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Board talk with Ryan Engle

by Boardcave on July 30, 2015

nation surfboards shaper ryan engle

We wanted to get to know head shaper of Nation Surfboards, Ryan Engle a little more so we asked him a few questions about how he got his start, .

When and what got you into shaping?

I always had a close relationship with those who shaped for me as a kid. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the bay, and it grew from there.

What inspires you to shape?

Friends, Family, team-riders and customers STOKE

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Freedom and creativity.

los dos model put through its paces the cool story by nation surfboards with pink tail dip
The Los Dos being putting through it’s paces and a nice pink tail dip on the Cool Story model.

You have a pretty diverse range of boards, everything from performance shortboard, traditional logs… do you have a favorite type of board to shape?

My early days as a production shaper started with a wide range of models. I have always taken pride in being very versatile in my shapes and designs. I can’t say I like one over another… I would rather shape a handful of all uniquely different shapes every day. I’m all about keeping the creative juices flowing.

So you don’t have a favorite type of board to shape, but do you have a favorite type of board to surf?

I would lean towards the modern fish realm, but in the same way (as with my shaping), I love switching it up.

2015 nation board range
The 2015 Nation MFG Surfboards range left to right: The Chub, Stumpy, Los Dos, Sex Machine, Pink Champagne on Ice, Rick Kane Pro, Bro Deal, Cool Story, Steinrider and the Hot Doggin’ Loggin’.

What is your best selling model in the Nation line up and why?

Right now it is the Pink Champagne on Ice. It’s a modern inspired throwback that can go over-sized or stubby; single, tri, or quad. It’s a very versatile board and so it covers a lot of bases. Also, it looks sexy. Sex sells.

nation surfboards with some color courtesy of dave naylor
A few Nation boards with a little color courtesy of laminating wizard Dave Naylor.

You own your own machine, how has that impacted your job, and is it still vital to be a good “hand-shaper”?

I was really lucky to have worked as a production hand shaper before venturing into the world of CAD. I think everyone needs a solid base in knowing how to properly hand shape a board. That said, using the machine and software, I have gained compete control of my designs from the inside out.

nation surfboards using cad files shaper ryan engle
Ryan Engles working on the CAD files to easily refine and progress his board models.

You do really clean work, both shaping glassing and color, what is your quality control process like?

I am very hands on from start to finish. All of my boards are made under one roof and so I get to be there bugging the whole crew daily!

What is the link between Nation Surf and Nation Golf? How did that come about?

My grandpa ran a golf tournament for 30 years. We revamped it in his honor, and are now planning our 9th annual tournament. The golf division of Nation Mfg was born through the growing success and influence of our tournament. The Nation Scramble Classic.

glassing a nation model

What does the future hold for you and your brand?

I can’t wait to find out! I am very fortunate to have such solid people in my corner, and I am excited to keep enjoying the ride.

For more information and their full range of surfboards ready to be customized and order online, check out Nation Surfboards. Use the Board Engine to help find your volume.

What’s in your surf trip quiver?

by Boardcave on July 23, 2015

Thinking about a surf trip? First thing you are going to have to think about is what boards you will need to bring.

Clearly the most important item, and once you have that figured out you can throw in some cloths, sunscreen, passports…

One of the main differences between a board and your gear is that most of things can be bought when you’re on your trip. Yes, you can buy or rent boards in some places, but you don’t really want to be feeling out a new board or taking the chance of being offered a pop-out, beat up 3 plastic fin Mal when the waves are overhead and barreling.

There is nothing like having your own equipment when surfing new spots.

With that said, you are going to want the right quiver for the waves and the places you plan on surfing.

dave rastovich with his holiday quiver
Dave Rastavich with his Gary McNeil Concepts board quiver on a surf trip in Indonesia and the Maldives.

How many?

When traveling near or far, our experience has been that 3 boards seems to be the magic number. Minimum two, but three makes sure you have the something for most occasion, as well as giving you and extra option if you break a board.

Which ones?

The type of boards you take will essentially be based off your surfing style and the types of waves you plan on surfing. You can basically break these down to a groveler (or smaller wave board), your standard go to (what ever you surf most at home), and a step up (something that can handle when waves turn on).

Obviously this will vary depending on where you go, for example, if you’re planning on chasing some bigger waves, your groveler might be your standard board.

