The Epoxy Surfboard
Epoxy Surfboards have come along way since guys started using this technology and have slowly become more accepted and popular.
This acceptance has been a long time coming and met with lots of resistance from the PU (Polyurethane) corner, partly because back in the 80’s epoxies sucked and partly because people are inherently resistant to change.
PU technology has been the industry standard for over a half a century so its understandable to think – don’t fix what aint broke.The epoxy surfboard has made in roads with surfers and the surfing community because of a few different factors:
- Epoxy technology advancement
- The push for more greener and more sustainable surfboards.
- The closing of Clark foam ( THE supplier of PU blanks in the U.S.) a few years back probably has had some impact on epoxy surfboards becoming more readily available and popular.
Also some of these epoxies are pretty cheap and you are supposed to be able to bang em around without dinging them up to badly so beginner surfers are often directed towards the pop out varieties of epoxies.
So what is a Epoxy Surfboard?
Lets start with resin, this is where the name “epoxy” comes from. A common misconception is that the core or foam is called epoxy, not correct it is solely the resin.
Epoxy Resin is different then the regular Polyurethane Resin in a few ways:
- more expensive
- not as toxic to shaper and environment.
- need to be pretty precise when mixing the resin with a hardener
Epoxy resin technology has greatly improved since the early days of trying to apply this to surfboard design.
The guys at Point Blank Surfboards had this to say about it:
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, epoxy boards gained a bad reputation because often the wrong formulation of resin was used, and there was an unbalanced marriage of the various components. Most of these epoxy boards were also built without stringers. Resin technology has progressed since then, and the epoxies today are far superior.
There are thousands of different formulations of epoxy resin, depending on the intended use. The resin we use is blended to balance tensile strength, flex, hardness, impact strength and nontoxicity. It is about 2.5 times stronger than polyester resin and 300% tougher. This is important for ding resistance and durability over time.
Like mentioned earlier epoxy resin is how the boards get their name but they also use a different foam core called Polystyrene as opposed to the traditional Polyurethane.
Two types of Polystyrene Foam
Since the foam maintains a structure based on an open cell it will absorb water like a sponge if exposed to water. Left alone without the resin and this type of foam is not very strong but couple it with epoxy resin and they are said to very durable.
Firewire Surfboards use the expanded polystyrene core here is there take on it:
EPS Foam Core: Firewire is 100% committed to EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) for our shaped cores. Not only is this material infinitely more environmentally friendly than PU (polyurethane) foam, but the excess EPS material is recycled. In addition, the 1lb core is an essential part of Firewire’s high performance. The way in which materials travel through different mediums is a direct result of their density AND shape. For example, a baseball and tennis ball are roughly the same shape and size, but behave completely differently when thrown. Similarly, a 1lb foam core allows for rapid direction changes and overall responsiveness during rail–to–rail turns.
This is a closed cell core and since it is “closed” it repels water and is more resistant to compression and damage.The flex is said to be better than EPS ( I have only ridden extruded polystyrene boards so cant compare).
And here is what the guys at Point Blanks have to say about their Extruded Polystyrene Surfboards:
This foam contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), a source of air pollution. Extruded means the material is forced through a small opening, like toothpaste is extruded from a tube. This gives the foam directional properties similar to wood or a honeycomb. As such, the foam has a constant density throughout.
In regards to flex they say this:
The most common complaint about epoxy boards in the past is that they didn’t flex. However, we’ve found that they can be engineered to flex as much or as little as you want them to, depending on how you glass them.
(Flex in a Surfboard refers to the amount of force a surfboard can take, and the response the board gives back)
And finally on the strength of these boards:
The higher compression strength of extruded foam means a stronger core to resist the downward force of the outer shell under a load. Lighter than average foam allows us to put more layers of fiberglass in the outer shell. This increases strength and resistance to breaking and buckling.
How is the Epoxy Surfboard Made?
There a few different ways these boards are made.
Hand shaped- or machine shaped…these methods are just like shaping a traditional PU board except you use the epoxy resin and the polystyrene foam core.
One thing to note is that you can use epoxy resin on a PU Surfboard, but never use PU resin on an Epoxy Surfboard it will melt.
Another way these boards are made is through a mold.
A piece of Expanded Polystyrene Foam (beaded foam) is poured into a mold and is covered with several layers of fiberglass, epoxy resin, high density foam, to cover the expanded foam, some have stringers to reinforce the structure. A variation is with PVC plastic applied with heat.
This is a pretty technical way to produce surfboards something the backyard shaper would not be able to accomplish.
So in essence this method is taking the most essential piece of equipment-the surfboard away from the populace and into the waiting hands of the folks with the technology to produce boards in this manner.
These folks are usually corporations like BIC-they make EPS surfboards along with razors, ball point pens, kayaks etc etc. not what you would call a “Core Surf” company
Doesn’t mean they can not make surfboards but jeeze when will it stop?Non surfing companies dictating what we ride????
Bic and others like them have no business being involved in surfing other than doing “business”.
This is one of the reasons epoxies get a bad rap, however when done correctly by surfers for surfers an epoxy surfboard has a lot of positives going for it.
Give one a ride and decide for your self.