The Art of Shaping a Surfboard
Waterboyz surfboards are made in our factory located in Pensacola, FL. We craft each board by hand over a period of many hours and days by a skilled craftsman. Surfboard manufacturing is a beautiful fusion of art and science.
There are two common construction methods for building surfboards which are commonly referred to as Polyurethane or Epoxy. The main differences are the core material and the type of resin. The Polyurethan method usually consist of a Polyurethan core and Polyester resin, while the Epoxy method usually consist of a Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) core and Epoxy resin. Both methods start with the carving out the board from a surfboard blank which is a large piece of foam working as the core of the board. On the inside of most Polyurethane (PU) blanks is a piece of wood called a stringer, glued between two foam blocks, which provides flex and strength. Each foam has its own density, flexibility level, strengths, and weaknesses. The PU foam is higher density and stronger while the EPS foam is lighter and more buoyant.
The traditional board has a polyurethane (PU) foam core and is coated with fiberglass and a polyester resin. The polyurethane board has ruled the foam market for some time now however, EPS, which gained popularity in the late 90s and even more popularity when the PU blank giant Clark Foam went out of business in 2005, is gaining market share. New generation boards are made with EPS foam and are coated with fiberglass and epoxy resin. The polystyrene core boards are lighter, and more environmentally friendly than the polyurethane core boards, with the correct glassing schedule and proper placement of reinforced fiberglass and carbon you can achieve the same durability associated with PU boards.
The steps of surfboard production, while simple in writing, take years to master. Take, for example, step one. “Addressing the blank”. As you probably envisioned, this just means the shaper is going to take a step back and look at the piece of untamed material in front of them. Sounds simple enough right? On the contrary, for the remainder of the process, the shaper will be battling with material to get it to do exactly what they had envisioned. So, keep in consideration the level of care that goes into board shaping while we highlight these next steps and if you buy a board from a local shop, thank the shaper!
Step 1: Addressing the blank
- The innards of a surfboard are made from lightweight foam, which most manufacturers will purchase and then trim down to size. The shaper or customer will decide on a basic shape for the surfboard. It may be a longboard with a wide nose for easy nose riding, or a shorter performance board with narrow dimensions or a fish with a wide swallow tail for lots of freedom of motion.
Step 2: Shaping
- After deciding the shape, the shaper will start drawing on the blank in the desired shape. Once the drawing is complete it is time to cut around the outline. After cutting the outline out they will run a sanding block along the jagged edges of the foam blank to smooth them out. Get the edges as flat and even as possible, as they’ll be the starting point for shaping the rails.
- Shave down the foam to the desired thickness. Plug in the power planer and set it to the appropriate depth. Run the planer over the outer surface of the blank to shear away a thin layer of foam at a time. Repeat this process, always going back over the surface in the same direction, until the board is as thick or thin as you want it.
- Now that the board is the correct shape and thickness, you can begin adding the “rocker” or upward curvature of the board.
- The last step in shaping your surfboard is to shave and round out the rails, or the outer edges of the board. Using the surform tool, scrape away at the flat edge of the outline of the blank so that it forms a bevel. Do the same to both sides of the beveled edge where it comes to a point. Complete the rails by going over them with the sanding block, making the slope as smooth and gradual as possible.
Step 3: Color work (if necessary)
- Color work can be done by several different methods. Color can be sprayed or applied by brush directly on the foam or the color can be mixed into the resin via pigment or tint and applied through the glassing process. In the last 8-10 years we have leaned heavily towards doing most all of our color work via pigments and tints in the glassing process as we really like the look and permanence of the color.
Step 4: Glassing
- "Glassing" is a term used for the entire process of fiberglassing and sealing the board. Laminating the fiberglass to the foam is step one, and seal coating with resin is step 2. The first step in glassing is to determine how much fiberglass cloth you are going to put on your board. This is called the “glass schedule” and it dictates the final strength and weight of your board. The more glass you use, the heavier, but stronger your board will be. As far as which type of resin gets used, these are the rules. Polystyrene resin can be used for Polyurethane blanks only. Epoxy resin can be used on both PU blanks and EPS blanks. Epoxy resin is also generally a more environmentally friendly resin, it is also more expensive and stronger than Polystyrene resin. We have been using Epoxy resin exclusively since 2015.
Step 6: Sanding and Polishing
- This is the final stage of making a surfboard. Finishing with sandpaper and polish. The care taken during this step will critical in making sure the finished board is exactly what the shaper had envisioned. It also is critical in the strength and durability of the final product. I considerable amount of talent is required in every step of the process and especially in the final stage.
This is a long and incredibly labor-intensive process so be sure to take care of your new surfboard. And the most important thing, have fun out there and make the best of your new board! If you are interested in browsing our stock boards check the link here. If you are interested in having a custom board built send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you on building you a custom surfboard.