A good rule to follow is to make sure one of the three boards you bring is your go-to when you are at home. There is a good chance that it’ll be the board you surf most on your trip as well.

Also, be realistic about what kind of waves you can handle and your abilities. There is no sense in bringing something more suited to waves you can’t handle… It will just take up space in your board bag and probably won’t even get wet.

getting air chemistry surfboards style
Checking the coastline from a different aspect, the only way a Chemistry Surfboard knows how.

New boards

If you plan on ordering a couple of new boards for your trip, consider getting them glassed a little heavier.

Let’s be honest, unless you’re among the top surfers in the world, that very little extra glassing weight is not going to hurt your performance very much. Plus, it will give you a little more security knowing that your boards will hold up to anything from heaving barrels to unhappy baggage handlers.

Order these boards with more than enough time before your trip and don’t be afraid to take them for a spin before hand either. You may not get the same type of waves, but it’ll give you a good idea of how the board paddles and performs before you head off.

asher pacey on sweet spot 2.0
Asher Pacey handling a nice wave on his Sweet Spot 2.0.

If you are only able to bring one board for some reason, a good all-rounder is what you are going to need.

Something with a round tail, or conservative round pin will work in a large variety of surf. A nice balanced tail rocker, keeping you loose in smaller surf but will hold in waves with a little more power is also a good idea.

It doesn’t hurt to go a touch longer or slightly wider or thicker either. Just to ensure you get in and under the lip when it does turn on.

A few great all-rounders that you can find on Boardcave are the Polyphonic from Album Surfboards, the Hypto Krypto by Haydenshapes Surfboards, the Pig Dog by SUPERbrand and the Sweet Spot by DHD. Most brands will have their perfect all-round board suited to handle a large variety of waves.

clay marzo on location for superbrand
Clay Marzo on location for Superbrand ripping on his new signature Mad Cat model.

Where are you heading?

You should also take into consideration where you are going on your trip when deciding what boards to bring. What you might use as your groveler, your standard and your step up will depend on where in the world you might be going.

Anywhere you go will have days when it pumps, days when it is flat and all days in-between. Besides tracking the current swell for your trip, take a look at what the average days are like in the season you are traveling.

Australian Waves

Australia literally has an endless coastline where you can find every type of wave possible. Compared to somewhere like California, most swells come from deeper water father away which translates to waves with a little more punch to them. If you venture out to West Oz, this becomes even more prevalent as well as a gnarlier coastline with slabs and reefs aplenty.

So looking at the East Coast of Australia, you may want to bring something like your standard shorty like the Flash Point by Chemistry Surfboards, a step-up like the SUPER Pig Dog and a small wave board like the Quantum Quad Fish by Stamps.

In West Oz, you definitely want to bring a step up like the Black Angel by Emery, standard shorty like the Cool Story by Nation, and a board for the smaller days, but beefed up a bit and on the performance side of hybrid like the Synthetic Sally by Panda Surfboards.

essence surf batch ready for glassing
A nice little stack of Essence Surfboards ready for paint, fins and glass.

US Waves

Along the California coast and down into Mexico, the waves are going to be a little softer than in Australia for the most part. Again, a wide variety of waves from the bombs of Mavericks and heavier waters of Central and Northern Cal, down to the mellow peelers of Malibu and San Onofre.

The majority of us are not about to go tackle Mavericks, so an appropriate quiver for most of California and Mexico like be something like the Grinder X by Stamps for your shorty when the waves turn on, the Lil Buddy by Carrozza for most average swells, and either a Fish mid-length or Log (or both) depending on your style like the Los Dos by Nation Surfboards, the Disc by Album or the Purchase by Canvas Surfboards.

nation surfboards all colored up
A little bit of color from laminating wizard Dave Naylor on these Nation Surfboards.

Destination Waves

A trip to Indo or other tropical reef pass, far off place might require a different set up.

Since you are generally going to be surf good quality waves, many people think they need a quiver of step up boards. However, you will be surprised at what boards can handle these waves.

Since they are more structured an usually better quality, you definitely want to pack your go to shortboard that you ride at home, it’ll probably be the board you ride most here too. And yes you will need that step up (you are planning on scoring waves right?) but also don’t count out a fish or a hybrid shape like the Hypto Krypto by Haydenshapes or even the Bliss Fish by Canvas.

