POD Bodysurfing Handboards History - Successful 30 Years

POD Bodysurfing Handboards History - Successful 30 Years

13th Nov 2023

POD® Handboards Since 1993

Armed with love for design and a passion for the water, Shane Vassallo spent many years in research and development before introducing his unique handboards in the late 1980’s.

In 1993 POD Handboards Pty Ltd (now known as POD Ware Pty Ltd) was officially established and continued to be an industry leader sought after by bodysurfing wave-enthusiasts all over the world.

Ironically when conducting market research, the typical reaction was that bodysurfing handboards, bodysurfing hand-planes or bodysurfing hand-surfers were not popular and that these products would not sell well in stores.

Australia's Oldest Bodysurfing Handboard Brand

Despite the negative feedback, Shane remained positive being driven by his passion for bodysurfing. He continued to manufacture the POD® Handboard's distinctive shape and configuration in a robust recyclable plastic moulding so strong you could even drive a truck over it. He also continued to hand shape the classic handcrafted Cedar wood signature model to this very day.

It may have taken 20 years, but Shane has proven that this feedback was far from correct.

POD® Handboards have earned their respect on the beach. When people see them for the first time, they are very curious and often ask: ‘What is that thing? I cannot believe you can bodysurf across a wave!’ or ‘Which way do you strap it on.’ – Not only are they beautiful to look at they take the sport of bodysurfing to a whole new level!

POD Handboard History (1988-2019) Overview

Well before 1988 Shane body surfed using the largest foot size EVA thong (flip flops). As time progressed he started experimenting with a whole range of different materials, shapes and sizes.

Firstly, using recycled surfboards cores and their fins was a fast way to test, once he found the shape that worked best he took his time shaping boards in Western Red Cedar and Australian Cedar.

Until he could no longer keep up with orders, he invested in his first steel mould to produce the classic solid plastic board range to this very day.

First Fibreglass Handboard - Circa 1988

Made from recycled surfboard core and surfboard fins - who would ever imagine 30 years later brands would market themselves as sustainable using old surfboards?

There is so many shapes tested and only this one took us all the way to the bodysurfing competitions. However, fibreglass was not a healthy option, with shin rashes when shaping and glassing which lead to him to start shaping in wood.

First Fibreglass Handboard - Circa 1988

Handcrafted Cedar Handboards - Circa 1990

Wood is amazing to shape, Cedar is one of many species so easy to work with and craft into form, sure there is still the dust factor, however, it is so nice to sand into shape and allot easy to seal with marine grade finish versus fibreglass.

Shane also handmade a Silky Oak fin, that is rebated into the boards concave bottom.

Handcrafted Cedar POD Handboards - Circa 1990

In 1994, Australian TV host Tim Bailey interviewed Shane Vassallo on Network Ten Australia about his new cedar POD handboards.

A Different Shape Direction - Circa 1991

This old favourite was a great shape to experiment with. The board is still made from cedar, it is longer and wider then previous boards.

The new design tail section was an interesting shape, however there was allot of water dispersion towards the face. This board also included a handmade Jarrah fin (recycled floorboards) rebated into the boards concave bottom.

Different Shape Direction POD Handboards - Circa 1991

Handboard Shape Refined with Fin - Circa 1994

Refined distinctive shape and configuration has proven to be a winner and best seller till this very day, except for the handmade Oak wood fin rebated into the boards concave bottom.

Shane then realised the current keel fin provides better direction and control then the surfboard fin shape. He also experimented shaping a board without the keel fin, when tested it simply did not have the same lift, direction and control.

POD Handboard Shape Refined with Fin - Circa 1992

Signature Shape Cherry Wood and American Walnut Handboard with Knee Fins - Circa 1994

With the love of wood species, their different grain characteristics, densities and colours. Shane made a limited range all individually named and numbered, Cherry wood to the left and American Walnut to the right.

Cherry Wood POD Handboard and American Walnut POD Handboard - Circa 1993

Paduk/Silver Ash and Zebrano Wooden Bodysurfing Handboard - Circa 1994

The Paduk and Silver Ash is the only board ever made, it was also the very first board that was laminated together.

The Zebrano board to the right, also known as Zebrawood, has amazing Zebra stripe characteristics and there was only four ever made.

Paduk and Silver Ash POD Handboard and Zebrano Bodysurfing POD Handboard - Circa 1993

Zebrawood is by far Shane's favourite wood; he was taken by its Zebra stripe grain features to such a degree he also handmade entry table and draw, length 1400mm x width 400mm x 850mm.

Zebrawood handmade entry table and draw by Shane

First Full Length Keel Fin Bodysurfing Handboard - Circa 1994

Experimented with a full length keel fin versus a 3/4 length keel fin, the later is still shaped to this very day. 

The board on the left side actually has no keel fin, when tested was a very different bodysurfing experience.

First Full Length Keel Fin Bodysurfing POD Handboard - Circa 1993

First Signature Model - Solid Plastic Body Surfing POD Handboard with 3/4 Keel Fin - Circa 1995

Shane was so overwhelmed by the Australian bodysurfing community wanting the POD Handboard. He went straight to the bank for a loan to build his very first steel mould. With the support from his mother Naomi and his father Sam they mortgage their family home.

To this very day has proven a successful venture selling his range of pearl coloured handboards to the worldwide market. POD Handboards - Solid Plastic - Bodysurfing Handplanes

Hand Body Soul® Cotton Wood Bodysurfing Handboard - Circa 2018

Totally new direction for POD Ware Pty Ltd, the new laminated cotton wood Hand Body Soul® Bodysurfing POD Handboard, has a very similar concave deck and concave bottom as the original POD handboards.

