Polyurethane blanks...the future?

Will the polyurethane blank be replaced by the polystyrene foam core…ALTOGETHER (down the line)?! Your collective thoughts?.. thanks!, Tom.

People use polyurethane blanks because blank makers make them easy to use. Novices use close tolerance PU blanks without having to learn much about rockers, outlines, or cross sections. Pros use PU blanks to save time, shaping the same minor changes to PU blanks over and over again. Using preformed blanks makes the transition from novice to pro seamless, and produces useable surfboards from shapers at all levels of experience. Because EPS billets can be built close to their points-of-use, EPS blanks can be much cheaper to buy than PU blanks. But shaping EPS takes longer. A shaper starts with a larger chunk of EPS, and has to remove lots more foam. Removing this much foam quickly and accurately takes more experience and more time, and offsets the savings on EPS blanks. Cost effective EPS blank requirements dictate that EPS blanks be shaped in experienced operations which produce at least a few boards per week. Epoxy glass produces a stronger, lighter surfboard. EPS blanks have better consistency, and are a better match for epoxy lamination. Among surfers custom epoxy/EPS boards, built properly, will assume their rightful reputations as longer-lasting, high performance surfboards. PU blanks require a middle man to pre-shape them. These middle men have been successful in selling the PU blank system to shapers. Because PU blank makers are centralized the past-to-current surfboard market is built around these middle men. EPS cost savings come from cutting out blank makers and blank shippers. So there are no champions of the EPS blank market… no centralized debater to counter the PU hype, or to usher in the new epoxy revolution. The upcoming high-end surfboard market battle will pit the custom surfboard buying public against PU blank makers. It won’t come easy, but the public will probably win that battle. Because international surfboard shipping is cheaper than western labor, Asian board builders will capture the easy polyester/PU board market. To save shipping costs Asian PU factories will replace western blank factories. The future surfboard market will consist of cheap Asian polyester/PU boards and expensive domestic epoxy/EPS boards.

Noodle, Increadibly astute. I see the exact same writing on the wall. The Asians have polyester, PU down and are coming fast. We can only compete if we offer higher quality items. We have to change the direction of an industry that doesn’t want to change. Not only with polystyrene and epoxy but also with things like carbon, aluminum, veneers, synthetic fabrics, etc. Time to leave Surfboards 1.0 behind and progress to newer technologies. There are increadible things out there to try.

They will probably both have a place for the next few years.If the asians get into the blank market with good stuff and cheap prices it may be a whole different thing.Why people build clear boards (poly or EpoxY) beats the heck out of me.The sun is the enemy of all clear resins and all foam.My thoughts on a better product would be light color opaque laminations or paint.Maybe folks are more concerned about cool logos.airbrushes etc.Stringers are another thing…any woodworker will tell you that long fibered woods such as Ash have more strength and flex…you have to saw them the right way.Hard to work?Yep.But not that bad with sharp tools.Sorry to Rant but these are two very simple answers to some major problems. R.B.

The asian market will win out with all types of surfboards…cheap labor…

maybe the future lies in core-less construction. no blank, no shaper, but the craftsman is a maker of adjustable molds, and the method is roto-molding of a molten plastic like roplene. the high hurdles will be the issues of wall thickness, internal ribbing (if absolutely necessary), and fin attachment if the fin(s) are not part of the mold. mold any color you like, get built in deck traction, fix dings with a propane torch!! huh? huh? see: triumph boats, and roto-molding at a search engine near you. gotta go, i hear the twilight zone theme playing in the background.

I don’t think for the core market the shaper will be taken out of the equation. The future will probably be with thermal plastic matrix glass instead of polyester or epoxy. Problem right now is the light weight cost effective cores can’t handle the temp needed for curing these materials. It will happen, and these boards will be bomb proof. Sluggo

Sluggo, I’ve worked with some glass/ polycarbonate prepregs and they are impressive… very. Unfortunately they can’t be used with foams right now. There are some beaded foam technoloies on the horizon but they will be expensive. There are also some silica based foams their using at the Cape that are unbeleivable. Again the price tag is not for the timid. Ramon, Hollow boards were investigated thoroughly by the sailboard industry and passed over. Hundreds of thousands of dollars (maybe it was Marks) spent on r&d with no credible results. I think that one is very far down the road. Custom boards will remain but we are losing significant market share right now. Somehow this industry must work together on an answer.

