Aluminum surfboards and mass production?

Has anyone encountered a pure aluminum surfboard?


I was thinking about it, and there’s 2 serious problems in the mass-production of surboards:

  1. the materials are toxic and non-recycleable

  2. labor is cheaper overseas, therefore everything is becoming imported


Why I think aluminum boards would be awesome:

  1. Aluminum is 100% recycleable, and can be recycled an infinite number of times.

  2. It’s strong, light-weight, corrosion-proof, and doesn’t absorb heat

  3. Mass production could be done entirely by robots in the United States


Aluminum is supposedly $1.20 an ounce. I was reading a bike frame made purely out of aluminum is usually around 2.5 to 3lbs. So, that’s like 60 bucks for 3 lbs. If it were just a question of pouring molten aluminum into hollow molds, couldn’t robots do that in the States for cheaper than Asian labor and endless shipping across the Pacific?

Interesting- now you’ve got me thinking of a few things- bear in mind that it’s 3 AM here and yesterday was what was intended not to be a birthday celebration, so I’m a mite vague just now.

First off, for both clamping and forming, a vaccum pump might be interesting…plus some weights/wet sand. Said pump might only get you 10 PSI…but there’s a lot of SI, y’know? Trick would be in avoiding buckling/creasing as it came down. And a lot of the vac pumps are run with a pressure switch, so they can keep drawing vaccum as long as you want 'em to.

Then, well, you’d want to be using a fairly soft/annealed AL anyways, so a little heat locally applied might help the forming process a lot - wouldn’t have to be a flame, something more like - ahm, let me look it up- this little guy: - up to 850F they claim.

While I’m thinking of Harbor Freight - something like might work out a little better for the ribs/channels in deck and bottom. With something like the roller setup, I’m thinking you could form the ribs and etc in a pre-curved surface instead of a brake or stamp which would kinda force you to use a series of flat plate surfaces. And yes, definitely add to tracking, and it might kinda force laminar flow, not terribly unlike the old Ford and Junkers trimotors and the corrugated wing and body sections they used, probably for much the same reasons.

I’m thinking that another nice thing about a roller rig is that your ribs/channels wouldn’t necessarily have to run full length, which would make the rails/edges a helluva lot easier to join. Especially if they were not all that deep, just enough to locally stiffen the plate surface. You might get a little distortion at the ends, but I’m thinking that could be dealt with. Using a few transverse frames plus some polyurethane foamy glue and it wouldn’t require precise frame cutting, the glue would get into voids as need be.

(chuckling) - yep, this is fun, isn’t it


3M makes the right stuff.  It takes a week to cure but it is the best for adhesion and watertightness.  It isn’t easy to keep a spring loaded sheet clamped properly for a whole week.  I use rivets to hold parts together (adding tensile strength to the seem) installed wet and polished down afterward.  I haven’t tried Olympuc rivets yet.  They are those shiny gems found on Airstream trailers.  The o-ring inder the head is supposed to make them water-tight but it may be more like rain proof.  They cost ten times more and only come in protruding head styles.

If I find the time to make a twelve foot stamp or braking mechanism, I could incorporate ribs and stringers into the deck and hull like a sea kayak.  It adds to tracking performance and bending resistance without adding another seam and two pounds of metal.

Maybe a good start would be a sea kayak filled with sand or water pressing down on a sheet of metal that is on top of wet sand and I have a one ton jitter bug on top beating the whole pile into submission!  Listen to me… I’m giddy as a school girl.

Photos of the shell? Absolutely. Though give me a day or two to find the camera. Been one of those months, already.

Actually, you sound like the guy I needed when I was taking a bend/buckle out of the tail of the thing. It had been dropped, you see, so I got it cheap as a curiosity.I stopped right about where I ran out of skills.

Now, here’s a strange but true story. There was, you see, a guy called Jack Winninghoff who built small aluminum boats with compound curved hulls. What he’d do is take the plate, clamp it to a female mold, sink it in a quarry full of water and set off an explosive charge: the shock wave would put a compound curve into it.

I have absolutely no idea if he calculated springback and built it into the mold or kinda went trial and error with sections or if they had somebody who was really, really good with charge design. I am given to understand that they’ve also used similar for some odd bits of aircraft. Gawd, that’d be fun, though

On a tangent, this is a similar method to how they made the pieces to use in welding an aluminum ship superstructure to a steel hull: put the two plates together and set off a charge, they are blasted together, literally, so you have something that’s aluminum on top and steel on the bottom.

Yeah, designing to take advantage of your materials is key here, I’m thinking you could only take developed cylindrical or conical surfaces so far, especially as this is necessarily such thin material that welding would be a lot more than simply ‘tricky’. Thinking that I’d rely on adhesives rather than mechanical fastenings.

As my old philosophy professor would say; “This is interesting stuff”


Very cool, Doc.  May we see a pic or two of that?

I own an english wheel but I need a lot of practice before I can make a semetric contour with a <3" radius.  It hardens and thins the metal so fast that I think I would have to start with annealed 0.125" 2024 to have a rail I could buff.  I have had more success with a hammer-off-dolly or slip rolling.  I have observed, in marinas along the west coast, aluminum is not used as often for boats that plane.  It is more often used with pontoons, catamarans, and deeper riding hulls.  I am working on developing a shape specific to aluminum construction because it is such a different animal than plastic.