Not only will these boards handle so size since the waves are such good quality, they will keep you in the water when it is a little smaller.

hypto krypto and black diamond
The Hypto Krypto alongside the DHD Black Diamond.


To sum it up, you need to take the time to think about choosing the right surfboards you want to bring and what boards you will enjoy the most for the waves you plan on surfing. Having the right equipment to suit your style and needs will make or break a trip.

If money is no issue, pack as many boards as possible and think outside the box. You will be surprised at what boards work in different waves or conditions and it may open you mind up when choosing boards for a surf at home too.

But for most of us where money is limited, a 3 board quiver with removable fins is just about ideal. With the right bag, you can squeeze all three into one bag (hoping to pass for one board payment at the airline).

And if you can only bring one board, make sure it is a good all-rounder that can be surfed when it gets smaller and can handle when it gets bigger. And make sure it has a solid glass job… The last thing you want is a broken board with nothing to back it up.

Make sure you check out the Board Engine and play around with your preferred wave type and board type to find some more surfboard recommendations for your next trip. Or email service@boardcave.com with your details for customized board recommendations.

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surfboard bottom contours darren and mick choosing boards jr surfboards selecting

Low Down on the Sweet Spot 2.0

by Tommy Barrels on July 23, 2015

Here it is folks, doesn’t get much better than the man himself, Darren Handley of DHD Surfboards giving you the low down on the Sweet Spot 2.0. Note how he points out the slightly fuller nose for ease of paddling and getting you into waves earlier, but adds a touch more rocker especially through the tail, combined with the double concave to create a super fast board that is highly responsive.

This model is a slight variation on the original Sweet Spot after spending more time testing it is waves all around the world. These adjustments make for a fantastic all-round one board quiver that can handle the majority of waves and conditions you will face day to day. They even beefed up the glass job slightly and added reinforcements over the fin boxes and around the rail at the tail to ensure your board will hold up to what ever beating you may give it.

Choosing the ideal construction

by Boardcave on July 20, 2015

Since we have had a look at the main differences between the most common constructions in surfboards today, Polyurethane/Polyester (PU/PE) and EPS/Epoxy, we can now take a look at the different construction methods widely available (in no particular order) and what they will do to your boards performance.

darren handley inspecting his shaping work
In the DHD Surfboards factory with shaper Darren Handley.

Patented Methods:

Future Flex

Future Flex, consisting of parabolic carbon reinforced rails, combined with a high density EPS blank and very high quality Epoxy Resin and quad-axial cloth. The blend of these materials translates into a very lively feeling board with lots of projection. The flex and spring back effect of the board gives you a ton of drive and speed.

This type of construction has a unique spring back due to the minimal twisting that can happen in other constructions, helping to store and release energy more efficiently. They have a slightly different feel than boards with a stringer under your feet, but once you get used to it, you learn to feel through the board better. The Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto is often ordered in this construction.


Hydroflex 3D Glassing is a specific method that virtually eliminates the chances of de-lamination of the skin (fiberglass and resin) from the core (foam). They have found a way to literally anchor the skin into the core instead of it just sitting and stick on top of it.

This has more affect than just eliminating delam, is also results in an extremely lively and responsive feel to your board.

Hydroflex boards use a high quality Epoxy resin which is stronger and more flexible and Polyester, and gives you a better spring back while being less prone to cracking or delamination. These boards keep their youthful exuberance much longer than most constructions.

Carbon Wrap Technology

Carbon Wrap Technology, exclusive to DMS and Lost boards in Australia (for now), is again a stringers blank with the strategic placement of carbon bands on and around the board.

By wrapping these carbon strips around certain areas of the board, you get a feeling of surfing a board with a lot of “pop”. Flaring the carbon out towards the rail and wrapping it around, allows the board to use it’s contortional twist and translate it to a superior flex giving you more drive when coming out of turns. That added drive with a unique flex patten out the tail gives you a next level feel to your surfing.

dms surfboards carbon wrap
Getting some air with a DMS Surfboards model in Carbon Wrap technology.

USC Construction

USC Construction, or “Ultra Stringerless Carbon” construction may be similar to other parabolic carbon boards, but really set’s itself apart by the unique blend of materials and placement of the carbon.

With USC, you are using a stringers blank, but a PU blank instead of EPS. The carbon is also laid around the perimeter, but more on the deck instead of wrapping under the rails.

