A visit to the Surf Flex Lab

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

“I don’t like subjectivity,” says the professor while adjusting the sensor. “I need to know, objectively, why things happen.”

The sentence is delivered as a matter of fact; he’s just making conversation, it precedes a short anecdote about a recent retail experience, but it may well be the professor's mission statement. We’re standing in his laboratory surrounded by computers, machines, and tools, all of them tasked to explain how the world works without recourse to human experience.

The professor is Marc in het Panhuis, a Professor of Materials Science who’s authored 170 scientific papers across numerous disciplines, and who’s now directing his formidable intellect towards the mysteries of surfboard design.

When I first met Marc he’d recently coupled his love of surfing with 3D printing technology by running a blind experiment on fin design at Macaronis. It was an Indo trip with a difference for the six willing guinea pigs who surfed all day, but did so while wired up with GPS units, all riding similar boards, and ordered to avoid the barrel.

The result of that experiment validated the scientific approach with most surfers agreeing that an unconventional ‘crinkle cut’ fin performed best, while also indicating the result would have been different if they knew what they were riding. Subjectivity could have skewed the outcome.

Designed by computational modelling, the crinkle cut fin was the surprising winner of a blind test at Macaronis (Photo Paul Jones)

That was just over a year ago. Shortly afterwards, Marc began focussing on flex in surfboards. It’s the last great unknown in board design, and the mystery only grows with each new material hitting the market. Flex has become a buzzword in the industry, promoted as a desirable quality, yet because it can’t be quantified there’s no way to question the claims. 

Such a scenario is ripe for cynicism, yet any surfer who can link a bottom and top turn can tell the difference between a Tuflite surfboard and standard PU/PE construction. For intermediate surfers, flex is appreciated most in its absence. Yet at this stage it’s still a matter of feeling, a matter of subjective response, and I've already told you how Marc feels about that.

Embarking on a new adventure, Marc created tools for the job, beginning with a stout hunk of metal called The Flex Machine that he showed me during that first visit. At the time he was devising a series of tests to run on it. 

Flex, however, is a mercurial beast, it not only changes between boards, it changes within a board, and we don’t even have an agreement for what is good flex or bad. I left that visit wondering where his efforts might lead.

Equally, I wondered who would adopt it. Bill Finnegan said “all surfers are oceanographers”, but when it comes to boards, surfers are less than scientific. To date, persuasive marketing has been enough to convince us of the merits of various technologies. Does the science really matter?

It says something about Marc’s confidence that he shared none of my misgivings. Like me, he couldn’t see the outcome to his project, but he committed himself to it anyway. Scientists may wonder at the mysteries of the world, but I wonder at their capacity to solve those mysteries.

Since that earlier visit, Marc has formalised and expanded his operation at the University of Wollongong. Now called the the Surf Flex Lab, it’s a dedicated facility for mechanical testing of surfboards and its constituent parts: fins, blanks, laminates, and inlays. I took up an offer to visit the new facility, and even dragged a few boards along at Marc’s insistence.

Like dissecting mice, Professor Marc pulls boards apart to find out how they work. In this test a fin deflects a 3kg weight falling at 11km/h. The result? No damage to the fin, but damage to the glassing around the fin box.

I apologised to the receptionist for carting a four board bag across the tiled foyer of the Australian Institute of Innovative Materials. She gave a knowing smile; clearly many boards have already crossed the threshold.

Marc enthusiastically greeted me at the front desk. Both of us had welcomed the day amongst a clean, early spring swell, albeit at opposite ends of the Illawarra - he at Jones Beach, me at Thirroul. We exchanged notes, as is the habit, before Marc filled me in on the research while we walked to his office.

“After we set up last year we got lots of interest,” said Marc. “Lots of businesses made contact with me: board labels, fin companies, blank companies.”

“That wasn’t such a great surprise. But I tell you what,” said Marc turning to face me, eyes widening, “the thing that did take me by surprise was what they asked for: every company wanted to test something different.”

