, no stringer remains – this made my job a lot easier!

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While planning, I looked at all my options. A solid stringer was definitely beyond the scope of my abilities. I thought about filling up the entire ski with two part expanding foam and this had a lot of appeal. However even the least dense foam weighs 2 lbs per cubic foot, and I estimated 10 cubic feet as the volume of the Shearwater. Thus this would increase the boat’s weight by 20 lbs – not good! In the end, using solid foam pieces would be the only realistic option for me to give my surfski a new spine again.

There’s not much info to be found on surfski stringers, but my own new SES Multisport layup also uses an EPS foam stringer about three inches wide. After looking at pics of broken up skis, I noticed that many used regular styrofoam and not necessarily a denser higher grade EPS foam. Since I already had a bunch of styrofoam I decided to laminate it to create a roughly 5″ wide by 8″ tall central stringer for the stern. The center of the foam sandwich is shorter to allow room for the original stringer rails. I used Gorilla glue which bonds the foam exceptionally well!

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My replacement foam stringer for the stern is styrofoam 5 inches wide and about 8 inches tall.

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The replacement foam stringer for the stern of my Findeisen Shearwater surfski.

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The long foam rear stringer could only be fit sideways into the stern as pictured. Once inside the hull I could slide it forward a bit and flip it 90 degrees counter clockwise, shove it back as far as it could go.

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The Gorilla glue works really good on styrofoam. It foams up a bit with moisture when curing and expands to fill small voids which was ideal. It is NOT a spray foam however!

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New poly tubing installed for the rudder lines.

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Rear foam stringer glued in place – Attitude is Everything! 😉

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For the bow section I elected to use ethafoam, again anchored by the existing stringer rails. Ethafoam is tough stuff, does not absorb water and tends to retain it’s shape well over time. It is definitely heavier than styrofoam however, but also fairly malleable and will not snap or crumble off like styrofoam. This made it ideal to stuff under the footwell hump as I could not get glue into the space properly. This property was in fact the only thing that made it possible to actually fit one solid 8″ x 40″ piece into the bow section under the footwell hump!

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I decided to use ethafoam for the bow section. This 40″ long piece actually didn’t fit and needed some “convincing”.

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Ethafoam going under the footwell hump of the Findeisen Shearwater surfski.

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I actually had to use a sledge hammer to slide the ethafoam piece as far forward as I could. Note the track cutouts for the original central stringer rails.

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Bow ethafoam piece in final position is wedged in real tight!

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I feel this ethafoam bow stringer will work great, and only wish that I could have put in an even longer piece! As it is, about the first 5 feet of the bow has no stringer support which is not ideal. The Shearwater’s famous “dolphin” bow actually expands as you move towards the bow before tapering again. So unfortunately there is no way to glue or wedge in additional foam without somehow cutting into the bow! The good news is that this part of the boat has the most vertical surfaces and thus has the most inherent stiffness. I don’t expect this to really be an issue in our South Florida ocean conditions that I will be paddling ONEWAY in.

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This illustrates the extent of the bow foam stringer on my Findeisen Shearwater surfski. There’s no way to access the bow short of cutting it open. The bow also increases in height, making it impossible to wedge anything (unlike the stern)!

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The weakest spot on the ski is right under the seat, so I glassed in a couple of carbon fiber stringers to stiffen it up. Also note the carved styrofoam to closely match the curve of the seat bucket!

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:WARNING:

Use any and all information at your OWN RISK!! I am describing to you what has worked for me for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you decide to open up a boat there is always a risk of structural failure and total loss! These are NOT instructions and I accept absolutely NO liability for any use or misuse of the information herein presented!!

:WARNING:

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This is the finished foamed out center section of my Findeisen Shearwater surfski with poly rudder tubes.

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Moving to the center of the ski, I decided to add a couple of carbon fiber stiffeners to the hull, directly under the seat which is the weakest part of the boat. These were made by longitudinally cutting an excess section from an SUP paddle shaft into two halves. I then glued in additional styrofoam, custom carved to match and support the seat bucket and around the footwells. The deck will never touch the hull again on this boat!

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Finished stern section of my Shearwater!

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This is the inside view of the original hull-deck seam on the Findeisen Shearwater surfski. Note the overlapping flange, this is the strongest part of the boat!

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With all the foam in place, the creative and fun part of this project was over. From now on, it’s mostly a matter of bonding, fiberglass work, sanding and ever more sanding! I epoxied the the three inch overlap of the seat bucket onto the deck and used fiberglass mat glassed over the sides and also from the underside. The seat is completely captive inside the hull and fully supported, thus it will not experience huge forces or loads.

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Underside of seat bucket ready for re-installation into ski.

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The seat tub sits perfectly balanced on the foam underneath, thereby minimizing loading stresses. Note the overlap over the deck to move the entire seat back about 3 inches!

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The three inch wide flange at the back of the seat epoxied into place and held down with some rocks. The seat bucket is exactly the same height as before and the side are flush.

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Glassing in the seat tub, covered with wax paper. The gap in front of the seat was glassed in over a thin plastic and foam substrate.

