Varuna: From Seed To Surfboard

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
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After a year or two of quiet preparation, Varuna Surf recently launched their first store in Bali and are this weekend following it up with a Byron Bay store opening.

Makers of balsa surfboards, Varuna have combined the artisanal side of manufacturing with production models. Dissect one of their boards and you'll see a chambered balsa board. The type of construction that incorporates carpentry more than sculpting - in fact there's no foam used at all.

Though trading in the handicrafts, Varuna use the biz model employed by the high volume Asian factories: licensed shapers, stock models.

And Varuna is another Asian manufacturing company - the difference being the product is also grown there. To date, they've licensed shapes from Maurice Cole, Stuart D'Arcy, Chili, Beau Young, Joel Fitzgerald, and Renaud Cardinal.

Varuna make claims about the environmental benefits of their boards, so it follows that they'll be held to a higher degree of scrutiny than others.

Stay tuned for a longer story in the new year.

Details about the Byron launch below, including a new film from Maurice Cole.

Comments

gromfull's picture
gromfull's picture
gromfull Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 10:45am

oh how cool, more hypster product to buy, and an influencers night of nights, im off to the hairdressers to get my man bun done for the night

Gowsa's picture
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Gowsa Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:52am

Oh how I yearn for the days when I could grow a Man Bun.
There's not enough RoGaine in the world that could get me back to those Glory Days.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 10:47am

Fuck mate, we get it, you don't like young people. Can you just go outside and yell at clouds rather than post the same stuff in every comment thread?

back beach's picture
back beach's picture
back beach Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 10:58am

Hey Stu thanks for the comment. I really enjoy SN journalism and content but the knockers and there petty gripes are palpable. I guess it's in line with the elevated level of whinging our first world society has engendered along the way especially with social media. I'll pull up on the rant but will add some folks have good things to say amongst the white noise

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 3:24pm

Before reading your comment, was thinking these guys must have issues with hair styles and saving the planet, noting the 1st and 2nd placed comment award winners

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 10:50am

Slick clip, 40hrs per board is pretty good I would think.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 10:56am

They feel good under arm- shapes look good.
Interesting to see balsa, one of the original materials come back into the market.

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:04am

Timber in boards is always a novelty as there are better materials (says he who makes paulownia over eps) having said that all the guys that bought Bert Burgers boards (balsa over low density eps) here when he was a local still have them with fond memories.

And yes FR shapes look good nice rails.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:18am

Great designer shapers involved so...

Alex Papas's picture
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Alex Papas Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:36am

a few years ago i shaped (and by "i shaped" i mean was babysat through the process by Mark Riley) a balsa log with a foam core. opted for the foam core because he said chambered, while generally better for a lot of reasons, would make it prohibitively heavy for one person to carry long distances. the board goes really well and there's not a ding in it all these years later, but i wonder how heavy and stiff these boards might be versus my foam core? i'd be heaps interested to try one anyway

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 12:01pm

Mark's a champ, hey?

I recently had a chat with Rob Cribb, who's the GM of Varuna. There are many things they have to work around to construct a surfboard that looks and feels like the boards we know. Flex is one thing, buoyancy another, and weight too.

Currently they're making a lot of twins and 2+1 models as each fin box adds a bit of weight. Though it sounds like something they're confident of solving.

Also, shorter boards present a bit more of an issue in regards to comparable weight. As the boards get longer there is, according to Rob, not much difference.

I get the sense that the market they're currently pitching towards won't be as hung up on weight as, say, the high performance crowd.

At any rate, we'll have a longer story soon that includes ride tests.

nolocal's picture
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nolocal Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 2:51pm

maybe they need top pump those chambers full of helium....

Those balsa boards look sik.

soz_punter's picture
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soz_punter Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:51am

Is there any difference in buoyancy compared to a PU board? For example I have a 47lt PU board, how different would a 44lt Varuna board be?

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 3:19pm

3 litres different, makes no difference if it's beer or milk

soz_punter's picture
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soz_punter Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 5:46pm

I get that it's a measure of volume, but a litre of concrete is a lot heavier than a litre of water. It's been mentioned elsewhere that between PU and Epoxy, one can feel more "corky", so I was wondering if there was any buoyancy deficit or surplus between this construction technology and PU.

batfink's picture
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batfink Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 9:34am

Cheers soz. You’re right, volume is water displacement, or buoyancy, less the weight of the board, so if it’s heavier it will be less buoyant.