The broad scope of analysis meant Marc couldn’t easily replicate experiments. Each one referred only to itself. The breadth of inquiry revealed how little anyone knows about flex - even the people making the equipment. We’re all getting in on the ground floor.

When I ask for specifics about the experiments, Marc apologises profusely. He wants to be a good host, show me his equipment and how it’s being used, but prudence is required as he’s signed Non Disclosure Agreements. Gag orders. Lots of them.

“I’ve signed an NDA for almost every company I’m working with,” he explains. “Sometimes they won’t even tell me what they’re working on until I’ve signed it.”

Despite this, Marc describes how a typical experiment might work. For example, a company sends him ‘Exhibit A’ to thoroughly test, which becomes the baseline, before he tests ‘Exhibit A plus technology’ and compares the results of the two. All things being equal, and Marc is diligent enough to make sure it is, then the difference is due to the technology.

That’s a simple explanation, there are myriad variations on the experiment, but none can be specified just yet. Despite the brief account two points become instantly clear to me. The first is that progress can be made even without a universal form of measurement. As long as a baseline is found then apples can be compared to apples.

Marc is undertaking what’s called pure research. He’s not working towards a known result, rather he’s explaining the unknown, and the success will largely depend on how other people use his findings. However, at one point through the afternoon he muses on a future where surfboard flex is quantified, just as length, width, and volume are now.

If that were to happen then all boards could be compared to each other, not just those from the same manufacturer.

The second point is that, owing to the amount of work Marc is doing, the surf companies really do care about advancing their equipment. For a cynic like me that’s heartening news. They’ve approached Marc because he can validate their claims. The flipside is that nothing in the field has been validated, and it’s worth spending a moment pondering that thought too.

In Marc’s office I unpack a shortboard laminated in basalt cloth, a Stretch gun with deck channels, a Free Flight edge design and a Free Flight ten channel gun. I chose each for the variation from the norm. Basalt because it’s a new material and the others because of their transverse surfaces - edges and channels - that stiffen the structure.

Marc picks up the ten channel gun. I explain to him how in 1975 Mike Davis dropped channels into his board to handle the drop at the Boneyard, a reef at the other end of Jones Beach, and pioneered channel bottoms. Between local history and those deep serrated edges, so unlike the thousands of other boards he’s already tested, the decision is made - the ten channel it is.

Part of the expansion of Marc’s lab includes hiring fellow Jones Beach local Brett Connellan to help test boards. Brett isn’t here today so it’s just the two of us in the lab, which looks just as you'd expect with white walls, polished metal desks for computers and electronic tools, and warning signs a’plenty. We don the safety goggles and walk in.

The Surf Flex Lab is a torture chamber for surfboards as Marc, pictured at right, and Brett Connellan dissect donated boards, all in the name of science.

Running experiments for clients is only one of Marc’s duties here. He’s also disassembling (read: destroying) boards in creative ways to measure their various qualities, while at the same time he's assembling a vast database of information from the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of boards he’s tested. He’s tested that many boards he knows what construction has been used just by tapping the glass with his fingers.

“The three main tests,” explains Marc, “are for torsion, which is the twist of the board, dampening, which is the longitudinal flex of the board, and ‘fingerprinting’.” The last one requires further explanation and we’ll get to that shortly.

The first two tests are run in The Flex Machine, and while he’s showing me how it operates, Marc points out a hydraulic unit that can be set to run for extended periods to test boards for durability. Do boards lose their flex over time? And if they do, by how much? Watch this space...

Dave Porter of Treehouse Surfboards testing an EPS/cork/balsa composite. Said Marc afterwards: "The board exhibited torsional flex similar to the PU surfboards that we've tested."

It’s the ‘fingerprinting’ test where Marc gets granular. Using a hammer, the kind you can’t buy in Bunnings, that’s wired to a finely-calibrated sensor he can detect structural differences in two boards made on the same day, of the same shape, in the same material. Sometimes he’ll mark a grid and tap away, or sometimes just tap a point on the stringer, but each tap registers like a heartbeat on the monitor to our left, informing Marc of the structural properties.

