Rich Harbour sees no benefit to using epoxy - do you agree?


BTW he is using surftech now as well as many other big shapers so they are starting to use the technology more, however they charge more.

i just wanted to say that there is NO COMPARISON between a custom board glassed with epoxy resin and a surftech, boardworks, or other popout. i HATE popout longboards…they’re crap.

Why I’m getting into this I have no idea. The last time I posted here some guy called my shaping technique sloppy and I swore I would never post here again. It turned out that we have different ways to produce a rocker curve and neither of us was familiar with the other’s technique. A slob I am not. But here goes.

Each year we have more orders than we can produce. I refuse many dealer requests a year, as I just cannot supply the loyal ones that I have. Selling more boards is not the issue. For me, the issue is priorities. Do I drop everything and jump in and develop an epoxy system that I cannot see a huge demand for? From my observations, there are less than one percent of our customers wanting them. I have production issues and personal medical problems that are higher on my priority list.

There is no question that high pressure laminates of epoxy, as used in the space industry, are much stronger but we are dealing with hand lay ups. Tim and I glassed 4 boards using epoxy with the same glass and foam weights as our polyester boards. The blanks were all the same length, foam weight, and model with computer developed rough shapes, eliminating any question of shaping discrepancies. They were not as dent resistant as the polyesters, but seemed to have a better rail impact resistance. Next we had a glass shop that specializes in epoxy, glass an EPS blank (with their suggested EPS foam weight) with the lamination that they recommended. The glass job was more expensive than a polyester glass job. The board was lighter, but dented easier than the epoxy covered Clark Foam, which dented easier than the polyester covered Clark Foam. Dents, which lead to delaminations are an item we are looking for a way to reduce.

I have the utmost respect for Mr. Loehr. He has shown me an EPS blank/stringer system which he has developed, that is unquestionably stronger and lighter. Once this system is made user friendly, it will definitely be on my menu. I think that if I find the correct blank (Clark or EPS) weight/glass combination while using his epoxy, it will be an addition to our line. But with so little interest at our shop, I just have a bunch of things that are higher on my list. It will get done, but not tomorrow.


Leave Rich alone…he’s a stand-up guy.Herb

It was the old days, a warm sunny day in August. A beautiful brand new Pontiac GTO was parked up on the road above the beach. It was a sleek beauty - everything muscle cars wanted to become, the trend setter. Eventually a woody pulled up and parked nearby. It was about a 47 Ford I believe. A wood car - a benchmark classic auto for the ages. Finally a brand new Vette pulled up and parked. A fiberglass car - sure to be the style and tech for the future. We could see the guys all milling around, looking, talking, bragging, predicting, betting.

It’s a curious thing that in the forty years that have passed since that day, some things we thought would surly change haven’t changed much at all. Young guys pull up at the beach with short board rockets atop their zoom-zooms, old guys pull up with classic longboards in wood veneered suv’s, and others park with their brand new koa wood surftech epoxy boards strapped to the top of a brand new high-tech fancy on wheels. Look at Butch’s new hollowboard made of composites and tech stuff nobody has even heard of that weighs less than air, and over there is Jim’s new retro chambered balsa board showstopper that weighs a bunch.

The guys all mill around. They are deep into talk about what’s best, fastest, stronger, environmentally cuter, gets more airs, glides better, holds in the pocket better, trims, doesn’t cavitate, doesn’t delam, or just has a cooler looking logo… Hynson is back smiling and talking hard down rails again, Rusty is looking for new innovation, and on one hand Rich Harbor is still the man keeping on keeping on, doing what brought him to the dance. But on the other hand he, as he always has, is pursuing perfection and giving the customer what he really wants and making a living at it. Thanks Rich for keeping the dance going.

The music still plays. We’ve all got our own moves, our own ways, our own thing. To epoxy or not to epoxy…If I could only choose one today, I honestly don’t know which of those three cars I saw that day at the beach I would drive home. All these years later and the choice is still tough. Everyone dances different while the same song sings. It’s all good! Enjoy the ride…

I know you liked that new vette, but I liked the woody, but the sound of the GTO’s 429!. I think we walked home that day…none of us owned a car. Time for bed.

Maybe Rich Harbour is ahead of his time! Like he’s really onto something that WORKS in construction and design!