They are still experimenting with honey comb cores. Kinda like those geo shapes wasps make. That will be the future, with no stringer needed etc

Greg, Your right, but hopefully something will break free in the near future. Sluggo

The answers are right in front of us. Just put the effort in to reach out and grab. Push a little. Learn again. Progress. A lot of talk on this site centers around Greenough and Mac T and the ground breaking they managed in the late 60’s. Instead of spending our time looking back on what they did and applauding what they achieved wouldn’t it make more sense to emulate them by pushing the sport forward as they did? What do you think their take on the state of the art is today? Isn’t it our responibility to them and others like them to build on that foundation? High performance boards have changed little in the past 20 years and almost not at all in the past 10. Is the Bill Hartley Chip the last progresson in the history of the shortboard? We can’t wait for something to “break free”. The time is here. The time is NOW. Shake the foundations yourself. Be free to take risks. Our future depends on it.

I have done some investigation on other foams in the hope of developing a shape up and paddel out board (SUPOB). We have made several and they certainly work and show promise of being a viable, very cost effective alturnantive to the shape and glass technologies we have been stuck with for the last 50 years. That isn’t to say that shape and glass ain’t good or even great, just that it maybe time to start thinking about what a surfboard is or looks like. There are definitly problems with the technology I am talking about and many advantages that would benefit the indistry and the consumer. We attempted to exactly reproduce an existing board so that we had a viable control factor for comparison purposes. The most sucessful board we tried was a 6’4" x 19 x 2 1/8" the control board was as close as we could get as far as shape goes and was an epoxy board, weighing about 6 pounds. If I recall correctly. The SUPOB weighed about a 1/4 pound less. The structure or stiffness components were internal and manufacterd as we made the blank. This made the finished blank “structural.” After building the blank which used a very simple pressing/molding technology it was a matter of simply shaping her up and sticking some fin plugs in. The technology I fooled around with allowed the tweaking of rockers on an individual blank level much as Clark does today. The cost of a blank manufactured in this fashion would easily wholesale at under 100 bucks, add to that the cost of CNC shapeing and or shaper cost add a set of plugs and fins and that would be what a finished board would cost. It looks great on the surface but there are issues that need to be dealt with many of them questions that relate to what the consumer wants and thinks a surfboard should look like how it “wears”. A SUPOB would look like a lumpy dirty sack of potatos when it was old and worn out. It would never take on weight through water absorbtion but it would get dirty from hand prints racks etc. I guess you would need to balance these disadvantages against the how a conventional board “wears”. In this case you have dings that need to be repaired, delams water absorbtion etc. etc. and ultimate breakage which wouldn’t necesarily be the case with SUPOB. One of the reasons for posting this is an attempt to find out what the shapers think thier client’s response to these factors would be. O.K. now for the advantages to the industry and surf board design. With a SUPOB shapers would eliminate the turn-around time and risk associated with the investment in a building a board for a client. Normally the shaper isn’t paid for the deal until he delivers the board. This means he has the cost of the blank, the shape job ,perhaps CNC fees and of course the fins and glass job. He also must transport the blank etc. ect. In many cases he must pay for all these services when he picks up the board. So the turn around time is a costly and risky part of building boards. With a SUPOB a shaper could shape the board to a client’s specs stick in some fins in minutes and send the client across the street to paddel out and try it. If it was a touch too thick or wide or the guy wants a swallow instead of a square tail the shaper can easily modify the blank. Perhaps for an additional shapeing charge. This ability to fool around with shapes after the initial shape job, coupled with low cost would really put some umph in evolving design. For the average kid that wants to build a board in the garage to test his designs this medium would offer the ability to build one with minimum tools and space withoutt toxic chemicals. I think that getting blanks into the kid’s hands at very low cost is probably the best way to rapidly improve on surfboard design because they do not have the incentive to keep things as they are for stabilities sake. The kids don’t have children that need braces they don’t need to pay the rent etc. etc. I know I am and old Barney but when materials were extrememly cheap and the stigma of CHEMICALS was less in the late '60’s this era saw some radical changes in design some of which are fundimental aspects of design today. I feel that the speed these changes were made at, was directly linked to the cheap accesability of materials thanks to Mitches surf shop in the San Diego area anyway. Whatever the future holds in the way of surfboard design must include the shaper’s ability to use known tools and techniques to build the boards. The shaper must remain in the loop for the surfing culture’s sake and for the sake of design. A SUPOB offers that but and this is a big but, shapers must let go of their conservative natures with respect to surfboard building. Here lays the largest obsical to the introduction of this new concept/materials/designs. Perhaps if the potential of increased margins to a shaper don’t convince him, the threat of masses of offshore boards will. The only way to combat Asian domince of the surfboard industry is through taking adantage of the long supply line they must deal with. Once designs become static as they have been for more or less, the last ten years, the offshore manufacturers have the ability to manufacture en-mass and be assured that their products won’t go out of style before the get to the US or Aussie or Europe and get sold. Look at where the sailboard industry went with respect to design and manufactureing and look where it is now. It’s dead largely becuase the shapers were taken out of the deal and replaced by “designers” The writing is on the wall and the only way for US shapers to hang on is to make design change so rapidly and so pervasive that offshore manufacturers are loath to risk huge runs of potentially outdated boards. The other thing absolutely necessary is to develope a process that allows for the cost of doing all this to be competitive with Asia. I think that the SUPOB could do this given sufficient commitment from the domestic surfing industry.All this is possible and SUPOB’s do work, like anything SUPOB’s will need many minds and much effort to rise to the levels required by World class surfers although I could make one tomorrow that would easily satisfy the performance required by an average kid. So yea standard blanks will be with us for a long time until someone figures out something better, or we all accept molded boards made in Asia.