Unlike The Flex Machine, the hammer and sensor pack away into a box the size of a camera case, meaning Marc can take his testing on the road. Which he did recently, spending time in Hawaii with local David Shormann tapping the quivers of pro boards to build the database.

While there he met Aaron Gold who allowed his boards to be tested for damping and to be fingerprinted. Marc shows me the dampening reading - i.e how longitudinally stiff - Aaron’s 10’6” Jaws gun is compared to that of a standard 6’3” by Dylan Perese. Where the latter has a healthy amount of movement, the line almost reaching the limits of the graph, the line on Aaron’s graph barely moves at all.

“And Aaron told me that’s still not enough damping (stiffness),” says Marc. “He wants his boards to dampen even more.”  And big surf being as rare as it is, Gold is willing to test his boards before riding them at XXXL Jaws. It's the one instance when good flex equals no flex.

(L) Aaron Gold and David Shormann, at right, stringing up Aaron's 10'6" to be tested. (R) The result of the test compared against a 6'3" Performa by DP Surfboards.

For the hammer and sensor to work the board being tested has to hang freely from a rig. With extra caution Marc helps me slip a leggy string through the plug and over a hook that then ascends to the top of the frame. My single fin ten channel hangs there like a museum piece. Marc then attaches double-sided tape to the bottom and sticks the sensor onto it. We're ready to go.

When he's testing for clients, or when he's been donated a board, Marc will tap the board in a grid pattern which provides a more thorough understanding of the board's properties. However, that method leaves a lattice of hammer impressions on the board. Seeing the consternation on my face he quickly pipes up. "Though I can still test boards by tapping on the stringer, which leaves no marks on the board."

Marc measures out the point of impact and then gives a short tap like he's testing the patellar reflex. The board hums and the monitor to my left flashes on with four different graphs, each measuring something about the board. "It's not unlike measuring resonance frequencies in high-rise buildings," says Marc. "Only instead of a sledgehammer against a steel beam it's this tiny hammer against the board."

Marc repeats the experiment a number of times, each time the readings appear similar to my eyes, however Marc is seeing slight changes.

"Well...?" I ask once he's done. "What does it show?"

"It's consistent with what I would expect for a PU board with a wooden stringer," says Marc. "But I'd need to compare it to a similar board without the channels to say something more meaningful."

I'm really not sure what I was expecting. I don't even fully understand what the graphs are showing, yet Marc is adamant that as a data gathering exercise it was worthwhile. Data on its own says nothing, but once he's amassed enough of it he can begin to discern patterns and the data then becomes useful to him. It becomes information, and then ultimately knowledge.

Safety goggles on, Professor Marc wires up the Free Flight ten channel for 'fingerprint' testing.

On the walk back to Marc’s office, I talk about the explosion in ideas around board making, about how he appears to have landed at the right place at the right time. Marc nods his head in agreement. The commercial interest he’s attracting is testament to that. However, the next thing he says shocks me.

“No-one has paid yet.”

All the testing and research, at least that which was conducted for private companies, has so far been for gratis. He's working towards some financial arrangements but nothing is yet forthcoming. Not only is he heading into unknown scientific territory, but remuneration for his services is equally unfamiliar - there’s never been a surfing laboratory before. 

Marc's got ideas to make the Surf Flex Lab commercially viable, maybe something like the ECOBOARD model where companies pay a percentage to be validated, or perhaps royalties from future products, or even a design breakthrough due to his work.

However, the very fact that he’s in demand, and also that the work is commercially sensitive, bodes well for Professor Marc’s success. There’s never been more experimentation with materials than there is right now, and if companies feel protective of their intellectual property then it’s only because they’re safeguarding future profits.

But Marc doesn't need my reassurance. For one, he's seen the new materials and ideas that are coming down the turnpike and he's confident they'll play a part in surfing's future.

