The basalt board project - Part 2

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Design Outline

In Part 1 of the basalt board project I described the qualities of the new basalt cloth, used in favour of fibreglass cloth, noting how it looks, how easy it is to work with, and also its cost. I’d just had a board made by Paterson Surfboards and at the end of Part 1 I promised I’d return “in a few weeks” with a ride report.

That was a few months ago - six to be exact.

There’s no reasonable excuse for the delay, and nor is it a way of side-stepping an inconvenient truth. Fact is, the board worked, as did the cloth it was laminated in. 

So, insufficient explanation out of the way, let’s move on…

The basalt-laminated board - two x 4oz on top, one x 4oz on the bottom, PU/PE - was an identical shape to my previous two boards, also made by Paterson Surfboards. This one came out of the glassing bay exactly the same weight as those wrapped in fibreglass cloth - basalt soaks up the same amount of polyester resin as fibreglass.

5'11" quad, PU foam, polyester resin, but basalt cloth, by Paterson Surfboards

So, same shape, same weight, if there were any changes in the material properties it’d be in the flex. Yet I wasn’t able to detect any change whatsoever, which leaves two options:

  • I’m not advanced enough to detect the difference, or,
  • There is no difference in flex between basalt and flibreglass.

Either way, for a surfer of my ability, which likely covers the majority of the market, the two materials perform the same. However, the story doesn’t end there; after six months of hard use I’ve found basalt to be stronger and less brittle than fibreglass.

Some anecdotes…

A month or so after getting my board, I pinched the rail while forcing down the split seats in my car. The result? A shallow, maybe 5mm deep by 2cm long, dent running through the curve of the rail. After the appropriate self-flagellation I peered closer and noticed that, despite the abrupt edges, the cloth and resin weren’t cracked.

In riding the board, I may not have been able to discern any difference, yet basalt has different flex characteristics than fibreglass or carbon - it won’t shatter like the former, and isn’t brittle like the latter. I made a mental note to drop some filler coat into the dent and sand it back, however before I did that - yeah, it took me a few weeks to get around to it - I looked again at the dent...and it wasn’t there anymore.

PU blanks expanding under heat isn’t unknown (I suspect mine was from leaving it in the back of a hot car), however because the laminate didn’t crack or shatter there was no mark left on the board; no evidence there was ever damage there.

The majority of my sessions on the basalt board were on a closeout beachie, which on a good day improves into a semi-closeout beachie. It’s the ideal place to both perfect your closeout floater and also to rain hell on an unsuspecting deck.

Yet after six months of heel-first freefalls the deck is in surprisingly good shape. Recently I stripped the wax off, spun it to the light, and could detect only a few impressions, and no cracks or shatters in the laminate.

The deck after six months of use

The last anecdote is from the recent cyclone swell and involved some early morning moonwalking across a slippery rock shelf. With my feet gone from under me I had a split second decision to make: crush my fingers, or move my fingers and crush my rail.

Self-preservation won out, I moved my fingers, the edge of the rail hit rock with my falling bodyweight above it. Yet the resulting damage was far less than expected: some cracks in the laminate, but no deformity in the rail. Nothing a dab of resin won’t fix - when I get around to it.

Over the last six months I’ve had occasional conversations with John Dowse from Sanded Australia, and the feedback from other shapers using basalt is not dissimilar to mine. Such as the Kiwi shaper who’s basalt boards are less damaged despite copping just as much punishment on the Raglan rocks, or the NSW East Coast shaper who creased a basalt board during a session but rode on, the skin of his board remaining intact despite the blank underneath deforming.

Rice paper graphics to explain your strange brown board

John’s been quietly impressed with the performance of basalt. “It’s proving to be the ideal mix of flexibility and impact strength for surfboards,” says John.

Though my board has a PU blank, John thinks a good application is EPS/epoxy. The basalt cloth won’t soak up as much epoxy resin, compared to polyester, and the flex/dampening characteristics will remove the chatter of EPS.

Alternatively, epoxy on PU can achieve a great strength-to-weight ratio as the PU blank won't absorb as much resin as an EPS blank will.

The options are still being tested, and not just by John and the backyarders he services. Recently he sold a commercial length of basalt cloth to an international label who'll release a model this coming American summer.

