SAN DIEGO — A producer of 10,000 surfboards a year wants resin makers to upgrade their offerings to the niche industry.
``What we are looking for [is the] latest technology in resins,'' Peter Johnson, general manager of Rusty Surfboards, said in an interview at Action Sports Retailer trade exposition, held Sept. 10-12 in San Diego.
Johnson said he seeks resins that are easy to work with, and offer better clarity and strength.
He contrasted his impression of the large resin companies' reluctance to get involved with Hexcel Corp.'s fabrics group in Austin, Texas, which was aggressive in developing a new fiberglass cloth for surfboards.
``It was the same cloth for 20 years,'' Johnson said. ``Hexcel came in and asked if there was something they could do to help us out. We came up with a much stronger weave that made it so the resins did not soak into the cloth quite as much.''
As a result, ``boards are lighter and stronger,'' he said, and the cloth is having ``a huge impact on the surfboard industry.''
Rusty Surfboards employs 40 at a San Diego factory.
Another surfboard maker uses a licensed European sail-board technology that involves vacuum forming one skin and pressure forming the other. The high-tech sandwich concept originated in the aircraft industry.
Surf Technologies of Santa Cruz, Calif., employs about five and contracts for the manufacturing of its surfboards in Europe and Asia in a 1-year-old joint venture with master surfboard designer Rennie Yater, owner of a Santa Barbara, Calif., surf shop.
``We felt we had reached a dead end ... with traditional materials we have been using for the last 35 years,'' Yater said. Most surfboards are handmade so ``no two are the same.''
The venture recruited top board shapers to create master blanks that are digitized for molds to create the expanded polystyrene core. The core and multiple skins produce a durable board that is at least 20 percent lighter than traditional boards.
The skins include a polyurethane top coat, four epoxy-fiberglass surfaces and impact patches and a 3-millimeter-thick high density PVC sheet foam sandwich.
``The core is lighter, and skins are denser,'' Yater said. ``In a polyurethane board, the core is heavy, and the skins are light.''
The board is a little more expensive, he said. ``But the cost of polyester surfboards has increased dramatically in the last 3-4 years because of the cost of petrochemical products, so now this is comparable in the market.''
Fur Cat Surfboards introduced an upgraded line of light, reinforced units that each sell for about 12 percent more than a standard board.
The Fur Cat ``will last 100 times longer so you come out way ahead,'' Steve Wolshin, Fur Cat manager, said. The boards are ``about half the weight of traditional boards, 30-40 percent stronger and twice as fast.''
Fur Cat of Anahola, Hawaii, makes the carbon, Kevlar and unidirectional cloth boards using an epoxy. The firm, which produces the boards in Africa, makes its own EPS core, Wolshin said. ``The foam blank in center is very important,'' he said.
At another booth, Swivel Fin Systems of Sydney, Australia, exhibited sets of five plastic-fin systems that are adjustable and replaceable for different surfing conditions. Best Mold Plastics of Caringbah, Australia, injection molds the fins of black polycarbonate and the mounted sprockets of white PC, both with 30 percent glass filler.
``We tried nylon, and it wasn't any good so we came to polycarbonate,'' Stephen Wall, managing director of Swivel Fin, said.
Swivel Fin launched the fin sets in Australia in 1995 and has sold more than 5,000. The product entered the U.S. market in June.