And though he can't say a thing to me, I get the sense that we'll all soon be aware what those ideas are.

Follow Marc's experiments - the ones he can show you - online at the Surf Flex Lab

Comments

yocal's picture
yocal's picture
yocal commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 1:03pm

There are some very successful business people out there who figured out how to collect & monetise their own data :)

Go deeper Taylor, go deeper!

boxright's picture
boxright's picture
boxright commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 1:54pm

Is he testing for strength and not just the performance side of flex?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 2:18pm

Oh yeah, they've tested the strength of fins, blanks, laminates. Check Marc's Instagram account - linked above - for a few of their experiments.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 4:01pm

Great article stunet

simba

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 7:33pm

+1

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Saturday, 14 Sep 2019 at 1:21pm

+2

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 4:45pm

Why am I not amazed the surf industry doesn't want to pay?

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 8:41pm

Love it. The article and the experimenting.

Quick question about a potential typo('s) in the article.... "he's" means "he is" but I think it is being used as "he has"?

Billie

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 8:51pm

'He's' is a contraction of both 'he is' and 'he has' but changes with the tense (present former, past for the latter). Maybe that's mixed up?

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Friday, 13 Sep 2019 at 8:58pm

I don't know, someone does. Cheers

Billie

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 9:47am

That is, or that has...?

Don't let the bastards grind you down

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 10:00am

Are you pointing out an error or reciting Shakespeare?

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:16pm

That's the question...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:32pm

Is.

That is.

That's.

The answer.

Which was much too hard for me to follow on a Monday morning.

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Saturday, 14 Sep 2019 at 6:37am

It makes me think that the end of a board with channels in it would have more damping (stiffer) than a flat bottom does for the same reason an angle iron has greater stiffness and strength than a flat bar of the same volume.

Very left field but makes sense from an engineers perspective

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Saturday, 14 Sep 2019 at 2:27pm

Six channel strong like Tarzan !
Yes it also creates more surface area also.
Although improper sanding(6 channel) could bring the thing undone.

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Saturday, 14 Sep 2019 at 5:20pm

so would more surface area result in less surface tension of the water against the glass, and if so would that reduce resistance and let the arse travel faster, potentially with less grip and drive?

I always thought channels produced more grip and drive......

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 6:17pm

Channels themselves, stiffer / stronger, but I've busted two just before channels started, so potentially a "break point" (weakness?) in them. One was an Al Byrne.....still crying over that one.....magic board.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 6:49pm

Yep..start of Channels is pretty much a 'Tear Here' line.

# Ollie Dousset #
You are my Hero son

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 7:35pm

Same as 'carbon rail patches'?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 8:52am

Over sanding maybe the case.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Saturday, 14 Sep 2019 at 1:40pm

Is there any more torsional / longitudinal flex testing results? Like say, data from testing along the length of the board and twisting it? And / or, loading one side and measuring it's flex from rail to stringer and various points along the board?

Another +1 for theses articles. A niche POD for Swellnet over all the other surf media.

This board be cool to test:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo2zuIRgEIt/?igshid=1t0jgasnlqmuq

PS: Ben, he's the dude who made the guitar. Scroll up his insta feed to see it under construction.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 5:48pm

Got plenty to say about this, Wingnut, however I've had a busy weekend. I'll post something later tonight or tomoz morning.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 7:38pm

Uploaded by the time I'm having my morning coffee, say around 4.30am, would be good. Otherwise, don't rush, I can read it with a cold beer after work.

Did you check out the guitar?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 6:23pm

Ditto on the POD...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 9:55am

Wingnut,

This is how the torsional flex gets tested (see video below). No results are public yet except for things such as the test, mentioned above, on the EPS/cork/balsa board and how that compares to PU/PE.

Marc has amassed a wealth of data and will soon be pulling the threads out of it. Stay tuned.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 7:09pm

Thanks Stu.