47 litres of a heavier board might be equivalent to 44 litres of a lighter board.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 11:59am

Well done Varuna crew, you've put it all together!

Would like to know more about the better glues, and if any of the green epoxy resins are better in terms of ingredients (probably yes) and on the body to use (again probably yes with lower VOCs but still some chemical concerns so PPE required)

jezza64's picture
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jezza64 Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 4:01pm

These boards look awesome but I wonder about durability with chambered boards. I’m a bit of a kook and all my boards have deck impressions from my right knee when my “pop up” doesn’t quite go right.
Looks like they filmed at my favourite Balinese wave….. not a secret spot by any means but still reasonably low key.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 5:33pm

Varuna surfboards are not chambered.
Here is what the chambering method looks like.

The proper way to make a hollow wooden surfboard is to reinforce areas under the deck skin where your feet land and your knees bump.
Firstly a deck skin made from paulownia is way stronger than balsa.
Paulownia deck, balsa rails and bottom is a better combination in my opinion, if you are obsessed with lightness..
Here is the support layout for a HWS I made and oiled using orange tung oil.

This is the left side of the ply centre stringer/spine
3'' out from spine 10mm by 10mm paulownia piece notched into ribs to handle feet impact.
3'' further out same to handle knee impact.
Rib spacings 6'' apart with intermediate ribs (green tape) for extra strength.
This board has held up really well.

jezza64's picture
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jezza64 Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 9:15pm

Thanks Philosurfizing that information is very interesting:)

bigtreeman's picture
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bigtreeman Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 at 7:25pm

Too true Philo, not chambered and they failed to show the glassing phase of construction.
I did a stringerless hollow board just like that. There was a problem with it, can't remember now, but never made another.
Don't want water ingress with a balsa board, balsa soaks up water like a sponge

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 at 8:05pm

Varuna Repair

?si=oRWpzpmcbsWGAzfE

philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 at 8:43pm

@ bigtreeman wrote
Don't want water ingress with a balsa board, balsa soaks up water like a sponge.

Yep, the trick is to seal the inside, I seal inside of all my boards with marine varnish.
My brother seals the inside with watered down titebond 3 glue.

I first saw the stringerless method on the Trea to Sea wooden surfboard builders forum.
An American guy called Huck came up with a rails first method (no centre spine), if I remember
correctly he called it the "Bahram rails method" he is still around on Swaylocks, great craftsman and surfboard making information sharer.

It seems as though not having a centre stringer/spine is creating a positive type of flex in these Varuna boards, like EPS foam boards with a paulownia parabolic rail, but with a slightly different flex pattern due to the cross ribs.
It looks like they are using ply for the cross ribs which is stronger than using paulownia, the ply would handle torsional and longitudinal flex better.

bigtreeman's picture
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bigtreeman Wednesday, 13 Dec 2023 at 9:55am

Try vacuum bagging, I stick 3mm ply outside 9mm end-grain balsa with a very small amount of epoxy+diluent which infuses right through the balsa. Makes the balsa hard as a rock and waterproof. I've gone to sustainably sourced ply and end grain because it is the least wasteful way to use wood, now cut out with a laser. Do you have to glass your boards ?

philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Wednesday, 13 Dec 2023 at 1:25pm

Haven't tried vacuum bagging but will try it some day, scored a fridge compressor from the tip a few weeks back.
Re glassing and sealing, have experimented with several methods, varnished my first two chambered boards, epoxied a chambered McCoy nugget design with 4 ounce on deck and 2 ounce on bottom, then a balsa, red cedar and paulownia mal with 4 ounce top and bottom, a mid length that was just oiled using orange tung oil, penetrates really well into paulownia, and the last 3 boards have just been sealed with Kinetix epoxy (no fibreglass) simply because I had the epoxy and did not want to waste it.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 4:14pm

Good Stuff Varuna...
But - The Facility where our Boards are Produced meets the Highest Standards of Safety
Then at 3:33 you show No Eye / Face Protection and No Dust Mask being Worn while using Band Saw...

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 9:38am

A bit picky there Udo. It’s being done in open air, so not sure a dust mask is necessary there. Not sure that balsa would splinter at all so eye protection might also be a furphy.