Maybe not everything in surfing is as personally “subjective” as people think! What if certain combinations of things actually work better on a wave? Or are more durable? Maybe better surfboards are poassible in spite of personal preferences! “WHAT IF” quivers of different boards AREN’T as necessary as everybody thinks? I’m thinking theres a big difference between forever trying all kinds of weird different things! instead of trying to zero in on a certain shape and materials that really work best! Whatevers…


He can also not understand why he should pay the additional 200 ----300 dollars for epoxy.

If a shaper does charge 200-300 dollars more for an epoxy/EPS board he wither doesn’t know what he’s doing(from a tech standpoint) or knows all too well what he’s doing(from a sales point). The extra cost of materials does not warrent such a high price. Maybe he’ll spend a little more time shaping it, but you should have to work for quite a while to earn 200-300 dollars… As for Rich Harbour, from my standpoint he’s experienced and surely a world class shaper, but looking at the models he puts out I’d say he’s not very innovative partly since most the models are described as ‘replica of a 196x model’. Nothing wrong with that, I love the glide, but IMHO it takes more than refining a board design over 30 years to be truely innovative. IMHO epoxy vs. polyester is a buisness descision and for a noserider longboard it may not make sense since you can do with a slightly heavier board anyway. If it last 10 years or a lifetime is propably of little consern to the majority of manufacturers out there. IMHO it’s OK to put down the industry standard as long as that standard is 40 years old and not exactly state of the art.




Next we had a glass shop that specializes in epoxy, glass an EPS blank (with their suggested EPS foam weight) with the lamination that they recommended. The glass job was more expensive than a polyester glass job. The board was lighter, but dented easier than the epoxy covered Clark Foam, which dented easier than the polyester covered Clark Foam. Dents, which lead to delaminations are an item we are looking for a way to reduce.

Surely someone told you that although EPS dents it springs back somewhat and doesn’t crush like polyurethane foam? Basically even if it’s dented the EPS are likely to be still intact and sticks to the skin so delaminations will not occure as easily.

Props to you for taking the time to atleast check it out.



What I really hate seeing is guys hyping up epoxy with comments like we are experimenting with it.

These comments are just aimed at misleading the general public into the mind set that epoxy is that much harder to work with so we should charge more.

Blakstar is right It does take less resin to do a standard blank compared to polester resin,so the materials cost is minimal

Is it harder to work,come on guys get two standard blanks get standard 4 oz or whatever glass to do both boards,now go and glass each board one with epoxy, one with polyester.

If after doing this if you find one harder to do than the other, you did something very wrong on one.

Will these two boards ride any different ,the simple answer No

In both these cases the resin just provided the glass shell at a mill and a half thick ,both will be very similar in all aspects.

Try the same with a composite sandwich skin board,the epoxy will work better as it has better adhesion properties than polyester.

Now build two boards exactlly the same using sandwich construction,one with polyester one with epoxy ,forget the strength issues .

Both will take the same time to build,both can be bagged,one will have better durability over time.

Please forget the hype,its all just sticky stuff,none of it is hard to deal with.

Maybe we should start looking at prepregs,now there are a few steps that may baffle some?? Get the oven going boys!!

Final test get the two standard boards when they are brand new take them down the beach,now get the average surf crew to spot the difference.

They will look at the shape the ,weight,the shine etc,I very much doubt that they will spot the resin difference unless you drop some very leading hints.

For those out there that will say one will be yellower that the other,I will assume that a fresh batch of hardiner was used on the epoxy board so colour in the short term would not be an issue.

The short answer to all of this is that most standard construction board builders could switch to epoxy over night if they wanted to.

All it takes is a slightly different schedule to cope with the differing gel times.

The hard part would be training your staff to do something in a different time pattern from what they have been doing for the last god nows how many years.

For advise on that may be they should visit the local boatbuilders, many of whom switch from poly to iso to epoxy to prepregs as there custom clients demand. So they have staff able to change methods all the time.

None of it is new all these different resins have been around for a long time.

As some one else said in the US the laws are allready written so the change of method will be forced on to you,either change to epoxy or start learning how to infuse!

You decide which is harder for board production?

For the rest of the world ,styrene is not your friend, your goverment will make sure of that eventually!


This is one of the classic threads on Swaylocks where people read the title, get fired up and start posting.

If the title read “Rich Harbour sees no benefit to using epoxy because 99% of his customers don’t want it & his target market often prefer heavier boards - do you agree?” most people would just say “fair enough”. But with the title as it is, it just baits people.