At around the 14 sec mark in ya clip, there is a 'crack' sorta sound ... is that the board reaching it's break point? Or, did you kick something in the lab?

Are those 'testing' sections movable? So, can be spread further apart or closer together, say like for example to match the width of a surfers stance?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 7:57pm

Wasn't anything I kicked! That crack came from the board.

The sections can move so Marc has flexibility to run various tests. Also, because the sections can move, he can use busted boards to run torsional tests

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:08am

That 'crack' sound isn't something you'd like to hear on a test of an old favourite or prized board!

Hmmm, be interesting to see the testing data from the machine set at 'surfers stance' locations. I think that's where the gold might be hiding.

Do you know if they've done any testing with various lamination techniques? Say, width of the laps, layers of laps on the rails, wrapping laps further around and under vs up and over the board, laps extending to fin plug area vs not, etc?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 8:47pm

Oh yeah, lots of testing on various lamination techniques. Reckon we'll see a bit of knowledge develop in that area.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 1:26pm

Big difference between damping and stiffness. Try skiing a pair of stiff, 1600gr carbon skis, then a pair of 2600gr titanal chargers. The stiff, light ones will deflect all over the place, while the heavier and more dampened titanal layup skis just truck.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Sunday, 15 Sep 2019 at 5:11pm

I imagine that skis are like big wave guns in that respect.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 8:54am

If it's not the surf industry paying , then who is funding all this ?
Just curious.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 9:19am

At the moment it's Wollongong Uni. Elsewhere in the laboratory are scientists from various disciplines working to create a scientific foundation for commerical platforms. The basis of the program - both Marc's and the other scientists - is to kickstart Australian ingenuity, to bridge the nexus between science and business, between the research centres such as where Marc works and commerical entities that can profit from his work.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 10:06am

"I talk about the explosion in ideas around board making, about how he appears to have landed at the right place at the right time."
"There’s never been more experimentation with materials than there is right now"
"For one, he's seen the new materials and ideas that are coming down the turnpike and he's confident they'll play a part in surfing's future."

Great read Stu, but I'd really have to question those statements I quoted above.

You really think that?

Looking around I see, not progression, but retreat to the status quo. The standard PU/PE board still massively dominates the surfboard market.

25 years ago I saw commercial factories set up in Byron Bay, vac bagging bamboo composite boards, vac bagging hemp glassed boards. State of the art. Light, strong, indestructible. Ridden at CT level.
All gone now.

25 years ago guys building full carbon fibre boards.

Rusty put hollow carbon fibre boards onto the market under the AVISO brand. Gone.

Salomon S-Core boards. Complex composite constructions with differing materials. Ridden at CT level. Massive R and D dollars behind them.
Gone.

Well over ten years since FW came on the market with composite construction, which they have retreated from to the lower common denominator standard EPS/epoxy construction (compared to parabolic balsa rail builds).

Hayden Fibre flex was over ten years ago.

Almost every manufacturer can simply outsource asian EPS/epoxy builds.
That surely can't be considered state of the art or progressive.

Varial introduced a differing core material over 5 years ago and the market has been very lukewarm about it.

So where are these new ideas and materials?

Seems to me, almost overwhelmingly, that manufacturers and surfers have gone back to the status quo.

Are you seeing something different?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 10:41am

The ideas come and go, as do periods of experimentation, but right now I see more happening than ever before. Maybe not at the top end of town, though they are dipping their toes, and I'm fairly certain they'll follow what's happening.

Few things:

- EPS blanks are consistently increasing their market share. By the same token, there are new foams coming onto the market. If John Dowse is reading this he'll be able to elaborate but I don't want to speak out of school.

- Follow Colan Australia on Instagram to see the range of laminates now being offered to board makers. The variety is directly due to Hayden Cox pushing Damien (from Colan) to develop the product he used in FF, which inspired other makers to first come up with their own carbon solutions through Colan, and then for Colan to harness this willingness to experiment by offering a range of various products (flax, basalt, innegra, hemp, various types of fibreglass, plus weaves that mix them). Damien now weaves a wide range of laminates, which speaks to their commerical vialbility. In the last few weeks I've rubbed my greasy fingers over all manner of laminates, been shown where they're being used or been told who's testing them. It's pretty fucken exciting.

