Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to Tuesday ($40 SURF RACK)

Last week Burns and I built a surf rack at his new house that will hold 8 longboards (or shortboards) on a standard 8-foot wall in his garage with $40 in plumbing parts from the local hardware store. It's been a VERY long time since my first ever blog, which features how to build surfboard horses so I figured it's time for another "how to" surfing blog, but this time a cheap surfboard rack that works! Here's how:

The Background

I'm calling the surfboard rack in this blog the Norton Rack because of the following history. An undisclosed amount of years ago I decided to build my own surfboard rack in my garage. I sketched out a rough design on paper and ended up spending around $80 in lumber and parts. I made a functional rack that holds up to 5 boards, but it wasn't cheap and took a long time to build. It's basically a couple of 4x4 pressure treated posts that I drilled 1 1/2 inch holes into at 90-degree angles and fitted wooden dowels into them covered in pipe insulation. The surfboards are simply rested flat onto the rack. Besides from over constructing my rack, the other obviously drawback is since I surf primarily longboards and they are rested flat on the rack; long fin setups do not allow many boards on one wall. I think I had a 12-15 inch separation only allowing for 5 boards. It works and I'm sticking to it because it works and if it's not broken, don't fix it right? Then I saw my surfer friend Norton's rack that he constructed in his living room of all places (sometimes it's great to be a bachelor)! Like me, he used his brain to design his own surfboard rack. The brilliance factor that sets his rack apart is he designed it so the surfboards rest at a 45-degree angle from the wall. This allows more boards with fins attached on less wall space. He also used PVC pipe instead of lumber, which is easier to work with, cheaper and less weight requiring less hardware.When Burns told me he needed to build a surfboard rack like mine I suggested Norton's idea. The more we talked about it the more we liked it and modified it.... so behold the 3rd Generation Norton Surfboard rack!

The Improvements

Norton's rack featured a system of PVC pipes at 45-degree down angles with PVC elbow joints at the ends to keep the surfboards from falling into "ding land." After talking it over in the hardware store, Burns and I decided to flip flop the entire rack and build it with the 45-degree angle going upward. This would eliminate the need for 12 elbow joints and provide cost savings. It also provides more safety in that the weight distribution is pushing toward the wall instead of pulling away, plus there is no way a board can accidentally become knocked off and fall onto the concrete floor.

The Materials You Will Need

* Approximately 32 feet of 1 1/2 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe.*
* 6 PVC female Y-joints for 1 1/2 inch pipe.
* 24 feet of pipe insulation (we purchased five 6-feet sections and had leftovers)* PVC cement and cleaner* Bag of large plastic zip ties
* Eight 4-inch long by 1/4 inch width lag screws
* Eight 1/4" washers for the screws
* Something to saw/cut PVC pipe (we used a chop saw)
* Drill and bit sized for the lag screws* Socket set to ratchet the screws into place
* Measuring tape, pencil and stud finder
* Knife or razor blade (for cutting pipe insulation to fit and zip ties)
* Beer and surfboards for when you finish

Get to Work

This should take you 1-2 hours depending on how fast you work. You'll be surprised at how fast and easy it is to construct once you have all the materials. First, plan out the section of wall for your quiver. Make sure to allow a few extra inches more than your longest board for a safety zone. Dinged noses and tails are NO BUENO!Now use your stud finder to find the studs behind the drywall and mark them with a pencil. You'll want to consider what size surfboards you ride and own when determining how far apart to mount both sections of the rack. We chose a distance that would hold the shortest board we could ever imagine riding. If you're wall space is concrete or something other than drywall with studs ask the dude at the hardware store what is the best mounting option hardware. Next, use the tape measure to mark off the sections of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe you will be cutting and make the following cuts:12 - 24 inch lengths (these are the arms to rest the boards upon)2 - 6 inch lengths (these are the top pieces)10 - 8 inch lengths (these are the sections between Y-joints)All together you will be making 24 cuts. Get to work and try not to cut off your thumb!

