For those who are just starting out in the surfing world and are looking to buy a board of their own, the market can be quite an overwhelming place. This is due to the sheer variety of surfboards available. Not only do surfboards come in several lengths and shape categories such as longboards, shortboards, funboards, and mini-mals, but they can also be constructed of various substances.
The material composition of a surfboard is one of the most important factors in determining how it will be perform in the water. Different compositions will provide very different surfing experiences, so it is extremely important to ensure you know a little bit about the various materials, before buying your surfboard. For example, if you are a younger, entry-level rider, you will likely require a much softer constructed board than someone that has been surfing or competing for years.
Two of the primary materials that surfboards are typically made of are epoxy and fiberglass. There has been an on-going debate for quite some time about which option is better, but really, they both have their pros and cons. You might be wondering what exactly these two different materials offer, what sorts of boards they are currently making up on the market, and ultimately, which option is best for you. In this article, we will look at all of these angles, and hopefully, by the end, you will be able to decide exactly what surfboard type is best suited to you.
What is a Fiberglass Surfboard?
Fiberglass is one of the most popular materials used in surfboard construction today. They are also known as polyurethane or PU surfboards and have been around in the industry for approximately 50-60 years. The substance is essentially a combination of polyurethane foam and polyester resin which makes for a very smooth and natural feel in the water.
Many professionals claim that traditional fiberglass boards provide a much more high-performing feel but others argue that they are too fragile and their susceptibility to damage is not worth the price. With fiberglass boards you will typically find that the bottom of the board has a lot less fiberglass than the top deck, this is because the board needs to compensate for your bodyweight.
There are various pros and cons of fiberglass boards that you will want to consider when comparing them to Epoxy boards. We thought we would take you through a few of them:
Pros and Cons of Fiberglass Surfboards
One of the benefits of fiberglass is the flexibility and spring that it provides. The polyurethane blanks will allow for a much livelier feel under your feet which is great when it comes to performing maneuvers and tricks in the water. This is one of the reasons that fiberglass boards are championed by so many competitive surfers all over the world. The responsivity also means that the board will generally feel much smoother than epoxy boards and its strength will allow you to overcome buckling with ease.
Able to catch more waves
What’s great about fiberglass boards is their ability to catch such a variety of waves. The rigidity and strength of their construction enable the boards to carve through even the most powerful waves, which is again, another reason why fiberglass is often the material of choice for professional and competitive surfers. Also, as polyurethane blanks are fairly dense, your fiberglass board will sit slightly lower in the water than a classic epoxy board would. This will not only allow for easy paddling as it will help you sustain momentum, but it will also just improve the board’s overall glide in the water.
Easier for shapers to work with and customize
As fiberglass is a lot more dense than epoxy, and the resin of a fiberglass board is transparent, there are far more possibilities when it comes to shaping and customizing the boards. The dense foam creates an extremely smooth surface for shapers to work with and paint. The heavier weight makes the board difficult to maneuver in the water, especially for beginners and younger surfers.
One of the issues with fiberglass boards is their weight. Typically, fiberglass surfboards will be heavier than other constructions and this is predominantly because of the dense properties of the polyurethane foam. The weight of the board can make it extremely difficult to maneuver in the water and transport to and from your home.
Whilst the Polyurethane resin makes for an extremely flexible and responsible board, it can also make your board highly susceptible to dings and cracks. This fragility can be a huge issue for surfers as it means that the board is much more likely to break and require both repair and replacement costs. If you are a beginner, then you may want to consider a board that is slightly more durable, at least during the initial months that you will inevitably be experiencing more falls.
Susceptibility to sun damage
Like skin, surfboards are extremely vulnerable to UV rays. Unfortunately, fiberglass is particularly susceptible to this sort of damage. If your fiberglass board is left out in the sun for prolonged periods, there is a chance they will delaminate. Delamination is when the top layer of your board begins to bubble due to heat. When delamination and dings appear on the board, they are also prone to turning yellow. This discoloration can be extremely frustrating, especially when you have spent a significant amount of money on your board.
An example of a fiberglass board on the market today:
Degree 33 offers a range of boards to suit a wide range of riders. The majority of their boards are available in a choice of constructive materials, and one of these materials is fiberglass. The 7’6” Ultimate Longboard is a wonderful example of the kinds of high-quality fiberglass boards on the market today. Completely hand shaped by the reputable Californian surfer and shaper, Bill Minard, this board is one that guarantees both quality and performance. This fiberglass board is extremely versatile and due to its elevated levels of responsivity, is perfect for even the most professional of surfers. .
