Sunday, 30 September 2012

Our New Website ... and blog

A signing off note.

Throughout the last 6 months, we've been working hard on pulling together some new elements that will help our little company evolve. We have been developing a new website, which now includes the ability to buy our products online, supporting it with some amazing new photography from Mat Arney and developing our brand's logo to make the whole of Otter come together much more neatly and thoughtfully.

We hope you enjoy the results as much as we have enjoyed working to move things forward...we're ready for the next chapter in our story and we can only hope you will come along for the ride.

Our new blog will be updated weekly on and we're also going to be putting out a newsletter that you can sign up to on our new website at

Friday, 13 July 2012

A little video about a recent project with the National Trust

Early last year this project began with excited talks from Tom Clarke, the head Gardener from Trelissick, who'd recently felled a storm damaged tree and was looking for an exciting way to use the timber....

'Monumental trees - the truly old and majestic examples of nature - aren’t felled all that often, either by man or wind.

The National Trust is one of the largest non-governmental coastal landowners in the UK and in the past 47 years the Neptune Coastline Campaign has helped them to acquire 720 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and open it up for millions of people to enjoy. The campaign was launched  in response to growing fears that development was slowly destroying the best of the nation's natural coastline.

One of their Cornish properties is Trelissick which sits on the River Fal.    In the middle of 2011 a 28 metre Cupressus Macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) in the grounds of Trelissick was suffering from storm damage so had to be felled and the estate gardeners decided to find a good use for some of the spare timber.  The National Trust approached local wooden surfboard builder James Otter to see if he could produce a surfboard using the Macrocarpa wood which could then be toured around the Trust’s coastal properties to promote their conservation work.

When the tree was felled James Otter selected planks from the heavily furrowed trunk, and after air drying, set about making a 6’10” egg, with film-maker Romain Jucherau documenting the process.  The result is a beautiful board with a remarkable grain pattern and definition unlike many other wooden surfboards.

“Macrocarpa isn’t an obvious choice of material for a hollow skin and frame wooden board because it’s 50-60% heavier than the cedar we normally use, however it looks beautiful with the rippling and birdseye knots and just feels so strong.” said James Otter.

Rob Joules Watersports co-ordinator for the National Trust said “Its great to be working with James and I am really pleased how the board has come out. The gardeners at Trellisick were amazed with the finished product and it’s a great way of raising the awareness of our work along the coast”.

The National Trust’s latest acquisition, which is designed and built to last for just as long as the historical buildings that it also preserves, will be touring it’s coastal properties in the UK over the summer months and sliding across waves under the feet of some of the National Trust’s surf ambassadors.  Keep a look out for a beautiful wooden board with a green oak branch decal at your favourite coastal beauty spot soon.' - Mat Arney

Friday, 6 July 2012

Board testing in Surfgirl

If you pick up this month's issue of Surfgirl and find yourself oogling at a wooden board inside, it's one of ours! Sarah Bentley picked up our little 5'8 Whiz Twin and a handplane to add to an extensive selection of boards for testing in some clean head high waves with help from Holly Donnelly and Alexa Poppe.

Here's the verdict.

"Shaped in Cornwall from local, sustainable wood by James Otter. The hollow wooden construction and low rocker means this board is perfect for gliding through flat spots. It feels heavy on land but turns beautifully in the water. This is a board for life and one to hand down to the grandkids!"

Cover shot of this months issue

The article inside begins on page 74

Sarah dropping into a smooth peak

One of our handplanes also got a little mention "Wooden 16" Handplane: Perfect choice for surfers on a budget or those who need to get to waves using public transport! It takes a while to perfect the technique, but once mastered there is plenty of fun to be had. Bodyboard fins (swim fins) are a must for improved wave catching."

All Photos from the article are thanks to Mike Searle -

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Studios Cornwall

Wow, I can't quite believe it's June tomorrow! ... but that does mean it's that time of year when artists around Cornwall open their doors for the public to delve into their worlds and see where the magic happens.

The space we have just moved into is at Krowji - a collective of creatives - at the Old Grammar School in Redruth, and there are about 35 artists here who will be flinging their doors open ... us included!

So come in and see us making some wooden boards, check out a few of our demo boards that'll be on display and sift through some of our new handplanes and clothes ...including some Finisterre - Otter hoodies!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Little Canoe Trip ... for 'Against Malaria'

Just about finished a whole day of preparation for a 80 mile canoe trip along the south coast of Cornwall in aid of 'AgainstMalaria' - a great charity that "puts nets over heads and beds". Our page for donations to help us is here -

We did a little test with the old scout canoe that Dan bought a few weeks back and then spent the rest of the day repairing and making some modifications to it for our journey - back rests for the seats being my favourite! So we are just about ready to set off from somewhere near Fowey in the river tomorrow morning, with our intended target of Malpas, just outside Truro set for Monday night. Fingers crossed for some nice days on the water - it looks like it'll be a little windy tomorrow, but then it settles down so we can get our heads down and achieve 30 miles/day.

Here's a little pic of the canoe before its test run this morning...and fittinlgy it has a picture of an Otter on the front!

We'll keep you updated with progress through twitter on the mobile - technology these days!

Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day of shaping - Day 4

Day four of our one week workshop was aimed at shaping the board. We unveiled the board from its overnight clamping of the deck and got to work removing all the excess material on the deck, bottom and rails. While it's important to take off a large amount of material, it's even more important to always hold in your mind how you want the board to end up. As with making anything, its tricky to put material back on!

So we did all of the work with hand tools so that you stay connected to what your hands are doing and don't have the chance of making costly mistakes that can occur if you use power tools. The most of the work is done using the surform and hand plane and then it is important to tie all the curves together smoothly, for which we use some nice big sanding boards.

Darren got on pretty well today and has an almost complete board, so we know tomorrow will be all about the finishing touches and putting right anything we see when we look at it fresh in the morning.

Darren begins the day by removing all the clamps that have held the deck down over night - a really exciting phase...suddenly you have a surfboard!

Using the templates to get the outline at the nose and the tail correct, making sure we are following the right curves when shaping.

Getting to work with the surform...there was plenty of material to come off the nose.

Always important to keep touching the board to make sure you're achieving the desired shape and hopefully the same on both rails!

Standing back from the board as we're almost complete allows you to see how the two rails tie togehter and how they look down the length of the board.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Midweek in the Workshop

Day three of the workshop with Darren... The aim was to prep the inside of the board and put an edge on the rails to make sure we could get the deck glued down by the end of the day. This would give the glue time to cure properly overnight and give us two days to shape the board. You can just about shape a board in a day, but it's a bit of a push and I always find that having a break and looking on it with fresh eyes on the second day you can spot things that you didnt notice the day before.

So we were pretty hectic today, with putting nose and tail blocks in place, making sure the vent block was in place and the foam blocks ready to accept the fin box too! Then Darren had to learn what is was like to use the surform to create a smooth edge on the top of the rails to give us a good glue join. We managed to get it all done in the day though....and to my surprise, we were finished by half 5, perfect, time for a surf?

Darren cutting the rail strips in preparation for the nose blocks.

Getting to grips with using the surform on the cedar...a good amount of concentration on his face.

With the nose and tail blocks in you really start to get a sense of the boards outline.

It's always nice to watch people using their hands to 'see' what is happening with the timber, it still surprises me, how much more you can find out with your hands. The rail edge taking shape!

Darren popping the last couple of clamps on after the frantic glue and deck layup frenzy, again utilising all the clamps available in the workshop!