One of the drawbacks of basalt has been the colour. Lay down a single layer and it’s a shimmering shade of olive. Put two layers down and it’s a deep chestnut. Each option will dazzle in the light, but the earthtones make for a limited colour range and similar market acceptance.

To combat this, John, in collaboration with Colan Fibreglass, made a basalt and recycled PET weave. Because of it’s improved flex, the basalt runs vertically, and the PET, with it’s high impact strength, runs horizontally. Not only does the weave afford the best of both materials, it’s also lighter in colour than pure basalt.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been much interest in this weave with another manufacturer currently testing samples of it.

I still get asked what my board is laminated with, John gets asked the same questions ("Is it brown carbon?"), but between the as-yet unnamed big labels sniffing around, Firewire who’ve begun using basalt reinforcement, and Colan’s numerous basalt stringer and rail tapes, the brown stuff appears to have secured its place in the market.

Visit Sanded for more info


freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 5:09pm

good news.
sweet little update.

any clues as to the manufacturers who might be jumping on board, so to speak?

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 5:49pm

He's a resolute little man, is John Dowse. I asked him, repeatedly, who they were and he wouldn't succumb to bribery, flattery, or torture.

Gotta wait.


freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 6:04pm

I don't know about that Tulla tub top turn Stu, looks a little stiff.

did you ever send those gudams up this way?

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 6:57pm

Didn't work in the tub. Had to swap it out.

Did I get your address again? Can't recall...

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 7:11pm

Publicly critiquing someone’s surfing and then hitting them up for durries is a bold move.

Those slim filters will fit in virtually any orifice .

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 7:36pm

just a gesture of affection.

ringmaster's picture
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ringmaster Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 9:07pm

I saw a couple of pics of your top turns on the Tulla tub lefts FR.....

lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 5:20pm

I’ve had 2 boards - same shaper (renowned) shape (machine cut), same materials and construction, ie I ordered the same board again.

1st was magic, the re-order was a dog.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 7:51pm


lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 10:38pm

Nah, PU Epoxy.
I was just saying it to show that you can get the same board made let alone different materials and they can still be different.

bukz's picture
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bukz Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 3:49pm

Sometimes something is wrong with the blank

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 5:44pm

wow, why do you think that was?
any ideas?

lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 10:37pm

Maybe if I got the 2nd one first I wouldn’t rate it as poorly.
Surfboard 1 got beat up on the rocks pretty bad so I got another one. I eventually got #1 repaired and it still goes good.
It just makes me surf better, I seem to be able to do any turn I want and push really hard and the board cooperates.
Board 2 I seem to always catch rails and fall on turns. It goes ok I suppose but it’s worlds apart from the first.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 7:52pm

How quick does your wax melt @ Stunet ?

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 7:58pm

Not sure, but it's nothing that can't be skirted around.

Only once this summer did I leave the board on the beach, and I put a towel over it.

Last Decemeber I was at the hottest place on Earth and kept it in a board bag while on a scooter or travelling, and in the water...well, it was 30° but the paraffin wax stayed hard.

Haven't had any problems with melting wax.

Patrick0710's picture
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Patrick0710 Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 8:21pm

Forgive my ignorance but I’m guessing basalt is better for the environment and the health of shapers than fibreglass?

stunet's picture
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stunet Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 8:36pm


"Basalt cloth is similar to fibreglass in that they both rely on extractive industries, however as basalt is an igneous rock - formed from molten lava - it releases no greenhouse gases during the heating process. That smoke you see bellowing from volcanoes? Most of it is ash and steam but it also includes greenhouse gases released from molten rock. The absence of trapped gases in basalt make it inert and ideal to work with, while its volcanic origin makes basalt the most common rock on Earth."

"It also takes less energy to turn basalt into cloth as the material only has to be heated once. There are approximately half as many steps as fibreglass manufacture."

"Down at the factory level, basalt cloth, at least the small amount that’s been manufactured for surfboards, contains no additives like silicon or Volan."


Patrick0710's picture
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Patrick0710 Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 1:20pm

Thanks mate.

mowgli's picture
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mowgli Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 5:23pm

Probably a bit more to it than that (as tbb points at some below).