- Guys like, say, Dylan Perese, who make dead ahead performance shortboards, he's not one of the eco ilk, but he's experimenting with a range of fibres. I mention DP cos he's from my hometown, but I've heard enough to know there are similarly positioned board makers from around Australia also testing new materials. Including some of the big guys.

- Last week I held an EPS core, basalt cloth shortboard and it was as light as a foam esky. Maybe the lightest board I've felt. Not my preferred weight but if CT pros are looking for the helium injection then this is it. Gotta pass some other tests of course but it's promising.

- Speaking of CT pros, nothing has changed there yet, but I see non-PU/PE slowly increasing their market share. Feels like changes may be driven from the bottom.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 11:53am

Stu trying checking this out....been doing it for quite a few years...https://www.surftorflex.com/#contact

From what I hear and see in the Global market , eps is declining in sales rapidly , as the surfers now see the mass produced Asian brands with eps as high priced and really hard to maintain . Every time they get a ding , fills up with water , becomes unsurfable , hard and expensive to repair...not a board you would take on a world surfing tour!
U S Blanks have now a supa lite weight blank that is very very hard.....PU , with and epoxy glass job still the best way to go!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:08pm

Few similarities with testing methods there, Brutus. Not sure how they manage to monetise it.

I've been looking at various laminates and foams, but I've spent little time examining resins. Might do that in the near future.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 7:48am

I am pretty sure that Johnny got a lot of support from the Basque/Spanish Govt , so Govt sponsored......

resins are easy....the bio -epoxy , is better than polyester , but still has a toxic catalyst, but not the toxic fumes of Poly...so easy to work with now the bio0epoxies...the best laminate I have seen is the Varial Infusion ......made a couple of boards....with the new U S blank reds.....still not a dent on the board, glassed all in 6 oz same weight as an all 4oz ........with an appelcore 5 ply stringer ...for me that's the most sustainable board on the market!

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 7:26pm

That's a cool website and the video on there shows the 'torsional' impact way more than the clip Stu posted (totally understand Stu, you'd be limited in what you can share from the Uni lab)

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:06pm

":Speaking of CT pros, nothing has changed there yet, but I see non-PU/PE slowly increasing their market share. Feels like changes may be driven from the bottom."

See I just don't.

I reckon EPS/epoxy was way more common 5-10 years ago, when the first waves of FW and then Fibreflex were washing through the market.

Now I see EPS/epoxy builds as just one more option being offered- mostly for either quite specialised small wave equipment or as low cost asian builds for the beginner/intermediate market- by most manufacturers.

Sure there is tinkering with different cloths by backyarders or small batch builders but that is as it always has been.

I'm not seeing any major mass market take-up or even grass roots acceptance - most surfers have now tried different variants of eps/epoxy which is the main tech rival to pu/pe and decided it doesn't replace traditional builds.

I think we are back at scratch again.

Here is a quote from Greg Webber about S-Core which was a far more technologically advanced product than anything being discussed here.
“I think you’ll find some American shapers who will go, ‘Whoa, I’ve worked super hard for 30 years, I don’t want to risk anything,'” says Webber, who shapes boards for Taj Burrow. “But with Salomon coming in, and the technology and wealth they have, there’s almost no chance of this project failing from what I’ve seen of the S-Core and their principles and their approach.”

That quote was 17 years ago.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 7:39pm

Surely it doesn't help when the commentators on the WSL continue to refer to board construction incorrectly. Or, for that matter, the shop assistants at the large retailers selling boards to masses.

