The legend on the back of Guy Butcher’s van tells the story: 'Alternative wooden surf craft, hand made in the wrong place'.

Because, let’s face it, if you wanted to source a new bellyboard, your first thoughts would be to head to Newgale, Polzeath or Porthcawl, not a farm in the middle of Herefordshire.

But deep in landlocked Herefordshire Guy is a skilled craftsman making must-have boards that are finding their way around the globe and on to beaches in far flung places like Australia, Hawaii and Tokyo. “I probably sell more boards abroad than in the UK,” he says.





Guy is a self-taught furniture maker, creating unique pieces mostly to commission, who, three or four years ago, found himself transformed into a body-board designer and maker.

With the arrival of Covid last year, he found that, while the furniture making lessened, the boards were increasingly in demand. “In the last month alone I have sent boards to Senegal, Helsinki, Hawaii and Tokyo, San Francisco, Byron Bay and Israel among others. And all from a farm in Herefordshire!” he adds. “I have had people from Australia contact me, thinking I am in Newport or somewhere with surfing connections.”

Making belly boards was already something of a family tradition when Guy employed his own skills to making boards for his own children, Bertie, Jennifer and Ellie. “My dad used to make us plywood belly boards, and we’d go to the Gower, and as my kids grew up I kept thinking that I’d make them each a board.

"I had a vacuum press and thought that there must be a better way of doing it. I then developed a way of making boards in a totally different way to the way everyone else is making them. “I haven’t found anyone making them the same way I do.”





Guy continues to make furniture, “just not as much!” and, in addition to the body boards, he is also making skateboards – “there’s been a rush on them recently,” he reports.

The success of his new venture lies, he believes, in the quality: “It’s using the furniture making skills and making them to a standard that is probably higher than you’d find elsewhere in the market. The last one I made is almost a piece of sculpture.”

He has found that many of his skateboards are bought by people who used to skate “and think they’d like to be skaters again”, but then put them behind their desks and do it vicariously!

Guy’s path to skilled craftsman and maker of must-have boards was not entirely straightforward and was born from a lack of direction when he was younger.

Originally from Bromsgrove, Guy had various jobs up until 27 years ago, when he went to Australia for a year and spent a year travelling and running a backpackers hostel in Queensland, which is where he came across people using craft-making skills to fund their travelling.

Back in the UK he decided he, too, would learn a trade “I had about £1,000 so I bought a Landrover and tools and started making furniture. I taught myself, and convinced the local authority to give me a grant and it went from there.

“Once I’d run out of friends and family to make for, I’d learned enough skills to sell to the wider public.”

The move to Herefordshire came as a result of marrying a farmer’s daughter and moving to a farm where the outbuildings offered an instant workshop. “That was in 2007 and we’ve been here ever since. It’s a working farm – my mother-in-law and my eldest daughter are sheep farmers, so there are three generations living here.

Guy meanwhile, makes all sorts of furniture … and boards.

“They have really taken off in the last couple of years, and it’s still growing all over the place, mostly through social media.”

I made some boards for the Museum of British Surfing, who only stock my boards, and are using the money they make to keep the museum open basically.”

A Sussex-based outdoor clothing company, Silverstick, are also stockists of Butch Boards “largely because of the way they are made, the materials I use and the sustainable ethos behind the company.

“I will finish one of my boards to the same standard as I finish a dining table. I can’t do it any other way. They are a little more expensive than other boards but everybody else is making them as they were made in the 1970s, with lesser quality ply and boiling them to bend them.

“I can get more complicated shapes into my boards, compound curves, and make them perform better.”

Guy is adamant that he has no plans to get other people to make the boards for him. “Most boards are made to order, which gives customers the opportunity to customise and personalise their boards, which keeps it interesting for me.”

While most of the boards are unadorned, Guy has been asked to create coffin shaped boards and add skulls “and I set fire to some. I really enjoy the decoration bit – that’s another self-taught skill!”





He admits, though, that the success of the boards “has taken me completely by surprise. It’s been really good in that, when I make furniture, I might deal with eight or ten people in a year, and they may be the same eight or ten people as the year before, whereas with this, I am dealing with numerous people all over the world. And the nice thing is that people are doing it because it’s fun. It’s all about having fun and enjoying yourself. It’s quite different.”

The boards themselves are made of two basic materials – Finnish birch plywood “which is very high quality because it is from one consistent source, the only one that I am happy about the way they produce and their environmental and social impact. A lot of plywood will go from Russia to China and back again before shipping elsewhere. This comes straight from Finland to the UK.”

The birch plywood, the key material, forms the outer layers of a ‘sandwich’, the filling of which is locally sourced Western Red Cedar. “It comes from Stoke Edith, just three or four miles away,” says Guy. “From the Foley estate, where the trees are felled and managed. The estate has been in the family since 1670 and has been managed since then. In terms of sustainability it’s perfect. When they fell, they replant and will fell again in 40-50 years. The carbon footprint is much smaller, too.

“I buy a tree, which I will have milled by Glyn and Phil for me, and then dry it and remachine it here. I know exactly where it comes from.”

The cedar layer is just 5mm thick, meaning Guy uses only small amounts. “It goes a long way and there is very little waste,” he explains, adding that his boards weigh just 1300g, compared to a traditional board which is nearer 2.5k.

In keeping with his commitment to sustainability, Guy has also recently planted 26 palonia trees – they’re very fast growing and the timber is lightweight and durable. It’s been used in the Far East and Australia and it’s now being grown for surfboards.

“If the trees I planted in the spring do well, I will put more in. It’s a seven or eight year cycle to get to a crop and then the idea is to use it to replace the cedar.

" I like the idea of trying to grow my own material. Apparently they grow up to 2.5 metres a year so I’ll have the time lapse camera set up!”