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The board-sport market is another area where the use of composites is revolutionisingboth the sport and the industry around the world. Frequent advances are makingboards stronger, lighter and faster.
(Published on March 2006 – JEC Magazine #23)
The first surfboards were a far cry from the advanced structures we see today. Made out of wood from Hawaiian trees, they were frequently so long they could carry up to ten people and weighed as much as 90kg.
Today boards are lighter, shorter and faster – and much of this is due to composites, which are appearing in more and more modernday surfboards. Composite applications are most prevalent in the board’s structure and in the fins that give the surfer direction and control.
Materials in demand
The most popular types of materials now being used on surfboards are carbon fibre, resin and Kevlar. Boards with these materials are becoming increasingly common in surf shops all over California. They are also being seen more and more in the newly booming surfing markets in Japan and Europe.
California-based Segway Concepts is a vintage example of a small company that is making technological advances through the use of composite materials. According to its president Mike Halun, new materials and composites are making boards stronger and lighter at the same time, something that had been unthinkable years ago.
One complaint about the growing use of composites in surfboards is that they are not environmentally friendly. This is changing thanks to the Eden Project’s ‘eco-board’, a surfboard made from a combination of plant materials and said to be the most sustainable composite surfboard in the world.
The board was cut from a balsa tree, and then coated with a composite layer made of hemp cloth in a matrix of resin from an oil-producing plant.
Chris Hines, sustainability director at the Eden Project, said, “Every year, over three quarters of a million surfboards are produced worldwide and these are almost exclusively based on petrochemical products. Surfing has an image of humanity in harmony with nature and we have chosen to throw down the gauntlet, not only to try to progress the surfing industry but also as a challenge to the manufacturing industry worldwide. How can we manufacture products in a more sustainable manner?”