Didn't DHD do that "epoxicore" thing that was a flop? And JS now has some weird construction thingy? Hasn't CI jumped onto the shapers 'spinetech' construction? And DMS did that 'carbon warp' thing. Aren't they all larger volume manufacturers? I think Muzz Bourton has some 'unique' lamination system too.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 8:07pm

that's what I mean though, they all have some variant of eps/epoxy build, mostly made in Asia : but this is hardly progress or even innovation.

And they don't seem to be making major inroads into the market; just manufacturers throwing paint on the wall to see if it sticks.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 8:28pm

What? Ya not believe the marketing hype Freeride? Surely you're not suggesting Epoxicore and FF is akin to the DMS Carbon wrap and Spintech etc.

As for commercial innovation, you'd have to have to be brave to deviate too far from the mainstream. Doesn't mean the big brands aren't looking for the competitive edge. As you pointed out, a lot of the new tech stuff seems to fizzle out. The real question is why.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 7:54am

I think a few different reasons.

Over-hyped tech that under delivers, mostly.

But I think it's just the market finding it's own level. What are we- 20 years on from Surftech?- 10 years on from Firewire? - there wouldn't be many surfers now who haven't experimented and trialled "new" tech, which is mostly variants of eps/epoxy.

We were promised improvements in performance, and durability in the new tech. Most people evaluated those claims and found them lacking.

Some people do prefer eps/epoxy but most found the reliability in handling not as good as pu/pe.
Most found the durability claims somewhat dubious.

The old FW were bullet-proof but if you did ding them, a fucking nightmare to repair.

The new FW's seem built down to a cost, not up to some spec.

So, based on price and performance and durability it seems the surfboard buying public has passed judgement.

Another factor is improvement in the standard pu/pe build. I've got some stock pu/pe's that after 2 years are still barely dented.
Others that are patched up to buggery but I just keep fixing them up and they still go.

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wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 8:56am

Isn't it a circular argument / issue then? Even 'if' there was MORE innovation, the consumer needs the 'hype' to try it, and then if it doesn't work for them, it's back to the comfort of the known. So, who's to blame? The innovator, the hyper, or the consumer?

At the end of the day, board makers need to make a $$, and will always come back to what their customers want. If the trend goes one way, they follow it, and then come back as the trend changes. That slows innovation.

I think what has happened, despite it all being a mix of Epoxy / EPS, is a LOT of chasing the 'flex' and 'feel' of the known PE/PU has created a lot of BS for the consumer who is now unsure of what is truth vs hype and so tends to drift back to the comfort of the 'known'. I have no doubt, price is a determinate in that process.

Fuck, the average surfer is lucky to get a few new boards a year. To drop upwards near $1,000 on a 'new' idea in the hope it works for them is somewhat of a leap of faith that most can't justify. I see that is the key for monetizing this flex testing technology - providing an independent assessment for the consumer to make a trusted decision.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

brutus's picture
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brutus commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 8:02am

I think that the Stringerless Eps models are easy to understand as they are very cheap to make as the EPS blank probably costs $5 compared to $60 for a PU......so all the hype on even some of the so called technologies is just that as shapers are having trouble making new designs..so it's all a lot of tech bullshit....that's why they fizzle out.....
Too many people were sold cheap Asian Tech at high prices , everywhere I go I see the Hype...and hype will only get you so far when there are no repeat buyers for the technology!

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wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:03am

When the consumer does not get the benefit espoused, doubt has to creep in ... but, there's been a lot of that in surfboard history. What's stuck around is what's worked for the consumer.

The real question is what's REALLY better and what should the consumer use? No hype, no BS. Can a 'testing lab' provide the independent assessment, or are there too many variables? Heck, we haven't even touched on design, or fins, let alone the nuances of all construction variants.

Perhaps? it will just always be the consumer deciding based on what THEY like.

But, is what we have as the mainstay, really the best? How to get the consumer to try something new?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:22am

They've already tried the new shitt though Wingnut.

it's already washed through the market.

try and find a surfer now who hasn't tried firewire or a fibreflex or what have you.

Salomon had a massive company budget behind it and huge R and D money. They sponnoed a CT event and CT surfers.