Once you are good and covered with PVC dust and have all your cuts made it's time for the fun part! Seriously, it's kind of like an Erector Set or a LEGO set. Look at the pictures in this blog to see how it all goes together. We found it easiest to fit together the 8 inch lengths with the Y-joints first and mount them to the wall BEFORE installing the 12 inch arm lengths. We "eyeballed" the Y-joints when it came to making them even and straight because we're not OCD engineers or anything, not that it's a bad thing if you are, but if you are and you need to know that your surfboard rack is perfectly straight an easy way to ensure this is to use a stick, string and weight. Simply tie a weight to a string attached to a straight stick and let it hang out of the Y-joint while you are cementing it into place. Look down at the weighted string and make sure it is even with the Y-joint below it before the cement sets. Continue doing this as you erect the rack.

Drill 1/4 inch holes into the pipe at the sections you want to mount to the walls first. Then use a slightly smaller bit to drill the remaining hole into the drywall and stud (this insures a strong fit). We used two screws down low and two up high on each side. Use your ratchet to tighten down the screw and washer, but make sure not to over do it. You don't want to crack the pipe you crackhead!Once both sides of the rack are mounted to the wall it's time to cement in the twelve 24 inch lengths. Easy as cake!Oh and don't forget the two 6 inch lengths at the very top in the top Y-joint. That's the backing for the surfboard at the very top!

You're almost there! Take a razor blade and cut the pipe insulation to fit each arm and use the zip ties to secure them in place. You'll also want to use the insulation against the back of the surf rack and around the top two 6 inch lengths as these are spots that the surfboard rails will be touching. Use zip ties on these as well. Aren't zip ties awesome? Sometimes I think all you need in this world are zip ties and duct tape!

Guess what? You're done! You now can store 6 boards with fins on an eight foot section (floor to ceiling) wall! Radical! Gnarly! Bitchin'! Yay for intelligent surfers!

It's probably a good idea to let the PVC cement fully set before using the rack (check the label on the cement). That sentence is purely a CYA for this blog. In real life.... we immediately placed surfboards on the rack to see what they'd look like and we were NOT disappointed. In fact, we decided to have a cold beer to celebrate our 3rd generation Norton Surfboard Rack!

And then I ran a 4-miler.... seriously, I did and it felt great with that beer inside me!

*At the hardware store it was cheapest to purchase the PVC pipe in 10 foot sections. We purchased 4 sections and ended up with a lot left over. If you shave 1 inch off the arms and a 1/2 inch off the sections between the Y joints you can probably get by with three 10 foot sections for additional cost savings, but that's cutting it close.


  1. Wow, $40 for a surf rack!!! Not too bad...I think it looks great!! So you surf and you are a handyman!!! Look at all of those beautiful surfboards:) Nice job!

  2. If I ever take up surfing, can I just call you? I promise I'll have better beer!

  3. wow.... 8 boards... i think we have 4...but i will keep this in mind as i expand my collection. thanx for sharing :)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. To the blogger "Nice Rack."
    Thank you for your complement, but I am required to delete your post because this blog does not allow selfless plugs or free advertising linking to other products in the comments section by readers. If you'd like to send me a sample of your product I'd be stoked to review it and write a blog about it! Please contact me directly if you're interested. Thanks.

  6. This is by far the best diy surf rack instruction! I'm gonna go ahead and make one for my garage. One question: what's the total height of this rack? My garage is only 89 inch high. Just want to make sure that it fits.


  7. Chris, I would email you, but you didn't leave any contact info and your profile isn't allowing me access. This rack was at a friend's house so I'm not sure about the ceiling height. I can tell you it is less than 89 inches because we were building it on a platform step at the ground and we wanted to leave clearance for the garage door to open. The best thing to do is to hold up a surfboard at a 45-degree angle to the wall with the outside rail being as high as you want it and mark the wall. Then make your measurements from there going downward toward the ground. Make sure you leave enough space between the rack's arm and the ceiling so you have clearance to place and remove your surfboard. Good luck!

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  9. Sachin (Slotted Angels), please forgive me for deleting your comment. I cannot allow my blog to become a site for self promotion in the "industry," of surfing. If you would like me to review your product, or attempt to make a surf rack out of it I'd be happy to and I'd write a blog about it. Contact me for details.

