Manufacturing a surfboard – what you need to know
Surfboards – getting what you paid for?
There are a lot of cheap surfboards manufacturing suppliers out there – interestingly not all of them from the Far East. The purpose of this article is to show you how manufacturers cheat to your disadvantage during construction. How do we know? We’ve been in the industry for 45 years. We make surfboards. We import and export the materials. We know how surfboards are made cheaply. Here’s the secrets…..
Blanks: The core of a surfboard. Cheap materials makes cheap foam makes cheap surfboards. So many blanks have bent stringers, big holes, bad foam mixes, bad rockers (so important). All of this is hidden under the fibreglass. Holes can be filled with cheap filler, bent stringers go unnoticed but contribute to early breakage, bad rockers stop a board performing as it should. Add to all of this a shaper who doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing (good shapers are expensive!) and you have the core for a disaster. And you really couldn’t tell! Many cheap surfboards are produced in factories by shapers and workers who have never been near the sea, let alone surf. Many makers use second quality foam full of voids and problems to save costs. There is some very cheap, very poor quality foam on the surfboard market, especially from South Africa. (Seabase only uses US Blanks – and only 1st Quality Foam.)
Fibreglass: Big secrets here. Cheap fibreglass is exactly that. Why? The more expensive glass is twist weave, where the fibreglass bundles are twisted to provide maximum depth and surface area for the resin to adhere. Cheap glass is flat woven. It requires less resin, making the laminate weaker. One bad move with a sander on flat weave cloth and the whole bond is broken – the surfboard is weakened, the fibreglass prone to water absorption, and the surfboard to early discolouration. It’s far weaker. Worse, many cheap surfboards have only one layer of fibreglass where it matters – some so soft you can squeeze through the laminate! Good surfboards have fibreglass wrapped high up onto the deck and down onto the bottom to strengthen rails. Its easy and quick to take shortcuts here. (Seabase use two layers of cloth on the decks, and only twist weave cloths.)
Resin: There are three types – Orthothalic resins and Isophthalic resins known as Polyester Surfboard Resins and the alternative is Epoxy Surfboard Resin. The strongest is Epoxy, which is expensive. The next strongest is Isophthalic (a Polyester – brand name ISO 10x), which is more than 30% tougher and flexes more than Orthophthalic (another type of polyester – brand names Silmar, Xtreme Surfboard Resin, Dion, etc.) resin, the weakest of the three. To make cheap surfboards many manufacturers still use Orthophthalic resins. They also often use excess amounts of catalyst to make the resin quick to gel and cure, saving time for them, but causing immense weakness in laminates and the surfboard. (Seabase only ever uses Epoxy and ISO 10X Isophthalic Resins or Silmar Resins)
Fin Systems: Check what system is fitted and how well it’s done. If its FCS, the holes for the plugs MUST be visible on the deck, probably under stickers. They must go through and be fiberglassed to the deck – it’s essential to the process. There are so many cheap FCS copy systems in the market, its unlikely you are getting the real thing. Futures is another brand name under-the-glass system, also sold at Seabase.
Paint: The cheap manufacturer’s friend – essential on many poor quality boards to cover a multitude of problems. Called graphics, paint jobs are used to disguise and cover some pretty gruesome mistakes. Clear surfboards, especially those made with Epoxy or Iso 10X, show everything to a careful buyer. You can judge clarity by how well you can read the decals or shaper’s marks. (Seabase prefers to make clear surfboards – its stock Quiver surfboards are all clear)
Construction: So many shortcuts to take – so easy to do. So much more to tell – so little space. I wish we could name the surfboards we know are using highly inferior methods of construction.