Now Shane has introduce the new 316-grade stainless steel 50mm webbing hand-strap bridge design.

Now the bodysurfer has the greatest advantage of choosing which way they prefer to body surf, (first in bodysurfing) traditional long handboard position or short handboard position by simply rotating the board 180 degrees and changing the 50mm hand strap and wrist strap to suit.

Hand Body Soul - POD Handboard

Cedar and Walnut Wood Bodysurfing Handboards - Circa 2019

EGO POD Handboard perfectly fits in the palm of your hand and in most cases just past your figure tips.

EGO Cedar and Walnut POD Handboard 255mm 9ïnch

The little EGO was not only intended for single use, but also purposely designed to bodysurf with one on either hand, increasing your lifting force, balance and doubles your swimming stroke, the little Ego is sure to boost any bodysurfer’s self-confidence.

  • "EGO" = Length 225mm/9inch x Width 200mm/7.87inches
  • Volume = 485cm^3 or 485millilitres/0.1281 US Liquid gallon
  • Lifting Force = up to 70kg/154.324lb per handboard
  • Weight = 250 to 280grams or 0.551156 to 0.617294pounds (this will vary due to grain density)

"EGO" Cedar and Walnut 255mm/9inch POD® Handboards

WooHoo! The Woo POD Handboard the name tells all, excellent weight and size it will improve your bodysurfing performance wave after wave also it is an outstanding competition board.

  • "WOO" = Length 300mm/12inch x Width 210mm/8.25inches
  • Volume = 705cm^3 or 705millilitres/0.186241 US Liquid gallon
  • Lifting Force = up to 90kg/198.416lb
  • Weight = 380 to 410grams or 0.837757 to 0.903895pounds (this will vary due to grain density)

Bodysurfing Handboards - "WOO" Cedar and Walnut POD® Handboards - 300mm 12inch Wood Handplane

FLO POD Handboard is wave cruiser for the larger body surfer with increased surface area, its 25mm or 1inch wider than the original model, provides even more lifting force, speed and control.

  • "FLO" = Length 375mm/15inch x Width 218mm/8.25inches
  • Volume = 953cm^3 or 953millilitres/0.2517 US Liquid gallon
  • Lifting Force = up to 110kg/242.508lb
  • Weight = 460 to 480grams or 1.01413 to 1.05822pounds (this will vary due to grain density)

"FLO" Cedar and Walnut POD® Handboards - 375mm 15inch Wood Handplane

Let's take a closer look at the finer details of the Cedar and Walnut Hand Boards

For the very first time, Shane has designed ergonomic palm hold and support, between the new purposely custom-built 50mm/2inch hand strap retainer inserts to suit 50mm/2inch webbing strap, (not like other handplanes use of a 25mm/1inch surfboard plug and a thin hand strap).

50mm hand strap retainer inserts palm hold and support

The palm support relieves the arm muscles from stress, (typically from handplanes with flat decks) and most of all holds your hand in place, prevents your hand from slipping out from under the padded neoprene strap.

POD Logo laser engraving

All three bodysurfing POD handboard sizes are CAD computer-aided design, precision CNC machining, laser engravings, hand-finished and hand-assembled.

Without any doubt, the new Sustainable Cedar and Walnut POD Handboards are 100% Custom Built for Bodysurfing, ensures improved performance in any surf condition, from beginners, casual surfer, to the elite dedicated bodysurfer looking for a brag-worthy unique product with outstanding performance, whilst offering natural swimming and paddling freedom, improved bodysurfing performance wave after wave, we highly recommend any of the Solid Timber POD Handboards that best suit you.

Full range of POD Bodysurfing Handboards are now available, the original recyclable solid plastic pearl colours can withstand any bodysurfing session and within reason is totally indestructible, the new cotton wood Hand Body Soul® POD Bodysurfing Handboard and our finest hand crafted cedar and walnut wood range.

Off the Self: Photos, Covers and Advertising

A small proud collection of POD Handboards History, Gowings Department Stores front cover. Photos carving up the new POD bodysurfing handboards, marketing, advertising and most of all fun times.

Front Cover of Gowings Summer Journal 1997 - 1998

Front Cover of Gowings Summer Journal 1997 - 1998

Shane Shaping a Pod Handboard on the Drum Sander

Shane Shaping a Pod Handboard on the Drum Sander

Shane at the Post Card Photo Shoot

Shane at the Post Card Photo Shoot

First POD Handboards Postcard

First POD Handboards Postcard - Sun Flower Concept

Brother Damian, Shane's First Handboards

Brother Damian, Shane's First Handboards

Shane at the Workshop

Shane at the Workshop

First Timber Handboard Advertising Tracks Magazine 1995

First Timber Handboard Advertising Tracks Magazine 1995

Wood POD Handboards in a Seed POD

Wood POD Handboards in a Seed POD

The Future Looks Bright for POD Handboards

Together with designer Shane Vassallo, POD® Handboards is in full support of bodysurfing innovation. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. One brand, in particular, changed their entire approach from holding/grabbing a handboard, to strapping the hand in the natural swimming position. In doing so, they copied the unique POD® strap bridge design and hand strap construction, right down to logo placement.

POD = Protect our Destiny - Recycling Logo

Over time the sport of bodysurfing has gained popularity, and other companies have seen the need to address the challenges of this particular sport. 

We are happy to see that now, more than 20 years later new bodysurfing brands are coming out with their unique shapes and designs.

To that, we say “Well done!” -- This is another giant step forward for the Art of Bodysurfing and we hope it only continues to get better!