Surfers Textbook

Section 2- SURFBOARD DEVELOPMENT AND THE SURFING CULTURE

( This section contains more pages. Purchase " The Surfers Textbook" now to gain access to the full 416 pages)

This chapter is divided up into the following related sections;
(i) An Overview of Surfboard Construction and the Surfing Culture.
(ii) The Development of the Surfboard, Surfing and the Industry as recalled by Joe Larkin.
(iii) Hollow Surfboard Construction.
(iv) The Making of a Polyurethane Blank.
(v) The use of Computers in Designing and the development of computerised shaping;Interview 1 Michael Langenbach
Interview 2 The Smith Brothers - Abroboard

Solid timber was originally used for surfboards due to its availability, flotation and shaping properties. Plywood, a manufactured board, became available between the wars and surfboards were constructed using solid timber frames clad with plywood creating a cavity of trapped air which provided the buoyancy. This method based on boat building principles was experimented with before returning back to a solid timber core such as balsa and covered in glass fibre and resin to increase strength and seal the timber. The late fifties saw the arrival of foam centre construction and this method has basically remained unchanged; however, the foam quality has been improved considerably in `terms of strength, stability and ease of shaping.

Nowadays the blanks for the majority of surfboards are made from foamed polyurethane requiring a minimum amount of work to remove excess foam and hence cut down on shaping time. The blank designs have often been specified by the larger surfboard manufacturers to their own requirements of length, bottom curve, thickness and plan shape, explaining the large range available. Blanks are also produced in different weights and corresponding densities for example Burfords produce ‘ultra–lite, ‘supa–lite’,‘feather–weight’. Professional team and sponsored surfers often have surfboards made specifically for competition using ‘ultra–lite’ blanks covered with a very light glass job. The resulting surfboard is extremely light in weight and responsive but one that has a short life–span before the foam collapses and/or board breaks.

Expanded polystyrene is used in the making of most custom shaped surfskis, nipper and rescue boards and is not produced in a ‘blank’ form as are surfboards. It is obtained in sheets of various sizes and thickness and is amaterial used for insulation and packaging etc. Refer to Section 6 on Shapingfor more details on this.

The use of computers for designing and computer controlled manufacture has been steadily gaining momentum during the past decade and is now an accepted process within the industry. Although there are a number of computer software programs available for designing surfcraft there are only a handfulof machines worldwide which can shape a surfboard, even then it is to varying degrees of finish. Michael Langenbach is the designer of one such machine which is capable of producing a fully finished product. His interview reveals an insight into the history of designing and shaping of computerised machines. Abroboard is an Australian company which has been providing computer machined shapes for several of the biggest surfboard makers for many years.The interview with the Smith Brothers, owners of Abroboard will prove very informative reading for anyone involved in the industry as much of thiswork is closely guarded and carried out behind closed doors