When it comes to building surfboards we’ve been using basically the same construction technique and materials for over 50 years and it’s a pretty solid, reliable, method that produces a light craft of reasonable strength. However Polyurethane blanks wrapped in polyester resin infused fibreglass are a nightmare for our environment both to produce and dispose of so particularly in the last decade the search for alternative construction methods and materials has been ramped up. Of the alternate materials currently the most widely employed is the use of Polystyrene or EPS blanks skinned in epoxy resin,  fibreglass, carbon fibre, innegra or a hybrid combination of glasses. Different construction methods and materials will generally alter surfboard performance as well which has been another driving force behind the search for alternate materials. The surfboard blank or core material and its inherent properties in particular play a crucial role in determining the overall “feel” of the finished board with density, weight and overall flex, both lateral and transverse playing crucial roles in performance. The less dense Polystyrene blanks used in epoxy boards are also far lighter than traditional blanks giving them a pop and liveliness that lends itself perfectly to smaller wave conditions. Epoxy resin itself has different characteristics being more flexible, resilient and indeed even more waterproof than polyester resin again making a superior medium with which to glass a hi-performance board. The downside of using epoxy resin is that although it’s a more environmentally friendly material than polyester it’s around triple the price and has far longer cure period making the glassing a more complex and time-consuming process which shows as a higher retail price. Although traditional polyurethane blanks are sometimes glassed in epoxy significant performance benefits are realised when the surfboard core is Polystyrene or EPS. It is this lightweight foam that really helps give the epoxy board significant advantages particularly in marginal conditions. Like most things though the use of these feather weight blanks comes with certain drawbacks one being the porous open-cell nature of the foam which allows rapid water ingress should the rider not return to shore immediately following a ding. Subsequently the repair process always takes longer on epoxy boards as most of the time is spent letting the water drain so the repair can be carried out. In cases when the epoxy board has been surfed extensively with open damage it may take as long as a month to dry before work can commence. So we see that both traditional and modern materials and construction have their strong and weak points. Epoxy boards in general will give superior performance in poor conditions particularly, they are slightly more resilient than PU/polyester but they are more expensive to initially purchase and more difficult, take longer and more pricey to repair. Traditional construction on the other hand makes a good, reliable, comparatively simple to produce and easy to repair product that has worked well for over half a century. Whatever type of board construction you go for remember they’re a precision made lightweight product so treat ‘em kind and don’t leave them out in the sun. Happy Surfing.

September 03, 2019 — Stuart Campbell