There is no independent assessment either, just masses of subjective preferences.

Even if old mate comes up with rigid numbers about flex patterns etc etc it means nothing unless people can relate it to their subjective preferences.

So, we stumble along but somehow boards have never been better.

brutus's picture
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brutus commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 12:02pm

funny one with Salomon , they had an engineered hollow blank......but a couple of people who broke them nearly drowned , as the back part of the board sunk...ouch!!

Salomon tried to enter the Surfing market , thru surfboards , but really it was their clothing they wanted to push , hey but everybody was on a gravy train for a couple of years ......

Boards have never been better , but design has never been so boring!!

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:08pm

edit, agree with Brutus above.

That is one thing rarely discussed: advances in PU blanks and epoxy resins.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 12:19pm

Advances in PU are part of the "explosion of ideas". If it changes the structure then it's ripe for testing.

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jyoung commented Monday, 16 Sep 2019 at 1:38pm

said it before, ill say it again.
Swellnet raising the surf journo bar once again.
Throwing a general question out there.
Do you think the mass production/commercialisation of boards and surfing has limited or expanded design and innovation with surf craft?
Interesting story about the Hawaiian and Tahitian Va'a or Waa (outrigger for us whiteys) evolution that I think has some parallels. Story goes that a rich group of white blokes with money started the hawaiian association and one of them built a certain type of canoe which became the boat that met all the specs for all the races there. The Tahitians on the other hand unfettered by limitations went nuts with trial and error and came up with their racing design that goes like the clappers.
Similar story with SLSA. Imagine the racing\paddleboards that could have evolved without their limitations? Probably something like DVS and Mick Dibetta are developing.

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brutus commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 8:06am

it's become pretty obvious that design in surfboards has progressed very slowly , where it feels like middle ages......a lot has to do with Hype-tek , but also the machines have allowed some pretty average designer shapers to use Hype-tek as the mainstay of their brand , so design has suffered greatly!

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stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 8:47am

"Do you think the mass production/commercialisation of boards and surfing has limited or expanded design and innovation with surf craft?"

The likes of Andrew Kidman and Dave Parmenter would wholly agree with that. Kidman in particular has long championed progress via the 'accidental development'; mistakes in the handshaping process that end up being breakthroughs in design.

That said, Brutus can vouch for a big design leap that in part owed itself to mass cut blanks that were stored incorrectly. Guess you could say that was an accident as well. At least it began that way till he figured out what was happening and replicated it.

I think it'd take a lot more than than a few minutes of chin scratching to answer that question fully. Worth thinking about but.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:05am

Stu, on that note of the visits by the Fuck Up Fairy, tell ya boss to get his hands on my FUP and get it to you to try!

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

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stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:20am

Cheers. I'll hit him up, though he HATES being called the boss.

brutus's picture
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brutus commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 9:52am

The problem with the likes of Kidman and Dave , is that shaping off the blank has not produced anything new since the machines arrived.....when I hear that there is soul in shaping off the blank , it's all a bloody wank!

you should see some of the mistakes that come off the machines , that we turn into new designs.....the challenge then is to work out why the "happy Mistake" is better than the original design and be able to replicate the new formula from 5 0 - 11".....that's where the work is .......but really when you compare the design evolution in other sports....ours is a very neanderthal evolution.....

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 10:30am

Hype- tek is such a great call.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019 at 5:31pm

Further to what FR is saying above, I remember reading a Midget quote that epoxy/EPS comes and goes every 10 years or so (I paraphrase).

Also, development of PU foam technology has been going on quietly in the background.

For my 2c (anecdotal, so nowhere near as informed as all the data, just 30 years of surfing experience) a PU blank with epoxy glass job is about the bees knees for me at present. It seems light, more durable, but with the feel I grew up with.

The other thing I've got from Stu's excellent article is that the boards I developed on were most likely not too flexy at all, and to this day that's probably a feeling I like. Everyone will be different in this respect.