The PU blank gives you that familiar feel we all know and love, while the parabolic carbon layout adds more speed, drive and flex. Combined with a unique “bio” Polyester resin, these boards lower their carbon footprint while giving you a board you can feel comfortable on as soon as you jump in it.


SUPERbrand Surfboards brings you their exclusive SUPERflex technology.

The use of a high quality stinger-less blank with a carbon netting along the bottom of the board and carbon reinforced rails. A unique feel in itself, the technology has a superior flex pattern with a quick release for your high performance surfing.

superflex on superbrand surfboards
The Superbrand, Superflex technology.

Varial Foam

The technology behind Varial Foam may be new to the Surf Industry, but it has been used in aerospace and automotive applications for quite some time now, from rocket ships to race cars.

This unique foam has a tighter cell structure and a consistent density throughout, and can be used with either polyester or epoxy resins. The strength of the foam actually requires no stinger or any other type of reinforcement other than glassing your boards as standard.

Maybe a small carbon strip for big wave guns to stiffen it up a bit. It is very lightweight with a great flex and springback unlike anything you have felt before. Now really starting to make it’s impact into our beloved industry, you can add this to you options between PU and EPS as your core.

album surfboards varial foam and hydroflex
An Album Surfboards model with hydrofelx construction and a varial foam blank making this little Symphony look real nice.

General Materials:

All the constructions above have patents on how they are constructed, not the individual materials themselves. With that said, there is still a lot of room for experimentation using and combining these materials.

Carbon Tape

Carbon tape can be used in many ways. Throw it down the center of a board either top, bottom or both, and help stiffen up a board that might be too flexible for it’s intended purpose, or just to simple add strength for a longer lasting board.

You commonly see strips of it on top of the rails at the tail to help prevent the deck from crushing when doing powerful bottom turns when pushing from your heels or toes. Or, like mentioned numerous times above, around the perimeter or wrapped around the board in specific ways to help control flex. The possibilities are endless.

Vector Net

Vector Net is a woven carbon fiber netting that resembles diamond shaped patters. A great way to help reinforce your board while keeping weight down. You can also use this to alter flex patters, or provide structure and longevity for heavy footed surfers.

eye symmetry magic fibre construction
A few Eye Symmetry board models that make use of Magic Fibre construction. Carbon strips underneath and a net on the deck.


Bamboo acts as a great alternative to carbon fiber. A great replacement when you are trying to create a more sustainable surfboard.

Usually found on Epoxy boards as a thin skin over the blank which can then be glassed over lightly. This also helps to reduce the amount of fiberglass and resin needed, again adding to the sustainability of your board while keeping performance levels up.


Cork is also a unique alternative usually in epoxy constructions. The cork can help to dampen the twitchy feeling you can have on an Epoxy board, and there is almost no need to wax.

Vacuum bagged to the deck of the board that has already been lightly glass, the cork remains exposed, giving you a unique feel under foot and in performance. Added bonus of no more wax on you car seat.

Stringer-less Blanks with No Reinforcement

Going stringer-less all together can result in a super fun board.

Going this route really allows your to feel the wave through the board, giving you more of a feeling of riding with the wave instead of surfing on the wave. Sometimes found with retro inspired Fish designs to help bend, flex and project you around on mushy days.

Using this method on Longboards gives you a totally unique flex pattern when surfing from different parts of the board like from the nose, the middle of the board or off the tail.


This is just a look at some of the materials that can be used in surfboard construction. We are not trying got favor one over the other, they all have such unique features that play out in different ways.

Most of these can be found on certain brands throughout Boardcave, but there are many more patented and patent pending designs floating around in the surf world that we have not even touched on. The idea behind this article is to just open your mind a little on what can be done with surfboard construction, and why some of these common materials can do for a surfboards performance.

Just like everything else surfboard related, there is an endless combination of designs, materials, constructions and methods that can be played with and have yet to be found still.

That’s what we love the most about surfboards, the best is yet to come and the possibilities are endless. Surfboards will always continue to evolve!

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chemistry surfboard being shaped darren and mick choosing boards jr surfboards selecting

Board talk with Al Emery

by Boardcave on July 16, 2015

emery surfboards shaper al emery

Board Talk with Al Emery

We had a chat with head-shaper Al Emery, of Emery Surfboards about what he likes about surfing, his brand, choosing surfboards and how he sees the industry developing in the next 10 years.