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Seat tub glassed in with a little bit of fiberglass filler added for stiffness and to smooth things out. Another layer of fiberglass cloth was then laid up over this.

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I won’t lie to you, sanding down the fiberglass is pure drudgery! If you’ve ever done any work on boats or body repairs on cars you know all about this. Working with fiberglass is easy but messy. With good surface prep it’s also a permanent repair. However making the final result look good and seamless takes a lot of work!

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The final outcome is not perfect, but not too bad and certainly close enough for rock and roll. What incredible luck finding the matching red paint!! 🙂

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During this project, something very unusual occurred that has never before happened in my life. Rummaging through the garage I pulled out some 20+ year old spray cans, one of which amazingly turned out to be a 100% perfect match for my red Shearwater!!

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I am still shocked that I accidentally found a perfect color match to finish up my ski!!

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This 20+ year old can of red spray paint was a perfect match for my Findeisen Shearwater surfski’s original color!!

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Matching red bungee cord installed on the rear deck of my Findeisen Shearwater surfski.

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New stickers added and another section of bungees near the stern so that I can now carry a spare paddle!

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I feel that my final finishing result looks good enough and the perfect paint match really helps with that! This boat is over 20 years old, but now almost feels like new. I’d say between the foam, glue and fiberglass I added about 5 to 7 lbs of weight which is not too bad. Realistically she comes in just under 40 lbs – heavy by modern surfski standards but still light enough for me to easily carry on my head and toss onto roof rack!

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The patient tolerated surgery well and is now recovering in post operative care. There are still some minor cosmetic procedures to be done, but a full recovery is expected! 🙂

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This is a good time to take a beer break and think about a Ranger-led Pour of the Everglades!

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For the minimal cost of glue and fiberglass resin, well under $50, I now have my old ski back! 🙂

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Put on a happy face! Custom 6mm foam pad in the seat bucket of my Findeisen Shearwater surfski. 🙂

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For the moment I opted to continue with the original Shearwater barndoor rudder. It is aluminum, strong and easy enough to straighten out again. It feels like a meat cleaver and is also kinda heavy, so I will look to replacing it with a carbon fiber foil rudder blade soon!

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It was interesting getting back into the seat again after 8 months. The ergonomics are indeed better, but will never match my SES! On the flip side, ONEWAY is now a very comfortable ride. She feels as if carved from a single piece and has minimal flexing even in the waves. The fish form design gives this boat an effortless glide, but she’s not nearly as quick off the line as my SES. Also, the front catch cutout on the SES is hard to beat, and not possible with the Shearwater design.

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Pulled over on the side of the intracoastal waterway for a rudder adjustment on the maiden voyage of my resurrected Findeisen Shearwater surfski.
Toppled palm tree courtesy of Hurricane Irma conveniently provided the support!
CLICK for: Hurricane Irma aftermath at Dania Beach and Mizell Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park.

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Waiting for giant cruise ship to clear Port Everglades reminded me of a close call!
Rip current hydraulic – a cruise ship so big that it actually drains the water out of Port Everglades inlet!

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All boats are a compromise and I am happy to have my ONEWAY back in the stable!

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There’s only ONEWAY out! 😉

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My new old Findeisen Shearwater surfski on the beach off Dania, Florida.
Paddling on Whiskey Creek at Mizell-Johnson (John U Lloyd) State Park in Dania Beach.

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The bare core of the windsurfing footstraps I had been using as handles for years were in great shape to reuse!

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I decided to lay some of the adhesive foam to cover up the fiberglassed seams. Also note the grip tape on the sides of the cockpit seat.

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Yes, ONEWAY rides again with new and improved Alien technology! 🙂

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The Findeisen Shearwater surfski makes a great all around fast tropical day tripping boat for me. Here’s to many more years of paddling ONEWAY! 🙂

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Rocket, rocket .. ocean rocket, take me on a magic rocket ride.

Blast off = ONE WAY! 🙂 🙂

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You may also like:

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar ses findeisen shearwater surfski fish form swede form kayak paddle miami comparison review

A tale of two surfskis 20 years apart (Stellar SES vs Findeisen Shearwater).

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Flex Maslan kayakfari stellar surfski ses kayak grey ghost seat foam padding foot pedals paddle fitness fatigue

The fine art of surfski padding for optimal paddling!

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The launching of the Grey Ghost (Stellar SES Multisport surfski).

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:WARNING:

Use any and all information at your OWN RISK!! I am describing to you what has worked for me for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you decide to open up a boat there is always a risk of structural failure and total loss! These are NOT instructions and I accept absolutely NO liability for any use or misuse of the information herein presented!!

:WARNING:

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! Bless

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© 2018 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / awakenthegrass.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved!

I hereby disclaim any sponsorship, endorsement, nor association with any product or service described herein. The photographs, depictions, products, and ideas presented on this site are for informational purposes only. Your results may vary, and I do not imply nor guarantee the effectiveness, suitability, design or operation to adhere to any standard. I assume no legal responsibility for the implementation of anything herein presented! Use any and all information at your own risk! By using any and all information from this website, you accept the final liability for any use or possible associated misuse!

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DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

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