Originally invented in Hawaii, surfboards were made of heavy, local wood. Surfers had to be in shape to transport surfboards to and from the shore. Nowadays, technology has advanced and surfboards are now made of lighter materials. It must be stated that the materials used to manufacture surfboards affect their performance.
This article focuses on the materials used to manufacture modern surfboards and how these materials affect the overall characteristics of these boards. Here we go.
Materials Used in Surfboards
Materials used to manufacture surfboards include:
The core of most modern surfboards are made of foam. In fact, almost all surfboards available today, be it for beginner, intermediate, or advanced surfers, have some type of foam. The specific type of foam used has an effect on the characteristics of the board.
Polyurethane foam was the first type of foam used to manufacture surfboards. And until Clark Foam, the biggest supplier of polyurethane closed down in 2015, almost all surfboards on the market were made of this material. Polyurethane is very light and easy to shape. However, the material is very prone to twisting and has potential health hazards due to its highly toxic nature.
Polystyrene foam began to gain popularity after the closure of Clark Foam as surfboard manufacturers began to search for alternatives to polyurethane. Polystyrene has some advantages over polyurethane as it is lighter and less resistant than polyurethane. Also, polystyrene is more environmentally friendly.
Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is another foam material that’s lighter and buoyant than both polyurethane and polystyrene foam. However, it’s very difficult to shape EPS by hand and a shaping machine has to be employed in which case the surfboards are referred to as ‘pop-outs’. It’s also worth mentioning that EPS is the most environmentally sustainable choice. Epoxy resin is the only skin resin that can be used with expanded polystyrene surfboards.
Resins used to manufacture surfboards could be epoxy resin or polyester resin.
Epoxy resin confers increased durability, strength, and rigidity on surfboards. Also, epoxy resin makes boards lighter resulting in improved buoyancy which increases the ability of the boards to catch small waves. However, the material is expensive, and using it will increase the cost of surfboards. Check out my article on how much surfboards cost. Any board with epoxy resin is bound to have higher mechanical properties.
Polyester resin is cheaper than epoxy resin and is more commonly used because of this reason. Polyester is usually mixed with a catalyst during production to make the resin harden faster. While polyester resin has lesser buoyancy, it is most responsive and results in surfboards that are easier to maneuver. Ideally, boards with polyester resins should be used on medium or large waves.
Fiberglass is usually found in high-quality surfboards and is mixed with the resin to make the boards more rigid and stronger. The material is also used in custom-made surfboards and tends to increase the cost of surfboards.
Most surfboard manufacturers use a 4oz layer of fiberglass on the bottom and two 4oz layers on the top. Longboards or fish boards may have a 4 oz fiberglass layer on the bottom and another 6 oz fiberglass layer on the top for improved strength and stability.
Other Materials Used in Stringers, Traction Pads, and Fins
Materials used to manufacture surfboards include:.
Traction pads refer to the rubber surfaces on the back of the deck of surfboards. While surfboards are more associated with shortboards, longboards may also have them as they allow surfers to pivot effectively. Rubber is the most popular material used to manufacture traction pads and different types of rubber are used.
Precision, control, stability, and direction. These are the benefits surf fins offer. Without them, you won’t be able to maneuver your board efficiently or go straight through the waves.
There are different types of fins depending on materials and size. Materials for surf fins include plastic, wood/bamboo, fiberglass panels, composite, and resin composite over a core material.
Composite and plastic are the most common materials used to manufacture surf fins because they are cheap and lightweight. However, they don’t offer much performance-wise. Fiberglass and carbon fiber fins are stiffer, and heavier, and perform better than plastic fins.
Stringers are long strands of material that are incorporated into surfboards for increased strength. They travel longitudinally across the length of the board from nose to tail and are made from a wide variety of materials such as wood, carbon fiber, and composite materials. The choice of stringer material depends on the manufacturer and whether they are looking for something lightweight or stronger.
What Surfboard Materials are Recommended for Beginners?
The best surfboard material for beginners is a soft-top board that has an EVA + PC top layer in contrast to regular rigid surfboards that feature a hard fiberglass top layer. The soft nature of the deck means beginners are less likely to experience surf-related injuries and the buoyant nature of the boards makes it easy to catch waves.
Beginners should learn to surf with a soft-top longboard that is at least 8 ft or 9 ft. As they gain experience, they can then transition to shorter boards.