When and where did you get your shaping start?

My dad bought me a blank when I was about 18, I started shaping boards in my backyard around then.

Who were/are the shapers and surfers you looked up to?

I have always liked Al Merrick’s shapes because they are so extreme and I learnt a lot from local shapers in the area over the years.

I always loved Andy Irons surfing, Taj and pretty blown away this year by Felipe.

black angel deck and rocker and stump round deck and rocker
A couple of performers in the Emery range. On top, the deck and rocker of the Black Angel and below, the deck and rocker of the Stump Thumb.

What style of boards do you enjoy surfing?

I love surfing performance boards and fishes with speed and flow.

Have you had a change of direction in your own shaping at any point?

The core of my board designs has always been about high performance and fun and this is still my main focus.

harry bryant barreled
Harry Bryant getting through this nice little barrel.

For custom orders, why should customers choose different constructions eg. PU, EPS, Futureflex ?

PU’s are cheaper for a custom and it the fastest turn around in production time, EPS are lighter and more buoyant and Futureflex is a different flex to your normal stringer with a more even outer parabolic flex.

Do you think the standard PU construction, which has been around the longest, is still the best option?

Yes, it’s very easy to shape, sand and glass for consistency in replicating designs.

al emery checking a board
One final check of the forward outline.

What aspects of a board are most important to you? Is volume helpful in determining the right board for someone?

I think the foil of the board from nose to tail is what I most look at when shaping, making sure it’s flows nicely.

Volume is key and definitely helpful when moving from your normal shortboard to other models, it gets you close to what you want straight away.

emery stringer work
Some stringer attention on a nice looking Emery nose.

We hear your working on some new models, what’s your process for launching a new model? Can you shed some light on these new shapes and what we can look forward to?

We are always working on new projects and models with our team.

I’m constantly tweaking and designing new models with them when they return from comps and trips trying to improve performance on the normal shortboard and also creating super fun crafts.

Our aim is to release something fresh once a year. Yes we have two new models due to be released, ready for summer… stay tuned.

new emery surfboard
A new project in the works, coming soon for Emery Surfboards showing up on their instagram @emerysurfboards.

Where do you see surfing in the next 10 years? Will there be a push for new constructions, shapes, eco-friendly materials, etc?

EPS is fast growing with performance boards, a lot of surfers are riding them in contests and free surfing which see’s this type of construction growing and definitely moving forward with more eco-friendly materials.

At Emery we are always experimenting with new materials and glassing methods and it is one of my favorite things to do, my mind is always moving towards the next thing.

For more information and their full range of surfboards ready to be customized and order online, check out Emery Surfboards. Use the Board Engine to help find your volume.

Synthetic Sally

by Tommy Barrels on July 16, 2015

Here is a rad video of a super fun wave in Central America and a super fun board, the Synthetic Sally by Blake Peters at Panda Surfboards.

This is Ford Archbold’s signature model with Panda and by the looks of it, he is tearing the bag out of these waves. The board features a wide outline, old school beaked nose, with tons of volume. Combined with higher performance rails and a nice pulled in winged swallow tail, this blend of old and new make for a board that will suit most surfers and can be surfed in a lot of different types of waves and conditions.

We here at Boardcave have always been a huge fan of shorter, wider, full volume boards. The proof is in the pudding that this style of board works. Many brands offer similar elements in many of their models. Don’t be fooled that these hybrid style of boards are only good for smaller or mushy days…take the plunge and leave your traditional shorty at home the next time you local is firing. You will not be disappointed in the results, as it’ll allow you to look at waves in a new way and draw new lines that you can translate back to your shorty with ease.

Have a look at all the boards represented on Boardcave here, and narrow your search to “hybrid” to expand your mind and the possibilities of where surfing can take you.

Board talk with Matt Parker

by Boardcave on July 14, 2015

album surfboards shaper matt parker
In the shaping bay with Matt Parker. Photo: @asildaphotography.

Matt Parker, head shaper of Album Surfboards recently had a chat with Boardcave about where he got his start, his favorite waves to surf and of course, boards…

When and where did you start shaping?

I started shaping in my garage back in 2000/2001. Just hacking away at foam, figuring out tools and miraculously some of the first boards actually floated and worked a bit.

