0 Cart
Added to Cart
    You have items in your cart
    You have 1 item in your cart

    Before getting into surfboard construction, by far the most important aspect of surfboard technology is the shape. The shape is what determines how it works in the water, and the materials of construction only add nuance. If a board sucks, it really doesn't matter what it's made of or how long it will last. The other side of the coin is that if you get a magic board and it dies in two months, you'll be sad and wish you would've gotten a better glass job. What you want and need is a board that you love to ride, encourages you to spend more time in the water, and gives you at the very least a solid year or more of service. Read on to learn how to get that. It's not that hard, but the market largely misses the target by producing either disposable, domestically made polys or mass produced asian imports that may be very durable, but don't perform. Armed with a little knowledge, you can get the right board that will serve you for a long time, even though it might not be the one for sale at your local surf shop.

    Having produced over 20,000 surfboards since 1989, I have a fair bit of experience and knowledge about the different ways to make a board. Like everybody, I started making boards with conventional polyurethane cores, polyester resin and fiberglass. In 2001, after having shaped 8,000 boards by hand, I got my own CNC machine and was designing boards on the computer and cutting boards in-house. Later, in 2002, I collaborated with Surftech to make sandwich construct epoxies, followed by C.I., Rusty, Carper, Byrne, Xanadu, etc... Then, in 2004, I opened the first zero emissions, zero V.O.C., dustless sanding, all custom EPS/Epoxy surfboard factory. Today, I believe that the market is full of gimmicks, and know that traditional construction methods using premium materials is where it's at, i.e. polyurethane and eps cores with hand lay-ups using polyester and epoxy resins. But epoxy is a far superior material to polyester, and it's what we generally prefer to use.

    The hardest thing to get right is the shape. You might not fully know what is best for you, and trying to translate that to a shaper can be a challenge. A history of ordering custom boards, and learning what works for you, stacks the cards in your favor. If you don't really know, you are best to find a new or used board at a shop that looks and feels right to you, or go to a reputable shaper whom you trust and think you can work with. I get my best results with surfers who give me some general guidelines and give me the liberty to do what I do best. In surfing, and as a life philosophy in general, the best results are often met with open expectations.

    It is important to work with a team of shaper and glassers who know about what you want to do, because they do it themselves. At the core of our heritage and tradition is that surfboards should be made by surfers. The evolution of what we ride today in terms of shapes, glassing and fins is the direct result of surfer engineers making boards in shops near the beach, riding, analyzing, and improving them. As a surfer, you are part of a subculture that has always embraced creativity, ingenuity, freedom and innovation while rejecting the societal confines of corporate greed and materialism. It is a shame to see the purity of our pursuit polluted by outsiders trying to make money off of us. A good rule of thumb is to only buy a board with the handwritten signature of a guy whom you can call on the phone and can communicate with you.

    A note on imports: surfboards are classified as sporting goods and are imported into the US from Asia with a ZERO tariff. In the last 14 years since the closure of Clark Foam, imports have flooded into our country in a magnitude that has devastated our cottage surfboard industry and forced many board builders into other lines of work. Costco has become the world's largest surfboard seller and mass produced brands have dominated the market. You can do your part to resist this trend by buying local.

    Again, the most important thing is to get a great board that you can't wait to ride every day. Constant use will test its durability, so there is a certain responsibility on the part of the owner to take care of it and make it last. An eco-friendly board is about getting the right shape for you, spending a little extra on quality materials, then you the surfer treating your magic board with the same care taken by the skilled craftsmen who built it (promptly fixing your dings, keeping it out of the sun, and storing it in a board bag).

    The board starts as a blank. There are several core materials available, but I offer the two that I believe are the best: Traditional polyurethane (PU) and styrofoam (EPS), which is short for expanded polystyrene. It can be quite hard to tell them apart visually in a finished board. The properties of polyurethane are a great natural feeling flex pattern, limited water absorption, and compatibility with any resin. EPS is stiffer, more buoyant, stronger in strength to weight ratio, has more water migration in the case of a ding, and can only be used with epoxy resin. Both can be ordered in varying densities. The combination of EPS foam with 6oz. glass is extremely durable. Many of my EPS/Epoxy boards last 5-10 years. On the environmental side, polyurethane is biodegradable, while EPS is one of the few things I know of that literally never goes away (they literally last forever, for better or worse).

    As far as the performance goes, some people have a definite preference of one foam over the other, while some people say the difference isn't that big. In general, heavier surfers 190 lbs.+ tend to like the rigidity and durability of eps/epoxy, while lighter surfers tend to like the softer flex of PU/poly. If you find yourself surfing windy/textured conditions, then polyurethane foam is better as it dampens vibration, making for a smoother ride. Some would say that this makes PU/poly a better choice for bigger, more powerful surf, while others will take the buoyancy and paddling advantage of EPS/epoxy in order to better chase down and catch a wave of more consequence. I would say that it all comes down to a personal preference of what feels best.

    Next is Fiberglass. There are three main types that people are generally unaware of: "E" glass, "Direct-Sized E " glass, and "S" glass. "E" glass is what you get from any poly board off the rack in a shop, or what you get if you don't specifically ask for something better. It is of poor quality. Direct-sized glass (DS) is cleaned using a chemical process instead of heat. An analogy could be dry cleaning your clothes over washing and drying them. The chemical process preserves the fabric better, and in the case of fiberglass, leaves it stronger. S glass is stiffer and stronger than both. We prefer to use a combination of S glass and Direct-Sized glass.

    Finally, you need to choose your resin. Polyester has been the standard for many years, but Epoxy is much stronger. Poly has mainly been the favorite because it is much cheaper and easier to use. Epoxy is more expensive and demands extra time and patience on the part of the craftsman. In the case of thin 4oz. glass, the difference in durability between the two resins is not great. You really see an increase in strength when 6oz. is used, especially with epoxy. Interestingly, the common perception is that epoxy is stiffer. It is true that boards with epoxy tend to be more rigid that traditional poly boards. But that comes from the foam and fiberglass. Epoxy resin is actually more flexible than polyester. Now you're confused! In order to keep it simple, polyurethane foam works very well with s glass and polyester resin. EPS foam works great with DS glass and epoxy resin. The right combination of polyurethane foam and epoxy resin can work well too, but people seem to prefer polyester resin with PU foam.

    What does all this add up to in terms of longevity and durability? That really depends on the habits of the surfer. If you surf twice a month and religiously store your board in a cool place in a board bag, your board might last forever. If you surf for a living and log in six hours a day in the water, you will not expect your boards to last so long. The key is having more than one board, so that you can repair them as they accumulate wear and tear, and build a collection of boards that you love while selling off those that you don't.

    One last thing, I would like to talk about weight. Too light or too heavy are not good. But a little weight is not a bad thing. Even surfers who regularly take to the air do not want too light of a board, as it will fly away in the wind. The balance is very important, which is something you feel when you hold the board under you arm and rock it. If you do feel like you want a light board, which certainly has its benefits for quick changes in direction, you should get EPS/epoxy. If a little weight doesn't bother you, PU/poly with stronger glass is fine!

    The top pros ride regular boards made by their shapers and glassers with whom they have working relationships to constantly hone and improve their equipment. You can do the same.