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Surfboard Finishes

October 8, 2018 / Pani

All surfboards need a seal finish applied after they are laminated. The fibreglass cloth used in making a surfboard is sanded during construction, exposing bundles of fibreglass. Seabase uses twist weave cloth as standard in all our surfboards. A cheaper flat-weave cloth is easier to use, but is inferior in strength and in its ability to hold resin to form the plastic matrix, or laminate. Twist weave cloths expose fibre bundles more easily than flat weaves, but are stronger.

Fibreglass has to be sealed to avoid moisture penetration (wicking) into the laminate, causing structural failure of the laminate over time, discolouration, and makes the board heavier and more prone to damage from dings and fractures.

The conventional way of sealing boards was for an extra layer of resin called a Gloss Coat applied after sanding. The Gloss Coat contains paraffin or carnuba wax, which floats to the surface, and is then sanded and buffed to a shine, or gloss finish. Alternatively, it can be left with a fine sanded finish, which has been shown to cause less friction, resulting in faster boards. The process does form a hard shell over the board, preventing moisture ingress and lessening the risk of crazing and yellowing. The downside is it adds weight, is laborious and hand intensive, its expensive, and is prone to discolouration if the resin is not correctly applied. Traditionally used on longboards.

Seabase uses only Taupo Gloss Resin for our gloss coats. It is a resin blended at Seabase from seven different chemicals, and contains optimum amounts of Ultra Violet stabilizers (sun screen) to prevent yellowing & degradation from both sun and heat. We hand sand our gloss coats, then double buff them using an imported resin finishing compound. Gloss coats can be left matt by sanding through several grits of sandpaper to 800 or 1000 grit (usually wet&dry or water paper) leaving a fine, protective coating that is resistant to abrasion but prone to dirt and grease.

An option popular still is a quick sand coat, usually on the rails only, and a sandpaper finish in degrees of grit to give a smooth, matt finish. This finish is less protective and does cause quicker discolouration, as the fibreglass is not fully sealed, and any abrasion exposes the weave quickly. Some combine this with a fine acrylic finish de-nibbed and water sanded to a smooth finish.

A quicker and equally effective way of sealing boards is using a proprietary sealer, or lacquer, similar in ways to the lacquer is applied to car finishes. The new acrylic Sealers, often seen on cars and in other forms as finishes on magazine covers etc, are useful. However, it take so many coats to make an effective gloss finish that fills and seals that the lacquer is usually left matt, giving a dull yet effective finish. Lacquer finishes, either water or solvent based, are quick to apply and far less labour intensive. Use our conventional solvent based acrylic S7 speedcote, or our new water-based acrylic WB8 Speedcote. This seals, and is safe to use in either spray or by brush application, but is not as long-lasting as solvent based coatings, which have a far higher solids content. We apply three coats or more for maximum seal. These finishes are prone to wear, are affected by suncreams, and are quicker to degrade than a full resin gloss or matt finish which is still our preference, but time and cost defective.

Our new Tuffcoat is a step up in finishes – new car finishes are far more scratch resistant than before. We use an amazing additive in the finish that spreads microscopic beads of a tough plastic over the surface of the board. This gives a slightly rough feel to the finish – very much like a dolphin’s skin – resulting in increased speed and a noticeable slippery feel to our surfboards. The advantage is it is far harder wearing, less prone to abrasions from sand. (Not available until 2019 for reformulation).