Which shapers or influences do you have that inspire you?

Surfing, all types of surfing is always the main inspiration. So being immersed in that, surfing everyday sparks that more than anything.

I’m inspired by shapers that have longevity – that have been around, are stoked, have innovated, adapted and are happy.

Delivering stoke to customers every week and hearing good feedback is really awesome – makes all the long hours worth it.

Do you have a favorite type of wave to surf? What board model do you think works best on it?

I love any good wave, but point breaks are probably my favorite because they allow you to do a number of turns, connect sections, find the speed line.

I can get a real sense for what a board is doing at a point.

Small days I love Simmons influenced stubbies like the Symphony or Supersede – if it’s decent any hybrid like a Polyphonic to a UTF to a full blown performance board like a Dischord works insane.

album surfboards matt parker picks
A few from the quiver Symphony, Polyphonic, UTF and the Dischord.

You have some pretty diverse boards in the range, is there a personal favorite amongst them?

I think every board or model we make has its day that it really shines.

The Ledge is probably my favorite to shape – and when you ride it you know the waves are good – so lots of good memories and vibes around that one.

Album Surfboards are known for detailed artwork across your range, where does the inspiration for the artwork come from?

My background is in art and design. I was a design major in school so I guess I see everything through that lens.

I get really bored with the same thing over and over again. I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over again until its played out. I really want the boards to be unique and stand out from everything else that’s out there.

I think psychologically the design and look of the board is super important. If it feels good and looks good its going to surf good.
Color is a big inspiration – in nature, art, etc.

matt parker feeling the rails
Matt checking the rails on an Album custom. Photo: @asildaphotography.

What gives you the best results when you’re shaping a board: sticking with tradition, experimentation, or is it a combination of both?

Depends on the objective we’re after for a particular board.

I think there are theories, approaches and design elements from the past that just flat out work so it’d be ignorant to ignore that. But I always have to be open minded to try anything. No rules. It’s surfing. I get a lot of joy from experimentation.

handcrafting a board outline
Working on the tail of a fresh board. Photo: @asildaphotography.

It looks like a lot of thought and attention go into every Album model, how do you decide when to release a new shape?

Thanks! The bottom line is basically if I wouldn’t surf it or it doesn’t work for me it’s not going to be a model.

Generally we’ll go through quite a few variations until it all feels right. There’s a lot of overlap with some of our shapes – and for good reason, the kind of surfing we do isn’t totally isolated.

I’m always going to want a board that has versatility – something that works more than just one day a year.

matt parker quote

What are the most important things to consider when buying one of your boards?

Really internalize and identify what you’re trying to do on a wave and with your surfing.

Are there areas you want to improve? Are you having fun? Why or why not?

If you can focus on what is going to make surfing the most fun for you – then you’ll always be satisfied and always have good sessions. To me that should be the goal. Make surfing more fun.

symphony with artwork
One of Album’s Symphony models all dressed up and ready in hydroflex construction and varial foam.

Any new developments in the works for Album? What’s the plan for the brand in the future?

It’s been a really busy last year!
We opened up a new showroom that’s open to the public in December. It’s been rad to have people come and see the boards and experience what we’re all about in person.

We also expanded to a larger factory so we can increase production and get everyone’s custom orders done quick. We always have some trips planned. Surf everyday there are waves.

Our plan for the year is to nail down a bunch of video content on the models, boards in action, etc so customers can get some more insight into the best board for them. Keep the stoke factor maxxed!

album surfboards headquarters
Plenty of boards on racks in the Album Surfboards showroom in San Clemente.

Check out Album Surfboards full range of boards and use the Board Engine to help find your volume.

Thanks to Asilda Photography for use of the images.

Chemistry Forever

by Tommy Barrels on July 14, 2015

For those of you who don’t know…now ya know! Chemistry Surfboards is a small team of top notch craftsman and surfers who “design, build, create” and surf high quality boards. With a tight stable of really talented team riders spread throughout the world, the models offered by Chemistry are rigorously tested in all conditions. From heaving hurricane barrels on the East Coast, slabbing reefs in the islands, the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest, to the everyday California conditions, Chemistry already more than likely has a model perfect for your needs, or they can certainly make one.