If GHGs are what you're looking at, one would need to compare the full set of emissions from the point of sourcing to the point where a box of the fabric is sent to a shaper. By that I mean, specifically for the basalt cloth, there are emissions from the explosives used to break the rock off from the seam. Then there is going to be emissions from any crushers (if applicable...I have no idea), then transport... that bit about "being heated once"... just curious if that does indeed correlate with less energy? Obviously heating something only once to 1000 degrees versus 3 times to only 200 degrees each does not give you less energy...

This is all assuming the energy source is the same when comparing a kilo of basalt cloth and a kilo of fibreglass cloth...and if it differs? grid electricity? depends on the State.. coking coal? depends where it came from... nat gas? same thing..

Not to be nit picky. But lots of enviro credentials seem to be getting thrown around the last few years regarding new materials, and I've struggled to find evidence of robust life cycle assessments to back them up..

smithyg's picture
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smithyg Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 9:00pm

To my knowledge basalt fibre was developed in Russia ( in the 90's) for high temp aerospace applications and as an alternative to carbon fibre. It requires a lot of heat to make it. It's a rock melted to form a fibre. I guess at best it's on a par with carbon and glass as far as energy requirements to manufacture. These fibres used in composite manufacturing (carbon, glass, aramid, basalt etc.) are not good to breath in and should be treated as hazardous.

taydj's picture
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taydj Thursday, 27 Feb 2020 at 9:58pm


truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 2:02pm

tbb researched the health effects...(Mostly all are New Studies)
What is of common concern is the 'Heated Basalt Dust'...
World knows that Volcanoes trigger evacuations due to air quality.

* Volcanic (Heated Basalt Ash) Is considered a long term risk.
* Constant Water Weathered Basalt leaches Heavy Metals.
* Italian Basalt Quarry (Dust Plumes) trigger monitors > (Masks!)
* Basalt (Crushed) Fertiliser is considered a risk to Inhale + wash hands.
* Basalt Combos ramp big concerns (eg: Basalt + Cement Mortar)

In regard to fibreglass...
Check Combo + Power Tool Sanding-(Heated mixed Dust- Not Good!)

Common handling of Basalt-
Basalt is often encased within Asbestos seams.
Washing of Raw Basalt & hands is recommended

As bad as it sounds it's still considered safer than others!
Caution: Basalt Safety studies are new & ongoing.
Consider Basalt trend within New Age of finer machining.
Now we grind & mix anything in a second...Who gives a shit!

(Real life drama)
Wise bloke once pulled up tbb back in my Plaster Dust era.
Never cared that he couldn't see tbb for Plaster dust cloud.
Plasterer's job to sweep 100 lazy cunt's mess as to dag the floor.
Accepted norm for trades to trash site as Plasterer will sweep it up.

'Mate!' He says! 'You are stirring up a Toxic Time Bomb!'
He adds! That shit is 100x more damaging to yer health than asbestos!
1000 dangerous chemicals snowballing around tbb...(Help me! Please!)

tbb is not clever, but never knew stupidity could be measured.
tbb was unleashing an unknown toxic cocktail cloud most days!

Qld humidity turns a mask into a wet sock in 1 protection!
Suck it up & swallow it down then chug down some milk to cough it up!

FF > Today...tbb can't muster enough muscles needed for a surf.

People! Take care when mixing up toxic dust clouds...It's Pure Evil...
No! That's right, you won't read of this outside of our chatroom.
Just think of the million more new toxic cocktails stirring everyday!

Basalt Fibres.(Considered less of a threat than the dust)

Oz Basalt fibre production & handling is not at all new!
1980's-2000 (tbb also installed Rockwool- Basalt fibre Batts)
Basalt Batts are used for Fire & Sound insulation
Long term safety data should apply to most Basalt Fibres

1987 Basalt Fibres (Class 2b) Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans
2001 BF Reclassification ( Class C ) Not Carcinogenic to Humans
Biosoluable "Fibres" & can clear the lungs but may irritate Skin & Eyes
Govt Recommend...coveralls, Masks & Gloves & no onlookers

tbb says working with Basalt Fibre Batts was better than Glass Batts.
If anything odd was the excessive loose gritty particle trail left behind.
Pretty much the work area left a considerable grit deposit.
Recall getting less fibres spiking my skin but more grit in my hair.
So fibres are not an issue but the Dust / Granules are of a concern.
From tbb's experience & studies (Basalt dust is of growing concern!)

