Materials used in surfboard production have an enormous influence over its weight, buoyancy, flex and visual aesthetic.
Surfboards have traditionally been made from polyurethane (PU) foam with epoxy resin as the adhesive, proving an efficient blend of performance and sustainability.
Surfboards are an essential component of beach life and an effective way to exercise. Constructed from various materials, each with unique properties depending on what the board owner wants from it.
Modern surfboards typically consist of an EPS or Polystyrene foam core covered by fiberglass and sealed with waterproof resin for waterproof sealant protection. The weight, handling properties and strength/stiffness properties are determined by this core material.
EPS foam is commonly found in TVs and beer coolers, but surfboard builders also utilize this versatile material due to its lightweight construction. Composed of small polystyrene spears semi bonded together into beaded foam layers, this open cell structure makes EPS highly water absorbent – so shapers typically add an epoxy sealant layer over it in order to keep water out.
Polyurethane foam (PU) has long been the go-to material for shaping surfboards. First popularly employed during the fifties as a replacement to balsa wood, its advantages over wood being lighter weight, easier shaping and higher performance.
However, polyurethane foam (PU) is less durable than other materials and susceptible to dings and dents. If exposed for extended periods to water or sunlight exposure, its foam may disintegrate over time.
As such, some polyurethane surfboards may be more challenging to keep up with than others in terms of maintenance requirements and overall weight distribution in the water compared with lighter alternatives. This can present problems for older school surfers seeking easy-paddle boards without becoming so lightweight they lose control over their line when surfing deep water environments.
PU can also be fragile, making it an unwise choice for boards subjected to intense drops or hits. To reduce damage, opt for boards featuring high-impact plastic resin that protects its foam from being destroyed during hard impacts.
XPS foam is another popular surfboard foam option, though it can pose some unique challenges. Due to its hydrophobic nature, XPS easily sheds water from itself but bonding the skin of a board to its core becomes more challenging over time resulting in de-laminations in its skin over time.
Surfboards are iconic pieces of sports equipment loved by surfers worldwide. Unfortunately, their production involves significant energy waste.
Modern surfboards are composed of polystyrene foam and fiberglass materials derived from petroleum sources. Furthermore, foam is formed into shapes using tools powered and heated up using energy consumed during production; and fibreglass requires energy-intensive mining operations that extract silica sand deposits worldwide in order to be produced and transported as man-made product.
Although surfboards are usually made from foam and fiberglass, they can also be shaped using various woods. Sometimes a long strip of balsa wood may be added down the middle to reinforce its structure and keep its form.
Surfboards typically feature fiberglass surfaces coated with epoxy resin that hardens into a watertight shell around their foam cores, providing watertight protection from water intrusion. Though this epoxy contains petroleum by-products, its impact does not significantly increase overall embodied energy of surfboards.
Wax is another integral element of modern surfboards, and can vary depending on water temperature and personal preferences. Many synthetic waxes contain synthetic lubricants made from petroleum or coal for maximum performance and long term use.
Paraffin waxes are among the most frequently seen on surfboards. Being a petroleum product, its refining requires additional hydrocarbon energy; when mixed with other substances (beeswax or coconut oil are popular organic options). Furthermore, exotic fragrances or shark repellent properties may also make paraffin an appealing product to consumers.
Today’s most widely used waxes consist of paraffin and beeswax blends that have an average embodied energy of around 1.65 gj/m3, as shown in figure 4. However, alternative products exist which consume less energy, such as organic waxes produced from beeswax or tree pulp; other options can even be scented using essential oils such as bubblegum and coconut scents for fragrance enhancement.
People frequently talk about “fiberglass” and “epoxy,” yet this does not correspond with what surfboards are made from. There are multiple materials used in their production and each has unique properties which make them suitable for certain board types.
Fiberglass is an inorganic material widely utilized across numerous industries. With properties including insulation, heat resistance, corrosion resistance and strength it makes a versatile material used in many different settings, including automotive industry applications. Fiberglass’s many uses make it popular choice.
Material used in pulp and paper production as it resists chemicals, while aerospace uses this strong and lightweight material as part of its aircraft parts.
There are various varieties of fiberglass available; each type has unique properties depending on its application.
Polyurethane foam is a popular choice when it comes to shaping surfboards because it allows shapers to craft boards with great precision. Thanks to its airtight construction and closed cell structure, polyurethane foam resists water absorption while decreasing dings & dents caused by rough conditions.
Surfboards made from this material have become one of the most popular choices today, offering many advantages for both beginner and expert surfers alike. Easy maintenance, durability and light weight construction all contribute to making them great choices that offer responsive performance when surfing.
They also possess high degrees of flexibility, enabling them to respond swiftly to changes in the waves. Furthermore, these boards are very cost-effective and readily available across stores – perfect for beginners!
Epoxy resin, made up of solid blocks of expanded polystyrene foam, is another popular material for surfboard construction. When attached to wood stringers it creates the traditional stringer look. However, epoxy resin tends to be harder-wearing and dent easier when hit by sharp objects, yet has less flexibility and feel in non-glassy conditions than fiberglass resin boards.
There are various kinds of surfboards made of different materials, including epoxy and polyester resins.
Surfboards typically consist of a foam core encased with either polyester resin or epoxy resin coatings; epoxy is the more cost-effective choice and thus more commonly employed in their construction.
Epoxy resin can also be found in prefabricated shower stalls and closet fixtures as well as decorative metal pieces.
As polyester resin can be toxic and flammable, it is vital that care be taken when handling it. A well-ventilated workspace and wearing safety goggles, gloves and mask are recommended when working with this substance.
Silmar or Hegardt H61-UV polyester resins are the go-to resin choice in the surf industry, as these come in an assortment of colors to produce high-quality boards.
Polyurethane (PU) surfboards are also a popular option. As a flexible material, PU allows surfers to shape and mold the board with ease while being durable and easy to repair.
As opposed to epoxy, polyurethane does not corrode foam core, making it suitable for use on any foam blank without risk of damage or additional costs. This represents both time and cost savings over the long haul.
Epoxy resin remains the go-to choice in the surf industry, while polyurethane (PU) resin may not be as strong or durable. Therefore, not all surfers would recommend its use.
This resin stands out as it allows the addition of fillers, reinforcements and pigments without changing its viscosity; making it easy to incorporate into composite structures.
Surfboard construction utilizing this resin involves laminating a foam core to fiberglass cloth and deck for greater strength and weight reduction, producing boards which will perform better underwater.
Polyester resin can also be combined with a hardening catalyst and then applied directly over fiberglass panels using a rubber squeegee for even distribution.