What is an Epoxy Surfboard?
Epoxy surfboards are also commonly known as polystyrene/styrofoam boards. Epoxy is a much more modern type of surfboard that has recently gained popularity over the years since 2005. This popularity has been attributed to the closure of the Clark foam factory in 2005, which caused a massive shortage of fiberglass materials. Epoxy surfboards are composed of polystyrene foams and are coated with an epoxy resin. This combination of materials makes for a board that is three times lighter than traditional fiberglass boards. Epoxy boards are also extremely lightweight, buoyant, and easy to maneuver. These properties are what make epoxy boards so popular with beginners and less confident surfers. They are also a lot more environmentally friendly than fiberglass boards which should be a priority for all outdoor enthusiasts.
There are various reasons why Epoxy boards are preferred by so many surfers across the globe, but there are also a few reasons why many are still so opposed to using them over fiberglass models.
Pros and Cons of Epoxy Surfboards?
Epoxy surfboards are a lot lighter than traditional fiberglass models. The lightness of the boards makes for an extremely buoyant board which is great for paddling and catching small waves. It also means that your board will be a lot more maneuverable in the water and easier to transport. The weight of epoxy boards makes them great options for beginners and younger surfers.
Epoxy resin is approximately 35% stronger than fiberglass resin and the boards themselves are thought to be 10-15% stronger than polyurethane boards. Because of this, epoxy boards are far less susceptible to suffering dings and cracks that could be caused by careless handling or impact within the water. If you were to drop your fiberglass board on a hard surface such as concrete, you would be a lot more likely to see damage develop than you would with an epoxy board. So, if you are someone who is a little clumsy or are planning to take your board with you on your travels, Epoxy boards may be the better option.
Resistant against waterlogging
When fiberglass boards suffer cracks or dings, they are then susceptible to waterlogging. Waterlogging is a term that refers to the process in which your surfboard absorbs water over time and eventually becomes heavier. If there is even the slightest crack or ding in a fiberglass board, waterlogging will take place, and after a while, this water damage will cause discoloration on the board’s surface. Fortunately, due to the closed-cell construction of epoxy boards, waterlogging is much less likely to take place.
Due to the durability and quality of their materials, epoxy boards typically cost a little bit more than their fiberglass competitors. Despite this, epoxy surfboards tend to have much longer life spans than fiberglass boards, so if you consider that you would probably have to purchase a new fiberglass board a lot quicker than you would with epoxy, the higher initial price doesn’t seem like such a problem.
Whilst the weight of Epoxy boards can be a blessing for some, it can also be a curse for others. Whilst the lightness of the material can make the boards extremely buoyant, it can also make them difficult to control and direct in the water. This is more of an issue if you are a more advanced or professional surfer who is more likely to want to perform intricate maneuvers and tricks in the water.
Another disadvantage of epoxy-made boards is that they are often machine-shaped. This means that if you have any specific requirements or custom designs, you will often have to pay a lot more than you would if it were a fiberglass board. This is more of an issue for the older, more experienced surfers, as beginners are unlikely to require such personalization.
An example of an Epoxy Surfboard on the market today:
Torq is one of the world’s most loved, progressive manufactures of surfboards. This soft board is constructed of the latest EPS/Epoxy materials that combine a lightweight EPS core, with Biaxial cloth, a layer of extruded PE foam, and Epoxy resin. This combination of substances makes for a board that is not only lightweight but incredibly durable and rigid. It is a wonderful board that can be used by riders of all abilities in all sorts of aquatic conditions. Whilst this board is slightly pricier than many epoxy models on the market, it truly does not compromise on performance, style, or quality. It is a real example of how high-performing epoxy boards can be.
Which Surfboard is best for you?
Ultimately, the surfboard you choose will depend entirely on the kind of experience that you want to have in the water. Both fiberglass and epoxy have pros and cons, and it will be down to you as a rider to determine how important these factors are. Whilst fiberglass boards are typically more responsive, have the capacity to catch more waves, and are better to shape/design, they are also very fragile, susceptible to sun damage and heavy. On the other hand, whilst Epoxy boards are lighter, more durable, and resistant to waterlogging, they are typically more expensive, harder to control and often, machine-made. After assessing the two materials, we would probably suggest that beginners and younger surfers go for epoxy boards, whilst the more intermediate and advanced surfers go for fiberglass boards. With this being said, the final decision will be down to you. You will just need to make sure you have considered every factor before making that choice.