Today's conventional polyurethane foam surfboards are lightweight, strong, and manoeuvrable. But that comes at the cost of a more jarring ride in rough seas — not to mention PU isn't exactly an environmentally-friendly material. So New Zealander Mike Grobelny is taking carving back to its roots with a CNC-milled, hollow wood board.
Surfboards used to be made exclusively from wood in the early days of the sport, Hawaiian royalty rode atop solid Koa long boards. Hollow-carved boards — made from multiple laminated planks) also made a splash in the 1950s, however, they lost favour to the lighter (up to 300 per cent), stronger, and cheaper PU boards.
So how, and more importantly, why would someone bother to design and carve a hollow board when a superior technology is available at the local surf shop? As Grobelny explains, it's not all about performance:
The surfboard (and culture of surfing) represents conflict between industry and the environment. The physical act, and the culture of surfing, provides an intimate connection with nature and natural forces. It is this emotional and physical engagement with nature that makes the surfing experience powerful and enriching for many people. In direct contrast to this natural experience is the use of toxic materials in the manufacture of surfboards, with negative impacts for both board manufacturers and the natural environment. These toxic synthetic materials provide a high level of performance, which most surfers are looking for and is not easily achieved using natural materials.
After spending many hours consulting with local surfboard shapers, Grobelny eventually settled on an ingenious, CNC-milled, weight-saving design that doesn't sacrifice strength or manoeuvrability by incorporating a honeycomb structure between the board's faces. What's more, the wood's natural shock absorbing properties can help mitigate wave chop and its weight adds to a surfer's momentum for longer rides. The wooden board is also far more durable than its PU counterpart, resulting in a board that's passed down for generations rather than disposed of at the end of a season. [Input with Output via Core77 via design buzz - Wikipedia]