  10. I happend across this article when I was searching for a DIY rack for my SUPs. I have a bunch of PVC pipe left over from a "photo booth" I built for my wedding and now have a great new use for the pipes. Thanks man.

  11. Just finished making rack, cost me about $60 here on Maui. It's fantastic! Mahalo for posting the instructions. I put it in my garage and failed to consider garage door frame so top right PVC needed to be cut some to clear.. Thanks again for the plans!

  12. dude, thank you so much for making this simple. I would show you the frankenstein monstrosity I created but it would just make you laugh me to scorn. I think I can whip your creation together in about 2 hours.

    Thanks brother and we'll see you out in the water.

  13. I just built mine, thanks a ton for posting this inspiration! Exactly what I needed, holds my short board, my longboard and my SUP. My wife even likes it. Posted some pics of it on my Google Docs account:


    1. Greg,

      Yours is indeed an interesting variation on Tall Guy's fantastic "Norton 3g" PVC system.

      I have 2 longboards and 2 SUPs and I am wrestling with the correct spacing between stix to avoid having to remove fins.

      My SUPs are about 5" thick, with 9 to 10" center fins. If I account for 1.5" PVC arm and a bit for the foam pipe insulation, I am thinking I need 14" between boards (at least for the SUPs). Seems excessive. Not sure how to account for the 45 degree angle if that offers any relief.

      How tall are your vertical segments? How much distance does the Y joint add?

      Although for ease and safety I intend to place the 2 SUPs closest to the bottom (11'6" Corebans weighing at least 35 lbs. ea.), in your opinion is 1.5" PVC strong enough, or should I go to 2"?

      Again, really nice job. Very clean. And I have to shout out to Tall Guy for elegant inspiration!


      - Clark

  14. Hi, love the post. From the comments it sounds like the answer is yes, but is this setup strong enough to hold a SUP?


  15. Thanks Grayman! Since writing this post, I've built two more of these racks to support my surfboard "habit." I'm happy to say that on one of my racks I have two 12'0" Stand Up Paddleboards resting peacefully on it. They've been on it for a year now with no problems. I did put them on the two lowest options closest to the ground, mostly because it's easier than lifting them up high to put them in the rack. I also built a section on one of my racks meant for a 14'0" racing SUP, but I haven't acquired the board yet. I simply used a 90-degree elbow PVC joint and made the arms go out straight. Not sure if this will work yet. I need to get my racing board!

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  17. Thanks! I used 1" PVC pipe and just slid the insulation on without having to cut and zip tie. Looks great.

  18. Thanks, headed to home depot now! then to the liquor store for part 2. I cant drill into the wall but I do have the capability to tie in up high and on the floor. Super pumped to do this build. Maybe I will put a 2/4 stringer to mount into on the vertical plane.

  19. I used your idea and made a rack for my stock prone paddleboard. It worked great! thanks for the idea. My wife is super stoked, now that this huge board is not laying around on the ground in our master bedroom! She thanks you as well!

  20. After finally convincing my husband that it's not the best idea to place our 6 surfboards on the washer/dryer, we found your DIY online. After 6 hours and $108, the PVC cement is curing, we're eating In n' Out double doubles animal-style, and drinking Kirin Ichibans....excited to see the boards on the rack tomorrow and happy to have the washer/dryer back! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your idea!

  21. Nice! This is exactly what I wanted to do and you gave us the shopping list!

  22. Where did you get the Y joints? I can't find them anywhere here in San Diego!

    1. My local home depot didn't sell any either, they did sell online but with a 2 week lead time. They sold abs y-joints so i went with that instead. They aren't cheap though, about $3.50 each!

  23. I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

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  24. Nice to be visiting your blog again, it has been months for me. Well this article that I've been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.

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  25. Thanks for the blog post. I built one using abs pipes instead of pvc since the local home depot did not have pvc y-joints. I'd like to send you pics of what I made, do you have an email address?

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  27. Brilliant, thanks for the specs.

  28. Hi, not sure if you are reading this a year later. The arms to hold the boards, why not make them long enough to just hold about 2/3rd of the board? I don't think it would slide off and would not intrude as much into the space they are mounted.