That’s the kind of ideas I’m talking about! Let it flow. Be creative. Be innovative. Be BOLD.

Stan, Beginning in the 1970s, all my triplane edge bodyboards were prototyped that way, i.e. as "(SUPOB) shape up and paddle out boards". I used a core which was wrapped with a thin layer of much denser/finer closed-cell foam. I was sometimes able to make the necessary adjustments either in the water, or on the beach. It was obvious early on that the process of understanding and tuning a board design was significantly more intuitively accurate and efficient... as opposed to going back to the shop hours (or days) later to try and make the imagined improvements. Ive often pondered the creation of a surfboard foam that was strong enough without lamination… maybe one which could be shaped and then briefly heated just enough to meld smooth the outer layer of open cells. In the sign industry, Ive worked with many types of plastics, such as certain types expanded PVCs and polycarbonates, which could be cleanly heat-finished with a carefully directed hot air gun. With something like this kind of material, a board could easily be shaped, ridden/evaluated and modified all in the same day. That would provide the basis for not only a legitimate design revolution, but also eliminate any advantage that a mass-producer of surfboards might have hoped to attain in a progressive, performance-driven market. To my way of thinking… anything of quality that allowed such quick, relatively easy, meaningful change, and was widely available to anyone who wanted it, would be a literal revolution in itself.

Yup! I think that the need for the flexiblility in design and modification is critical to get things moveing. That coupled with low cost would fit the bill. The SUPOB’s we built in the Late '60’s were just a clark blank and a hot coat of Latex paint. They lasted a couple of go outs and would break. Never the less the learning potential really made its self apparent. The deal is people would just need to rethink what a surfboard looks like. Introduction of this is just that simple. Perfecting the designs need to take into account the “timber” or flexural properties of the SUPOB as they are slightly different that Glassed boards. They are a touch softer but not much. Maybe they could be made to have exactly the same flex as conventional boards. It certainly is possible but it will take work and commitment to the premise. Maybe that flex quality could be used to enhance the performance? Some other guys did that way back when. SUPOB’s will never get there if we don’t work on them.