Go barrel hunting with boards like the Ether, Liquid Sword or the Compression when it gets really serious.
Take some trusty all-rounders on trips with you like the Boombastik or the Flash Point which are essentially one board quivers.
Or have summer time fun in the mush with models like The Experimental, the Zepplin and the Wide 6. Whatever you need, just remember the Chemistry is Forever!

Yay Bay!

by Tommy Barrels on July 10, 2015

Here is a little vid to keep you super stoked on J-Bay as the WSL seems to be battling more “down-time”, waiting for some solid swell to arrive. Ricardo Christie and Jay Davies enjoy the spoils of both J-Bay and touring South Africa, all set to a Pink Floyd power ballad that’ll get you pumped to go surf…and to watch the contest when it runs!

Enjoy and then go Surf!

PU or Epoxy: Which one is best?

by Boardcave on July 9, 2015

When ordering your next board, you are going to have to make a decision between going with standard PU/PE (polyurethane blank, polyester resin) or EPS/Epoxy (Expanded Polystyrene, otherwise known as styrofoam).

Since Clark Foam (leading PU blank manufacturer in it’s time) closed it’s doors in 2005, EPS had a jump forward as an option while board builders had to wait and test through the issues of new PU foam formulas from new blank manufacturers.

EPS had been used by some since around the 70’s or earlier, but it took this major blank disaster to get the majority of board builders start using the alternative.

working on a chemistry board
Working on the deck of a PU Chemistry Surfboards model.

This day in age, however, EPS foam blanks have become a regular option for most of the surfboard industries brands. The performance attributes, though slightly different than PU, are just as notable.

Now, even the top level elite surfers will sometimes prefer to use EPS/Epoxy boards over PU/PE for certain waves or conditions.

They are both great options, but for us regular surfers who can’t afford an endless quiver, we need to think about these differences and make an informed decision before ordering our next board.

PU/PE Boards

To start, let’s take a look at the standard construction of a Polyurethane blank with fiberglass and polyester resin or PU/PE.

This has long been the standard for most brands, and is the most widely and affordable options still out there. It was into the late 50’s that Hobie Alter began playing around with different PU formulas to make a blank that would be easier to shape and produce than using Balsa wood.

This became a turning point in surfboard manufacturing as the foam was much easier to shape and more constant to work with. The weight of boards dropped and the performance levels went through the roof.

Soon after that, Hobie had a full blown factory pumping out PU blanks and had appointed Gordon Clark to help with the endeavors. Eventually, Gordon would take over the blank manufacturing so Hobie could focus on building surfboards, and as a result, Hobie Surfboards had become the first full on mass surfboard manufacturer paving the path for the surf industry as we see it today.

asher pacey on pu twin fin by dhd surfboards
Asher Pacey easing into his bottom turn on his DHD Twin Fin in PU construction.

Now, PU/PE boards are a little more affordable than their EPS/Epoxy counterparts. They sit a little lower in the water, helping to keep your rail under, giving you a nice “knify” feel when slicing through the waves face.

They are a touch heavier than Epoxy boards so they do tend to handle choppy conditions better and are less prone to being bounced around. Also, as a result of them sitting lower in the water, they make great barrel machines in hollow waves as the rail will sit more in the water instead of on top of it.

They still have the best flex characteristics which we are constantly trying to mimic in EPS/Epoxy boards through different applications of reinforcements, etc, that we will touch on at a later time.

closeup of superflex
Close up of the Super Brand Superflex construction.

EPS Boards

You can’t go counting EPS out as an option though.

EPS is a standard option for many brands these days and for a number of good reasons. One of the most notable difference between EPS and PU is the weight.

EPS foam is much lighter than PU which makes for a great option for the surfers that love to take it to the air. They are easier to whip around quickly making them great in the air as well as on a wave that lets your perform quick snappy turns.

jack freestone getting air on dx1
Jack Freestone coming up for some air on his PU DX 1.

They seem to have a more buoyant feel to them, as if they sit a little more on top of the wave instead of in the wave. This can be beneficial as you can get up to planing speed faster, and it becomes easier to clear through flat sections on clean days. The combination of these factors has made them a great option for small wave boards.

The foam has a more consistent density throughout which allows your shaper to carve out his masterpiece a little more freely without having to worry so much about taking too much of the dense foam away, exposing softer foam under your foot, which can happen with PU blanks.