The sander guy was wearing full mask etc. Not having a go, just a thought. ;-)

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 9:55am

Try and do that way in Australia...

samerubi's picture
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samerubi Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 7:57pm

hi Stu, interested to hear about the performance of this construction of board in typically australian conditions. i am imagining that they are quite stiff in terms of flex. not so much of an issue for short squat fish designs but may not translate as well for typical shortboard dimensions. step-ups again a different kettle of fish. imho i would like to see this build gain greater acceptance because it is a step away from traditional and expendable construction. imagine a board that lasts and works good for ten plus years.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 8 Dec 2023 at 8:13pm

“6'4 Maurice Cole Twin Pin: I rode this 6’4 in pretty solid 6 foot surf and for me to ride a 6’4 in waves that big is a bit of a gamble because it’s a pretty small board for me to ride and especially a twin fin. Surprisingly enough the board held in really well and it felt really drivey and springy. One of the other key things I did find about the board, and I don’t think I would have gotten this out of the PU, was this certain sort of energy that the board has in different parts of the wave. It’s hard to explain, it’s like the board springs or thrusts through certain stages where I’ve never felt that in other boards before.”

Brenden ‘Margo’ Margieson

Shaun Hanson's picture
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Shaun Hanson Saturday, 9 Dec 2023 at 9:01am

Great board selection to suit surfers who want easy to surf versatile performance type boards instead of racks of lightly glassed 5.10 s ....Best of luck to Varuna and great to see some one having a fair dinkum crack at something different...
Best of luck to Damo and the varuna crew ..
Hope the market embraces it

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Saturday, 9 Dec 2023 at 10:54am

It says in the vid that they only make a 100 of each model....so whats that mean.......?

jsc's picture
jsc's picture
jsc Saturday, 9 Dec 2023 at 7:00pm

Impressive presentation - no idea how long the glued portions will stay glued, but appreciative that some people want to move beyond polyurethane foam, fibreglass cloth and polyester resin to make performance surfboards out of more sustainable materials, rather than the same petroleum-based materials that have been around since skis and tennis rackets were made of wood -

philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 12:21pm

Jsc
There is no issue with the glue.
I use Titebond 3 and have experimented with trying to break a glue join and the paulownia wood splits first.
The first wooden board I built is now 14 years old and there is no sign of any of the joints failing, this board is chambered paulownia sealed with several coats of marine varnish.
My grandfather was a cabinet maker and the first thing he would do when arriving at work was turn on the heaters for the glue pots, these glues dried and cracked over time and were way inferior to modern glues like Titebond which have a variety of drying/setting times.

This board was inspired by an article in Smorgasboarder magazine about Paul Joske showing how he built a chambered surfboard.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 9:43am

I’m a sucker for wooden boards, or wood laminates. They just look and feel so good. Have owned a few.

Had a Bert Burger board, a wave hog model, rounded nose, but the flip in the nose meant that it pushed water while paddling. Not such a wave hog, unfortunately. Strange that such a design flaw wasn’t picked up by an experienced shaper such as he is.

Hadn’t really encountered the ‘pushing water’ phenomenon before that, being a regular short board kind of guy. I know about it now.

But I do love the look of those boards

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 10:16am

Picked up these two Varuna's (6'10" Cosmic Twin and a 5'8" Spacehawk - both Joel Fitz shapes) for the purposes of testing as thoroughly as I can.

Anyone got any questions, I'll do my best to answer as comprehensively and objectively as possible.

Rode the 6'10" this morning in junky 3 occ. 4ft beachies.
Deffo sits a bit lower in the water on the paddle and seems to have a really nice momentum into the wave.
I had a ball.

Really nice looking boards and feel great under the arm- slightly more weight than a pu/pe.
Will weigh up and get actual numbers.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 10:43am

Hi Fr, ive got a couple questions.......what are the dims on the 6-10 and how are the rails and rocker and is it a spiral vee ?

jsc's picture
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jsc Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 11:21am

Are there issues with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light?

We all know polyester and epoxy resins are affected by UV rays, will be interesting to see how these boards react or if they react at all.

tip-top1's picture
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tip-top1 Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 at 8:38pm

that cosmic twin looks like it would go great

purny's picture
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purny Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 10:26am

"Seed to Surfboard".....sounds familiar, reminds me of Paul Joske.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
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philosurphizing... Sunday, 10 Dec 2023 at 12:32pm

Here is a pic I took of one of Paul Joskes boards at the 2011 Currumbin wooden surfboard day.
Not sure what the timbers are, middle bit agave maybe ?

udo's picture
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udo Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 at 6:22pm

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