brucebruce's picture
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brucebruce Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 8:24am

Slightly off topic but I have a tripod made of Basalt. It's lightweight and stable, I got it 12 years ago and it looks absolutely brand new. Pretty sure it will last me for life.

mugofsunshine's picture
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mugofsunshine Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:05am

Out of interest Stu, was your board hand shaped start to finish or machined and finished? Taking nothing away from the cloth (I've wrapped four boards in it now and have had nothing but positive noise back about lack of heel dents and durability), hand shaped blanks get most of the foam taken from the bottom. I try to just skim the skin off on the deck which leaves the most dense foam at the surface. The vast majority of machine shaped boards take the foam equally top and bottom exposing softer foam (I have heard that a good operator can place the blank to limit this and that this is very much overlooked). It seems to have become an accepted issue. Skim Gumtree second hand boards and most ads invariably contain "..usual heel dents".

If ever there was a case for tougher cloths on the deck surely the big boys could use this as a selling point or have they just got lazy? Cost doesn't factor in so I guess as we stand it's purely cosmetic?

stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:18am

It was machine shaped at Glass Hut in Wollongong and hand finished by Pato. Really not sure about where the majority of foam came off, top or bottom. That said, the previous boards were also cut at Glass Hut and you'd assume from the same part of the blank, and they've both got more heel damage.

It ain't strictly apples vs apples but about as close as you can get in surfboard manufacturing.

John is getting (has got?) all the new materials independently tested so we'll soon be able to skip the anecdotes and have some solid results to refer to.

As for your last point:

As you know cost isn't an issue, basalt is right in the ballpark, so if anything is holding it back it's only aesthetics. However, I remember when Salomon, Surftech et al brought out molded stringerless boards around the turn of the century and many people were put off by the lack of stringer.

Surftech began putting fake stringers in, just painted black lines, until the market adjusted to the new aesthetic. Now stringerless boards are accepted as part of the surfing landscape.

A similar change could also happen with basalt cloth.

mugofsunshine's picture
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mugofsunshine Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:31am

Let's hope so.
A short stubby board I made for my buddy in Maroubra was cut out of an old mal blank and has a basalt deck. He's very stiff legged and he's yet to see any significant denting after 6months. I'm sure the tests will confirm the anecdotes.
For those on Instagram


for more.

dangerouskook2000's picture
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dangerouskook2000 Saturday, 29 Feb 2020 at 7:20pm

The guys that cut the blanks on machines set it up to cut the foam from the bottom. Trying to leave as much of the higher density part on the deck

savanova's picture
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savanova Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:05am

Why cant you spray a colour before the gloss coat?

mugofsunshine's picture
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mugofsunshine Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:18am

You can, but I would suspect this would compromise the bond between the resin. Better to spray after sanding and apply a clear coat. You can also tint the hot coat white and get that 'patchy' carbon look like you see on SUP's and windsurfers.

Pops's picture
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Pops Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:24am

That board really is a work of art (to my eyes anyway). Glad to hear it works!
What was the damage to the back pocket?

stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:32am

DCL, romanis numeros

mugofsunshine's picture
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mugofsunshine Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:39am

Steal :)

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:45am

non etiam malum!
ipso facto, perbonus!

That mates rates, or would the average punter pay the same?
Think I'll have too add one to the wish list...

stunet's picture
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stunet Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:55am


That's how many years I've ridden Pato's boards, so....

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 10:10am

Fair enough... I'll add a couple more C's.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 9:27am

Composites World have some Basalt info
And some other good articles by putting surfboards into there search function

Switchfoot bob's picture
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Switchfoot bob Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 1:55pm

You know what shits me!!!!!!

There are boards in the past that have been strong AZ. Almost unbreakable.

Tufflite! gone too strong no money in a board that lasts.

FireWire fst! Gone! too strong!

It really does get my goat.

Those boards are light too.
Too light though no good in wind.
But strong.

Truth is u make a board that lasts n the money is not coming in.

It's a shame.

Just saying.

