Trekking: Drop in with Danny Hess’ Howler handplane

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Man isn’t meant to stay indoors — our weekly “Trekking” column can attest to that. It’s a column dedicated to the adventurer inside of all of us, the one pining to ditch the office humdrum for a seven-week jaunt in the Grand Tetons, or fiending to catch some waves someplace other than the North Shore. One day we may highlight a new ultra-light camping stove or minimalist water filter, and the next you may find us getting wrapped up in a set of Norquayco’s handmade canoe paddles. Life doesn’t just happen inside the workplace and home, so get outside and live it.

Not everything starts with perfection. Renowned surfboard shaper Danny Hess has spent years honing his craft, designing and field testing his handmade surfboards on the sunny beaches of southern California before relocating his small-time operation to the seaside city of San Francisco. Hess crafts each board using locally sourced, salvaged, certified woods from around the area — and as one might expect — his limited edition Howler Handplane ($150) is no exception.

The gorgeous handplanes, designed in partnership with surf-centric apparel company Howler Brothers, weren’t always the works of art they now are. Hess began making the handboards when he a 15-year-old lifeguard in Oxnard, Calif., haphazardly crafting the makeshift tools out of the old boogie boards, cooler tops, plywood, and spare kickboards he managed to acquire about town. More than 20 years later, he’s narrowed the design down to three unique shapes, each designed for bodysurfing the variety of swells you’re set to encounter throughout the seasons and around the globe. The handplanes essentially work in a similar fashion to a surfboard fin, allowing you to maneuver and dig into a wave face while giving your upper body ample lift and speed dictated by the board’s length and tail shape. Moreover, the design helps reduce unwanted drag in the water.

Embellishing a teardrop design perfectly apt for hollow surf and powerful barrels, the Howler Handplane features an enhanced rocker and deep concave, providing the rail line with the proper curve and holding ability necessary to carve into steep sections of a wave. The board is also conveniently small, measuring 19½ long and a mere 8 inches wide, and adorned with orange stripes and a natural oil sealer for an aesthetic touch and added durability. Adjusting your position on a wave has never been easier — except with a proper pair of flippers and some stylish swimwear.

Check out the main Howler Brothers website to make a purchase, or browse all of Hess’ wears on the master woodworker’s own website.