Do you know what surfboards are made of? Well, since the beginning of time, or rather since human beings realised that they could surf and have fun riding waves out in the ocean, surfboards have been primarily made of wood. This is evidenced by the existence of wooden surfboards in the islands of Hawaii that date back many centuries. Wooden surfboards were typically large, heavy and difficult to maintain.
Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and surfboards have significantly reduced in size and weight. Surfboards are currently made of different complex materials that ensure the boards are light, buoyant and durable. But what are those materials that are used in the construction of modern surfboards? What does each material contribute to the board in terms of usability and performance?
Below, we will be looking at some major components of a surfboard and what roles they play in improving the surfing experience.
There are 2 main types of synthetic foam used in making modern surfboards; Prolapse Polystyrene (PPS) Foam and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam. Both types of synthetic foam are used in the centre of the board to give it its overall shape. The main role of synthetic foam is to give a surfboard its buoyancy.
However, PPS and EPS were not always used in surfboard construction. Many years back, polyurethane was used. You can find polyurethane foam in older fibreglass boards. Polyurethane, although light and easy to shape, has been gradually phased out of surfboard production due to environmental and health concerns.
PPS and EPS are both lighter and more environmentally friendly than polyurethane. Their only downside is that they are very difficult to shape.
Also called polyester resin, this is the material that is typically used in making the outer coating of the surfboard. So, how is fibreglass made and what role does it play in the overall structure of a surfboard?
Various glass-like materials are usually melted down and pushed through tiny holes in a process known as extrusion. This produces long and thin strings or fibres that are woven into some sort of fibreglass cloth. Fibreglass cloth is more flexible and affordable than carbon fibre, while also being easier to mould and stronger than many metals.
Fibreglass is used to cover and wrap the synthetic foam core.
To understand the role of epoxy resin, we must first remind ourselves of polyester resin, which is the material used in making fibreglass. Now, if the fibreglass was to be placed directly on the foam core, it would disintegrate, leaving nothing but a hollow shell. This is where epoxy resin comes in.
Epoxy resin coats the foam core to prevent it from directly interacting with the polyester resin or fibreglass. Epoxy resin, therefore, acts as a sort of barrier between the two. Additionally, epoxy resin makes a surfboard more durable while preventing water logging in surfboards that are solely made of fibreglass.
Traction pads are simply rubber surfaces found in the surfboard deck. Their main role is to enhance the grip and maneuverability of a surfboard, despite huge amounts of water rushing on top of it. Traction pads are mostly found on shorter boards, but longboards can have them as well.
Different surfboards have different fin configurations. Longboards have inbuilt or glassed-in fins, which means that the fins and boards were wrapped together. The downside to these fins is that they are not easy to repair or replace when damaged.
Other boards have composite fins that are easier to repair and replace when damaged.
This was a brief breakdown of what constitutes a typical modern surfboard and the role each component plays in the overall structure of a surfboard. Enjoy!
At Beachin Surf, we offer a wide variety of surfing essentials. We have surfboards, wetsuits, board bags, clothing, footwear, accessories and surf hardware including eco-friendly alternatives. We are more than happy to help you with your surfing journey.
For all your surfing essentials, please visit us at 262 Maine Road, Toukley, NSW. You can also call ahead to make sure we are there to assist you properly.
Please call us today on (02) 4396 5159 or feel free to send us an inquiry.