Coming to this one late, alas, and fascinated -

As it happens, I own an English made aluminum rowing shell, roughly 27 feet long and a foot wide, made, I suspect, by all the Supermarine Spitfire builders who got laid off in 1947 or so. The transverse frames/stiffeners are made of an aluminum/ polyurethane foam/aluminum sandwich that was likely made up in big sheets and bandsawed to shape as need be, then glued into place with what appears to be an early polurethane foaming glue akin to the Gorilla Glue that we now know and love. The hull itself is made of a fairly hard aluminum sheet material with a coating that appears to have been applied at the factory.

27 feet long and yet I can pick it up easily with one hand. What’s really odd, though, is the tapered aluminum shafted oars that came with it, quite like the aluminum softball bats.

Meanwhile- forming the stuff. Big production, you’d go with stampings and heliarc ( TIG) welding, but for small runs or individual boards, I’d suspect that you could go with something formed ( compound curves and all) on an English Wheel ( see - a Really Cool Thing and how they made the sweet aluminum bodywork on XKEs and the like) and flanged edges that could be simply glued together.

Glued, you say? Yeah, there’s a line of welded aluminum workboats with aluminum plate watertight decks…but they don’t have anything like enough room under said decks to get in there and weld the deck plating to the deck frames. What did they do? Made the deck frames more or less ‘T’ shaped and put a marine caulking/adhesive on the wide tops of said frames and carefully set the deck plating on that. It holds up well and prolly would work out even better on the very light plating on an aluminum surfcraft.

There would be other issues to work out, definitely, stuff like how to keep the hull plating between frames from ‘oil canning’, but they’ve solved those problems on boats and aircraft already, it’s not, wait, yes, it IS rocket science, actually, but it’s been done and it works. .

Might make an extremely interesting project…if I only had 96 hour days…


Those other images of the old-school steel panel are a trip! Aspects have come a long way since then I think about. You determine, The the apple organization company organization creates all its notepads with smooth steel can manage, why not a look through panel.Didn’t find out much looking for “hollow steel honeycomb boards” from the Sixties and beginning 70’s. Inquisitive what that’s all about.

Hi Kokua,

Funny how we see that living here in Hawaii, but all the stuff you read says aluminum won’t corrode. Maybe they’re selling us something else and saying it’s aluminum. I know that zinc is great for battling the corrosion we get from the salt air.

I always wonder why no one has tried making a plastic rotomolded board using a good longboard and shortboard plug. Seems like that would work. A rotomolded McCoy Nugget would probably work for beginners.


I was meaning that it will corrode… like the other guys said. I guess there’s some alloys that won’t? What do they cost?

Fibreglass will go all yellow from the sun of course, but still keeps most of its strength, even immersed in salt water with no protective coating.

You could put a coating over the aluminium of course. But with a hollow board, you’d have to totally seal the interior as well. Otherwise, the first ding that let water in would kill the board in no time flat. It takes extra weight to seal every rib and joint inside, and worry that it is totally sealed. And figure a way to do that successfully in a reasonably simple build process.


Not trying to be deliberately negative, i’m totally stoked on people doing awesome stuff with different materials, especially succeeding with ones that other have failed!!

I’m just bringing your attention to some of the problems that would have to be acounted for.

Most can be overcome, but strength to weight is the one that really worries me.

Some woods have better tensile strength, vastly lighter weight.




no matter the materials but you should say no to any mass producing stuff.

All that go wrong are mass produced

C'mon, an aluminum surfboard? Shit, why stop there? weetbix? paper maiche ( think someones tried ), how about pasta? make a mold, fill it with pasta, let it dry ( that shit dries bloody hard )?


Yeah, I’m guessing weight would be an issue. Question is how thin you could make it without buckling. Maybe cast the board in thirds, and super thin, then weld them together with a couple stringers of sheet metal. I don’t know. Maybe an engineer will read this one day, realize how easy it is, then do it and make a milion bucks. In the mean time, it’s pretty much a world of hypotheticals. Oh well. Just have to swallow up the VOCs and keep throwing broken boards in the garbage for now.

ya why'll only weigh like 50 pounds.



It’s gotta be possible.



Not sure how aluminum isn’t as durable as glass. I mean, it’s metal, right?

If a hollow sphere can be manufactured, why not a hollow surfboard…

Hollow Aluminum Sphere


Aluminium is somethin’ like twice the density of a fibreglass laminate (or more, depending on how the laminate is layed up), so nowhere near as strong weight for weight, and depending what aspect you measure, not even be as strong volume for volume!

It’s harder to form in some ways, easier in some… I’d say more difficult for surfboard purposes.

Not as durable as glass…

Not as versatile cosmetically…

It is effectively isotropic (same properties in each direction/dimension), whereas glass has fibre which can be used to change the properties (warp glass, different weaves, crimps, orintations).

Heat expansion, heat conduction… all problems


There’s some more reasons why you don’t see it used.



That Jeff Koons dog balloon animal sculpture is at the Broad Contemporary at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The things about 10 feet tall and made of stainless steel that has some kind of transparent color coating. I spent some time looking at it there wondering how the hell it was made. It’s absolutely astonishing.

Wallyworld sells a complete bike with aluminum frame for $69.99

You should research the hollow aluminum honeycomb boards that were being made in the late 60’s early 70’s.


A lot of ideas have been tried over the years.

Plus the robots would take 20 breaks a day and call in sick when there were waves.

I'm gonna try this.  Once wallyworld starts selling robots I'm gonna pick up a few, and have them start building my boards.  Meantime, I'm gonna start stocking up on coke cans.


I saw this alum. stick in the Surf Museum in Torquay, AUS…