It’s pretty clear from Rich’s reply, that he thinks that epoxy does offer benefits in some applications, but if I was in business making great boards that my customers are happy with, would I spend my time and money developing something that may make a neglible improvement in my net profit…no way (at least from a business viewpoint)!!!

In saying that, as a hobby/backyard builder that has only used PU/PE, I’m starting to get bits together to make up a vac setup and sourcing some EPS & epoxy.

Kind Regards,


Matt is spot on…Sabs is on to it.

Kudos for Rich for stepping up to the mic…I have nothing against making a decent living from superior craftsmanship, in fact Im a little envious…but I disagree on the test results…I’ve gotten the exact opposite results and Im just a average Joe making boards in the garage. To each his own.

I was thinking about how to best describe what a lighter more responsive board does for me…in one word…RUSH…I get more rush from my surfing with lighter boards…Im not a vert/air type…Im the clean flowing Curren/Parko going faster kind…after 25 years of surfing with a healthy travel journal, getting a rush in average waves is not easy. I can have fun on anything but getting a rush is much more difficult…I find it much easier to find it with lighter boards. I simply cannot find the negatives from epoxy…all the positives have been mentioned. Everything works…ride what gives you the most enjoyment.

Hey Matt…Im past the experimental stage…check out the pic…

Notwithstanding the fact that Rich’s business is successfully based on poly construction, he is prescient enough to see the relevance of epoxy to be experimenting with it. This is an intelligent move on his part. How many other shapers of similar stature have done so? Some have, yes, but to most of them, experimenting with epoxy has simply meant licensing their shapes to Surftech and Boardworks.

One point that he made – that there is no demand for epoxy vs. poly – is interesting to me. From a general standpoint, this is true in one sense and not in another. There is tremendous ”demand” for epoxy if you measure it by the space Surftech boards take up on the shelf and in the line-up. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is not much demand at all among the more experienced and knowledgeable the purchaser of surfboards. This is probably due to the fact that some of those purchasers’ intent is to buy a board from Rich or Gene Cooper or Hap Jacobs or whoever for that retro feel and ride. Others are buying poly because they lack the awareness of the benefits of epoxy or because a custom epoxy version of their desired shape is not available. I would think that the comparatively greater strength and durability of an epoxy high-performance long board would be better suited to the conditions it is designed to be used in than an otherwise identical poly board, but most people – excluding the over-eductaed Swaylocks population, of course - are not aware of this.

Epoxy construction is no longer a fringe product. Custom epoxy shapes, unfortunately, are. The challenge for proponents of custom epoxy shapes is to take it beyond the niche product it currently is. I for one am optimistic that this will happen. Learning about the dialogue and experimentation that is taking place between people like Gregg Loehr and Rich Harbour is a very positive sign.

Rich, I sincerely hope that a bit of criticism won’t keep you away from here… I know you’re thinking, “I’ve already got a forum, what I’m doing is working just fine, I don’t need this.” But contributions from you are part of what makes Swaylocks such an amazing part of the surfing world. Not only does it expand on the surfer-as-shaper knowledge base, but it allows for give & take that’s rare in the surfer/shaper relationship, at least until a team gets on to their 5th board or so…

There are undoubtedly some guys everywhere who get a kick out of disagreeing with an expert. I, and I expect most others, are not here to win arguments, but to add to our knowledge.

I use epoxy mainly because I have kids around and because I don’t want to burn down my garage. :slight_smile: Safer, healthier, easier to store & take care of. But it also allows me to be independent of Clark foam, which I just prefer from a materials-efficiency point of view.

Performance? I don’t know, I’ve never made the same shape out of both poly/poly and epoxy/EPS. I tend to make my epoxy boards just as heavy as poly ones would be, going for durability & stiffness rather than light weight. I do see some benefits to that. But I certainly don’t have any customers or employees to worry about :slight_smile:

This is just another baited thread. The fact that Mr. Harbour and Greg Loehr have collaborated their ideas in detail says that they are far more involved in the challenges of mainstream consumer boards and market shares than anyone else here in garageland. It’s no wonder some great board builders are reluctant to contribute, when a johnxyz drops a bomb from the Harbour chat room. If it had greater merit, johnxyz would have posted his opinion (if there is one) first. This is like talking about China made boards, again…


Sorry that you viewed the original post as a trolling, bomb-dropping move - that was not my intention. I think most learn from the spirited, intelligent discourse that takes place here. Harbour LB’s look amazing - most would agree. RH’s talent, successes and contributions have been eloquently put forth in some of the above posts.