All for environmentally better boards though.

ojackojacko's picture
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ojackojacko Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 4:29pm

they look fine to me - will definitely look into getting basalt next board

jwaddell's picture
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jwaddell Friday, 28 Feb 2020 at 4:33pm

I've got an Amous design (Ballina NSW) 6'2" 'Jak n the Box, and the deck is in basalt cloth. I love the feeling of the board and feels more like an epoxy then a PU in my mind. I love the sic look of it as well. I decided to try it after reading your first article. If your thinking of trying it, I think you would have nothing to lose.

Switchfoot bob's picture
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Switchfoot bob Saturday, 29 Feb 2020 at 12:13am

Also timber tek don't break but light and cracks length ways down grain n bloats but don't break! Tried n tested. We will see how a lib Tech holds over a western Australian year.

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf Saturday, 29 Feb 2020 at 1:25pm

Stu did you specify the glass weight in the last instalment?

stunet's picture
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stunet Saturday, 29 Feb 2020 at 1:58pm

Not sure, but it's 4oz. That's all it comes in for now.

SI's picture
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SI Saturday, 29 Feb 2020 at 5:48pm

Asbestos? Who considers working with asbestos safe? This is an issue that needs to be considered carefully. There are many men resting in many asbestos graves.

slowman's picture
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slowman Tuesday, 3 Mar 2020 at 8:25pm

I have now got 3 boards in Lib Tech which is a magnesium basalt carbon construction. I don't know how they blend it but the colour is light enough. See for details.

As for feel, it feels pretty good and the flex seems like firewire's FST (balsa rails).
I have a 5'10 Lost PJHP, a 6'0 Lost Short Round and 2 6'0 Lost Quiver Killers. They're tough my head is like concrete and one of my quiver killers flew back and the rail smacked me right on the scone on a cold strong offshore morning. I reckon any other board the rail would have been smashed and torn open. There was only a slight hairline fracture on the rail. On the scone there was a golf ball!

BTW, I have snapped a firewire FST. Maybe this one was faulty as I know another dude who snapped his Jacknife too and their serial numbers were close, so maybe they just a temporary QA issue in their factory in Thailand.

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups Tuesday, 3 Mar 2020 at 8:09pm

Just an aside, has anyone ever actually Scientifically tested the “pu blanks are less dense in the middle” theory, or is it just based on anecdotal evidence?

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Wednesday, 4 Mar 2020 at 7:39am

Definitely harder close to the surface. Easily verified next time you cut the nose/tail off a blank.

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups Wednesday, 4 Mar 2020 at 11:12am

I've done that plenty and the surface doesn't look any different to the centre to me. I'm not saying it's not probable that blanks are denser in the middle, I'm just saying that as far as I know, in scientific terms, it's currently unproven.
History is full persistent and strongly held opinions based on anecdotes that have been subsequently disproven by science. Maybe we could conduct an experiment. We would probably need:
a) A method of extracting samples from a blank of a consistent size.
b) A very accurate set of scales.
c) A lot of different blanks to sample from.

lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy Thursday, 5 Mar 2020 at 10:19pm

Try pushing the centre foam vs the outside.
It dents much easier

Shane Luke's picture
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Shane Luke Thursday, 5 Mar 2020 at 8:57pm

I glassed myself a board with basalt. Incredibly it has no noticeable deck bumps after 6 plus months now, the board has a real lively spring to it. one of my all time favourites for sure. I used local made 95% recycled content medium density EPS foam, hand shaped. bio epoxy resins, basalt fibre and sx glass. bloody bullet proof and super light. if you want to find out more about my boards please check em out on insta and fb. Rocket Ace eco-surfboards.

rusty-moran's picture
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rusty-moran Friday, 6 Mar 2020 at 9:38am

Board won’t ding.
But if it does, it fixes itself!

sanded's picture
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sanded Friday, 6 Mar 2020 at 5:42pm

Thanks Swellnet for shining a light on all these new materials and giving feedback on Stus first hand experience! We are getting a lot of interest in these products and working out different weaves and mixes. We have a few other exciting options and another new material coming out in the near future! Its so good that we as manufacturers can do this in Australia and keep surf industry jobs here in oz.
Thanks Again Swellnet for giving the public a sneak peak into what happening in the surf composites world!

batfink's picture
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batfink Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 8:27am

So glad that an Australian company is making cloth. So much has gone overseas it’s hard to find something made here. Gets an upvote from me.

And nice work on these articles Stu.