I occasionally receive a message from a guest asking to be able to ride a “fiberglass board” on their retreat as opposed to an epoxy board. The question always makes me grimace. Unless the board is made from some unusual material like carbon fiber, ALL surfboards are wrapped in fiberglass. I think what the guest is actually wanting is to not ride a “pop-out” board – as in the mass-produced SurfTech or NSP variety. The actual choice is polyurethane vs epoxy (or EPS). To understand some of the principle differences see below… [Read more…]
The most exciting thing I have been doing on my vacation is working on my new surfboard.
A friend of mine had been constructing a machine to make surfboards for a while now and he had finally finished, so I was tempted to try it. I have now officially learned all the steps to making a board and it was very interesting!
The steps to making a surfboard are basically choosing the design and materials, gluing the stringer to foam, cutting foam, shaping it, glassing/laminating, and last sanding it.
Then it should be ready to surf.
I wanted to create a mix in between two short boards I had that I really liked. One, a high performance regular short board made for bigger waves, and the other a high performance small wave board. They were both really good boards, but very different.
-Small wave boards are normally characterized by being a bit shorter, wider and with less rocker. (Rocker is the amount of curve a board has from nose to tail – how much it flips up on either end). Flatter boards usually go faster, skimming over the surface of the water.
-Bigger wave boards are usually a bit longer with more planing surface making it easier to paddle into the waves, narrower and with more rocker. The rocker helps the board fit better in the contour of the wave, allowing you to surf in the steeper part of the wave and do a more critical type of surfing. On a bigger wave, the wave provides more power. A board with more curve will need more push to go fast, and will hold into the wave better.
The first step was to measure both of the surfboards, length, width, thickness and rocker.
After that we put the measurements into the computer, digitized the two boards and combined them to create a hybrid.
Now came the moment to choose the materials. There have been many advances through the years from the early days of surfing when the Hawaiians used surfboards made from the wood of Koa trees to the Californians later using redwood, to continuing after WW2 when new materials became available through advances in technology. Polyurethane (or PU) was the most significant for many years until polystyrene (like styrofoam) started to become more popular over the last decade.
*Many people note a difference between epoxy or fiberglass but this is not correct. Epoxy is a type of resin that can be applied to either polyurethane or polystyrene foam, but most commonly is paired with polystyrene. Both Epoxy AND PU surfboards are coated with fiberglass.
I had always used PU surfboards boards but this time I wanted to try something different and opted for an epoxy board made with polystyrene foam. Epoxy is a material thats becoming more a more popular in the surfing world. The resin is more environmentally friendly to use and the foam is lighter and stronger, which equals to more speed and easier maneuvering. The only disadvantage is that it is usually stiffer than a PU board which can make the board feel like it’s riding on top of the water – something only a more advanced surfer would feel and something that can be a benefit in certain types of waves.
This brings me to the stringer of the board. The stringer is the thin strip of wood that runs down the middle of the board. They are traditionally used to strengthen the core of the surfboard, helping it prevent from breaking in half. Since I used an Epoxy board which are known to be less flexible than fiberglass boards we decided to use a new material – PVC for the stringer used normally for constructing sewer pipes, yikes! This is supposed to add more flexibility to the board since its plastic not wood, making it bend more so it can shoot you out through the turns allowing you to build up more speed. Hopefully I won’t get shot out of the wave!
Gluing stringer to foam
Then we proceeded to cut the foam in half vertically from nose to tail and glued the PVC stringer in between the two halves, and clamped it back together.
This was the most exciting part. First we situated the foam in the middle of the machine, centralized and attached it, and watched the machine cut the foam. Once it was finished we used rough sandpaper to shape the rails (the outside edge of a surfboard) nose and tail.
Then marked with a pencil were the fins will be situated, drilled the holes and then placed the fin plugs. Then it was ready for lamination and glassing.
Lamination and Glassing:
There are two materials to be used here : the fiberglass and the epoxy resin.
Fiberglass is a cloth that is laid over the surface of the board and then cut to the boards shape. The resin is poured over the fiberglass and spread evenly. First the top is done, then left to dry, and then the bottom part of the board.
Once dry we drill a hole through the tail to attach the leash.
This is the last step and the one i’m on right now. We just need to sand every curve and line to its perfection and then it will be ready to surf.
Yihaaa its been a long process almost a month, but we’re almost there!
Cant wait to try it!