PU blanks become less dense the deeper you cut, so shapers do have to pay attention to how much they are going to take off especially from the deck. EPS, however, is a little harder to shape out clean compared to PU. The materials are also a little more expensive for the manufacturers which results in EPS/Epoxy boards costing a little more than your standard PU/PE.

Many retail shops you will find the same board model around $100+ more when EPS/Epoxy. Don’t let that scare you off though, that extra cost can very much be worth while.

Epoxy resin (the only resin that can be used on EPS foam) is a little stronger than Polyester. It is more flexible and can snap back into shape better than Polyester which is a little more brittle and can lead to cracking.

But you do need to wait longer before riding your board so the Epoxy can fully cure or else you will be looking at foot wells that form under your feet when surfing.

(Some surfers use this as an advantage, helping to keep their feet locked into the sweet spot)

tim stamps surfboards shaping bay
A demo fleet of Stamps Surfboards almost ready to go.

EPS for the Environmentally friendly

They are more environmentally sustainable than your standard PU/PE board.

Some more than others, but essentially EPS foam can be made from recycled material. Your next flatscreen T.V. will be packed with styrofoam which you can take to many drop off points and have that packaging sent to plants where they break down the styrofoam and repurpose it into massive foam blocks which can be cut into blanks that are just as good as “virgin” foam.

Epoxy resins take less energy to produce, and there are even brands that are finding alternatives to using petrochemicals as their base. Options like tree sap for example, reducing even further the carbon footprint of standard epoxy resin.

Combining recycled foam with tree sap based resin gives you a board that is much more environmentally friendly and just as durable as the status quo.

Environmental manufacturing

The manufacturing process for board builders involves less chemicals like acetone, etc. and they almost emit 0 VOC’s in the air compared to their highly toxic PU/PE cousins.

Overall, they are healthier to produce for the manufacturers as well, but with one disclaimer.

They must wear the proper protection as one of the hazards that Epoxy has is the ability for a person to become “sensitized” to some of the chemicals used in the hardener. Once this is in your system is it with you for life and you can have bad allergic reactions to it.

Polyester on the other hand can still make you sick, but with some time away from it you can get it out of your system. So it is highly important to take the proper precautions no matter what construction someone is working with.

But which one’s for you?

There are so many other factors that can be touched on but for our purpose here, we are trying to give you a better idea of which basic construction and attributes you may want out of your board.

This will be determined by what you are looking for in the characteristics of your board. Both options have strong advantages and really can’t be compared when put side by side as they perform so different.

It will just come down to what you prefer in the end.

superbrand fling model in eps and epoxy
A rack full of the SUPERbrand Fling model in both EPS and PU/PE constructions.

As most of us can’t afford a large quiver of boards, one really solid option you can consider is looking at having your board made with PU foam and Epoxy resin. This will give you the trusty feel and performance of your standard board, but with the added strength of epoxy resin instead of polyester.

On the other hand, Polyester resin works much better with colors and gloss coats, which can give your board the aesthetic charm that you may be after.

panda surfboards fried till you die with resin tint
The Panda Surfboards Fried Till You Die in PU construction with a nice resin tint.

Unfortunately, you can not glass an EPS board with Polyester resin as it will melt the foam, so your color work becomes limited except in the best hands, and this can increase the cost.

If you really just need a small wave ripper, the EPS/Epoxy works great as the buoyancy and it’s light weight make it a dream to catch smaller waves and make it a breeze to snap a lot of turns in a tight area. Essentially giving you a nice light whippy feel.

The most important thing

The end result really is to stay as stoked as possible.

Some people can afford the luxury of ordering many boards and can even have the same model in both constructions to have on hand for them to choose from. The Pro’s, for one, can easily make use of both but the average surfer needs to think a little more about what they want for an all round go to board.

album surfboards ledge model
An Album Surfboards Ledge model hanging out ready to go.

Our goal is to help inform you so you can make the right decision for your next custom surfboard and make sure you are as stoked as possible.

There is a lot more to go into with Surfboard Constructions and many brands that will use specific glassing techniques depending on what they intend a board to perform like.

From Hydroflex, Future Flex, Carbon Wrap, parabolic stringers, Carbon Vector Net or strips, and many more. Stay tuned to learn more about the different constructions available…

While you’re here check out some other articles on board design to learn more: