Whether it’s the fact that you finally have a shape custom to your body or the simple reality of your name under the fiberglass next to the hand written board dimensions, little, if anything, can top the excitement of ordering custom surfboards for the first time.
Putting all the fun an excitement aside for a moment there is a lot to be considered when making this monumental purchase. Shape and size are the most common and very important, but have you ever considered what type of surfboard foam to get? When you’re ordering your new custom surfboards, it is important to choose the type of surfboard foam best suited for you. So what are your main options?
Basically there are four key surfboard foam options: Polyurethane, epoxy, biofoam, and Balsawood. Here’s a little about each:
1. Polyurethane Surfboard: This is your basic surfboard foam. Up until the last couple years nearly every surfboard was shaped from a polyurethane blank. One of the major advantages is that polyurethane foam is easy to work with. Not only do shapers have years of experience working with this material, it is also the easiest foam for customizing each shape. Another advantage is that it gives the best overall performance and will work great in any surf condition. On the other hand this particular surfboard foam is a little harsh on the environment and it isn’t made of the strongest material. This means that with time it will get dings and eventually the fiberglass may delaminate from the surfboard foam itself. The foam also tends to turn yellow after awhile due to UV exposure.
2. Epoxy Surfboard: This is probably your strongest option when ordering your custom surfboards. Although they will still ding, they definitely can take a harder beating than a traditional polyurethane surfboard. Another advantage is that they tend to have higher buoyancy that allows for easier paddling, not only out to a break, but into waves as well. Any epoxy surfboard seems to have a longer lifespan and does not turn yellow after being in the sun. They may seem perfect, but they have some downfalls too. Besides the fact that they cost more than a traditional board, they also tend to not perform as well in windy and choppy surf conditions (this is mainly due to their high buoyancy). And although the chemicals used in making an epoxy surfboard are less harmful to the environment, the epoxy resin is more harmful to the shaper, and the foam is said to be a little more difficult to work with.
3. Biofoam Surfboard: This is a relatively new approach when ordering custom surfboards, but definitely one to be familiar with. Biofoam surfboard blanks have a mix that is made up of 50% agriculture products; making it one of the most environmentally friendly surfboard blanks available. It’s said to be 10% lighter than traditional surfboard blanks and it takes a lot longer to turn yellow in the sun. As far as performance goes it is very similar to the traditional polyurethane blank but again it is a lot more environmentally friendly. There is one major disadvantage to this earth friendly foam. It is still a relatively new product and therefore no one really knows what happens to these boards over time. They’re still kind of a gamble, and will probably be until they’ve been around awhile longer. They are also a little more expensive than a polyurethane blank, but can you really put a price on protecting the environment?
4. Balsawood Blanks: Going along the same lines as the Biofoam blanks in keeping the environment from harm, balsawood is another alternative to surfboard foam. The main difference in this choice is the added stiffness. Balsawood blanks are a lot stiffer than polyurethane blanks and have very little flex. Another interesting fact is that when they take on water, instead of turning brown they tend to turn black. They have been around for a while and are nothing new so don’t be afraid to give one a try. They definitely have a beautiful finish when done.
Obviously these are not the only custom surfboard options. There are also other new innovative ways to make surfboards, but these are your main blanks for custom surfboards. The reality is that there isn’t one surfboard foam that is better than another; it all has to do with each surfer and their expectations. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of each and decide which surfboard foam is best for you when ordering custom surfboards.