However I’m thinking of ordering an epoxy from Steve Forstall/CODA or GL Designs for my next board and want the input of lots of viewpoints/experiences.

Regards, John


You said, “As for Rich Harbour, from my standpoint he’s experienced and surely a world class shaper, but looking at the models he puts out I’d say he’s not very innovative partly since most the models are described as ‘replica of a 196x model’.”

We have 18 models. Two, the Trestle Special and the Cheater II try to reproduce the feel of a model of the same name that was created in the 60’s. We have resurrected the names of several other models and tried to keep the general concept, but have put 46 years of knowledge into upgrading them to contemporary standards. Many of our other shapes are as cutting edge as any in the world.

It seems he really doesn’t say there is no benefit. I interpret that he is open minded and willing to try what his customers want. The problem being that there are not enough customers to warrant his over haul .

I don’t think it was appropriate to put him back on his heels .

Also, to keep one point perfectly clear, a glass shop will charge you more for the same glass job in epoxy, compared to polyester. In the range of $30-50 more for a shortboard round here.

There is one shop in Santa Cruz that set up to glass recently. Santa Cruz has a moratorium on new polyester resin shops. So, the new shop is all epoxy for one of the bigger name shapers in town (M10). Another of the big glass shops, Stretch, is happy to take outside epoxy orders.

I don’t see this thread as a RH bashing at all…my problem is the industry claims as a whole. I think pu’s have their place, my quiver is testimony to this, but in avg surf its hard not to use a lighter board for modern performance surfing…this is a Cadillac vs Corvette debate, again.

EPS update…Blakestah, I’ve pre-shaped a 6’4 x 19.5 x 2.3 #1.5 EPS and without finishing its at 1.8 lb…probably be closer to 1.5 when Im done.

Epoxy Update…I had a bit of fully cured RR epoxy in a plastic medicine cup and decided to run a quick and dirty test…I took another cup and poured the same amount of UV cure and set it out in the hot sun (man its like 85 degrees here today) for about 3 hours. I took both specimens out of the cups and used a flat faced chisel and hammer to see what would happen. I started with medium taps and quickly progressed to harder taps…the epoxy shattered into splinters at about strike 8…I tried to duplicate the same with the PE and it shattered at strike 3…both had similar failure modes but it took more force/strikes to shatter the epoxy.

Obviously it would be wise to run several more ‘controlled’ tests…maybe someday soon.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: this test result is not intended to be used as fact


johnxyz writes:

However I’m thinking of ordering an epoxy from Steve Forstall/CODA or GL Designs

for my next board and want the input of lots of viewpoints/experiences.

I recently ordered a 9’8” custom epoxy longboard from Steve Forstall.

I purchased it to replace a Surftech longboard. I want more weight than the Surftech. I also want more durability than poly because I plan to store this particular board as part of a small quiver of boards that I keep in Florida in a family member’s house, where I visit about every other month. Since my time down in FL is limited, anything I can do to reduce the likelihood of spending valuable water time on ding repair, including the added strength of epoxy, is a plus. I am very stoked to get this board and, if all goes well, this will be the first of several ciustom epoxies in my FL quiver.

Here are a few thoughts:

When a guy with some clout says something people take notice.

Rich Harbour is doing a lot of things right thousands of satisfied customers attest to it.

Businessmen choose what works best for business or their soon out if it.

Rich uses the word experiment, which mean to me that he hasn’t made any final decisions yet. Maybe he’ll stick to them, maybe he won’t.

Whether or not you like his work his opinion is worth considering.

Obviously you can produce a lighter product with epoxy, however if you want a traditional weight epoxy board you can have that too. It’ll just cost more for materials. I have both. Michel Junod built me a 9’5" from Clark super-green that was wrapped with double 6oz. The board has some substance and is obviously very strong. It looks pretty nice, though not a clear and pretty as Poly. It’s a hell of a versatile surfboard and handles rough water very well. An 8’3" Freeline panel bottom from Clark super-blue that’s lighter than a surftech of equal volume. It’s wrapped with double 4oz and the hot coat is minimal. It surfs about a foot shorter than it is.

Most shops are set up to use poly and making a transition to a new material entails a measure of growing pains. Not everyone is up to suffering them.

I sure wish we’d get a day of weather over 60 degrees so I could stack some fin panels.

Back to the fin shop, Rich Sanders