The Quest For Flex
It’s been a long journey for Todd Proctor. Not in his bold pursuit to develop surfboard technology that rides just like a polyester board but lasts longer. No, that he’s well down the road on. After leaving his home in Ventura at 3:30 this morning, he’s hit a wall of traffic on the 405 south, heading down to San Diego with a truck full of boards for the TransWorld crew to test ride.
By 7:30 though, he’s in the parking lot at D-Street in Encinitas, screwing in fins and looping in leash strings on five brand-new surfboards.
The boards are the culmination of five years of R&D, inspired by the dream of developing a surfboard that would replicate the subtle riding characteristics of a polyester board, but would live a longer, happier life–meaning, a board that would flex like a polyester, but that would be more resistant to damage as well the aging process that seems to sap the “spring” out of polyester boards.
“I want these boards to do what you’re feeling in an ultra light polyester,” says Proctor.
“Those boards are flexing torsionally and from nose to tail, but they’re killing themselves while they’re doing it. So I want to harness that flex, but make it so it’s not going to fall apart so fast. That’s where I’d like to see it go.”
The first step, says Proctor, was to research materials, including ones currently used in the surf industry and beyond. “I started going to plastics, polymers, and composite trade shows, and I’d talk to chemists. I’d bring surfboards, and man, I got some funny looks–like, ‘Eh, a surfer? What are you doing out here in Chicago?’”
After years of research and testing out myriad combinations of foams, resins, and cloths–with both surf and non-surf-industry materials–Proctor has found what he believes is the winning formula. And he’s confident enough of the results that he’s applied for a U.S. patent for the process. While he won’t divulge the entire production technique,
he says the construction is comparable to that of the wing of a Stealth fighter, even down to some of the same materials.
“Same kind of foam, same kind of sandwich structure, and they use Kevlar, even the same grain and density that I use.” Kevlar in a surfboard? While it sounds ultra high tech, the process is relatively similar to traditional surfboard construction. The foam core is shaped, then laminated with a couple different materials, including fiberglass, using epoxy resin. “I use e-glass, s-glass, and Kevlar in different combinations,” he says. “How you set up those combinations determines the flex.” In addition, there are variations on stringers, as well as a flex agent added to the resin that gives the boards a gunmetal gray tint.
Proctor stresses that although the boards are glassed with epoxy resin,
they’re custom shaped in the U.S.
Some in the industry feel that uneducated consumers equate the word epoxy with a mass-produced product or a foreign-made one. “Epoxy in itself is just a word that defines a family of resins,” he reminds.
So, is Proctor’s epoxy/Kevlar invention another tolling of the death knell of polyester surfboards? Not likely. Instead, Proctor foresees people using polyester boards to refine their boards so that when they do get a “magic board,” they can replicate it with his epoxy technology.
Price-wise, the boards are more expensive than their polyester counterparts, but not prohibitively. They’ll wholesale for 500 dollars and retail for 645 dollars, and will be at retail in mid-May.