Technology has come a long way in the surf/paddle board industry. More and more boards these days are created using automated machine technology. Most of our boards are custom cut to CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings using a CNC machine. We do hand shape a few surf boards, mostly to test out new designs and dimensions. When we get a shape we like, we put into the computer so that we can replicate it.
So why not hand shape every board? Well the quick answer is cost and time. The machine is able to cut boards with precision to ensure quality control. We can finish shaping a blank in a much shorter amount of time and with exact accuracy to the design specifications. This also allows one design to be replicated over and over to get the costs lower by making in larger quantities and reducing the man hours in each board. The machine cut blanks help to ensure perfect symmetry, although taking some of the ‘art’ out of the process. Hand shaped boards are usually at a much higher price point and are often custom made one at a time. We don't want to undermine the art and craftsmanship that goes into a hand made board, and the quality and attention detail that you can obtain from an experienced shaper and glasser. We can make semi-custom designs by requests and can also refer you to some local places if you want a full custom board.
Here are two articles that discuss the hand shaped Vs. Machine philosophies:
Our boards are locally designed in CAD software and in photoshop. Our hand shaped boards are made in Virginia and Florida and are typically used as the 'model' for the computer file. Those dimensions and specifications are provided to our manufacturers and the core of the shape is machine cut and then hand finished, hand sanded and glassed. We have designed our boards based off of our influence of the many boards we have personally ridden over our lifetime and we continually make changes and improvements to ensure the best shape for the intended purpose. We designed our first surfboard in AutoCAD back in the summer of 2000, well before machine shaping was a big thing. One of our founders was studying architecture and doing and internship at that time and used the knowledge learned from that experience to experiment with designing his perfect board on a computer. Many of our boards are designed for all-around use, and they blend the perfect amount of volume for flotation, rocker for surf, and shape for speed, agility, and response. We are also starting to make all wood boards, foils, and other fun toys for the water.
Here is a great video from blue plant surf on how paddle boards are made with the shaping machines:
Some US board makers see the globalized surfboard market as a threat to their business. In some sense it is, but the good ones have found ways to stay competitive and to offer unique products to their customers. Many have started outsourcing. Here is a great article on Surfer.com about the globalized surf market and its impact on surf culture in recent years.
EPS foam (Expanded Polystyrene) is the correct term for any form of expanded polystyrene. Expanded Polystyrene is a lightweight, rigid, closed cell insulation. EPS is available in several compression strengths to withstand load and back-fill forces. The EPS blanks we used are 22kgs/m3 density and require epoxy resin. Either epoxy or polyester resin is used to keep the fiberglass cloth in place. Epoxy resin is lighter than polyester resin, and epoxy boards are stronger, lighter and stiffer than polyester boards.
All of our boards are now made with Epoxy resin. EPS is about 60% lighter than PU (Polyurethane). We have built boards with PU, but have recently stopped using that material. EPS boards are stronger and more buoyant than PU boards. Clark foam was the industry leader in PU foam blanks and closed their doors in 2005. That helped EPS come on the scene and has become the new standard for paddle boards. It is water resistant and helps reduce water absorption. Typically EPS boards will outlast PU boards, but many surfboards are still shaped with PU blanks and are preferred for the flex they offer for wave surfing. Some of our surfboards are made with PU foam.
The weight of the fiberglass cloth and the amount (number of layers) applied will influence durability, strength and weight of your paddle board. Usually an extra layer or heavier cloth is applied to the deck side for more strength to account for the rider standing on the board. Most of our boards use 3 layers of 6oz fiberglass on the top deck and 2 layers of 6oz on the bottom, but some models vary. The boards with wood veneers also have a lot of added strength and use vacuum bag technology to ensure perfect adhesion of the veneer to the blank. Some paddle boards will have an extra layer on the rails or use a blend of carbon fiber, Kevlar, or a polymer shell to provide for more durability, however this adds to the weight of the board. More information on foam can be found here: http://www.surfscience.com/topics/surfboard-anatomy/materials/know-your-foam/
Here is a diagram that provide an inside look at a paddle board cross section:
Vent plugs are added to paddle boards to allow air to escape when the board is exposed to heat or altitude changes. This helps deter delamination. Some vent plugs need to be removed for them to work and put snuggly back in while the board is in use to prevent water from getting into the core. Our paddle boards all come standard with permanent vent plugs that have a water proof membrane to allow air to escape and not allow water in. The vent plugs do not need to be removed and should stay in place at all times. See our page about board care and maintenance.
Stringers are typically made of a thin piece of wood that stretches from the nose to the tail and from the bottom deck to the top. It is sandwiched in between the two ‘halves’ of the board and adds strength and more rigidness. Some of our boards have a 5mm – 6mm full wood stringer. Some models with full wood veneers do not have the stringers and do not need them due to the added strength of the wood veneer.