Thursday, December 11, 2014

One Of A Kind Blank, Two Years In The Making!!!


Years Shaping: 48
Board: 5’11” x 20”
Blank: One-of-a-Kind blank made of over 1,000 different offcuts from 47 different colored blanks.  It took 10 years to collect all the foam off-cuts and the process of gluing took over 2 years.

Words by Rick Berman
“For years shapers have been trying to figure out a useful way of disposing the off-cuts of foam left over from shaping a surfboard.  Several years ago, Dean Edwards of Big Rock Color Works, a master shaper/board builder on the island of Hawaii had a vision and began saving the ‘bones’ from the boards he was shaping.  Dean has more than 48 years of experience shaping boards, beginning in the late ‘60’s with Wilken and Natural Progression and through the last 25 years on the Big Island of Hawaii.”

“When he thought he had enough material to proceed, he glued the pieces together and started to shape the BONEFISH.  The advent of colored foam in the last 6 years or so made this approach much more interesting.  Together with the glue lines, a one-of-a-kind blank is produced.  This particular board consists of the ‘bones’ of over 47 different blanks.”


Words by Dean Edwards

“I’m pretty isolated here on the Big Island, but I know that other people are building interesting boards.  I had seen the “Sunrise Surfboard” that Jim Phillips made in 2009, which helped me clarify my vision.  Jim’s work is incredible and I just wanted to build something that might encourage or hopefully inspire others to build interesting boards from re-purposed materials.”

“Nearly the entire board is made from waste.  Obviously, the foam is all off-cuts, which normally end up in the dumpster.  The fins were made out of plywood and fiberglass scrap.  The sandpaper was all previously used.  The scraps were collected over the course of 10 years.  There are over 1000 cuts; 90 foam pieces in the checkerboard section alone.  It took over 2 years to glue-up the blank.  There was no template, no rocker. It was all free-hand shaped.  The only new material in the construction process was the resin.”

“One thing that I’d like to reiterate, is that there are so many ways to reduce the waste we create in our industry.  The Bonefish is an example of something that would have ended up in a landfill.  With a little consideration, we can help reduce our waste output.  That is my challenge to other surfboard shapers.”

Friday, August 01, 2014

Young Costa Rican Girl Rips and Shapes Her Own Board!

Shaper: Surya Folger
Age: 10 years old
Years Shaping: 1/2
Number of Boards Built: 1
Location: Playa Negra, Costa Rica

Forest Folger (Surya’s Dad)
Surya’s been surfing since she could walk.  She competed in her first contest at the age of 6.  Previously, she was riding a 4’8” Rusty Kerrosover, but I wanted to get her on something a little different.  I really liked the outline and flat rocker of this Craig Anderson model Hayden Shapes that I was riding, so I tried to replicate that board in a much smaller version.  This board is a 4’6″.  It’s a very user-friendly design, for both the shaper and the surfer.

So much of our life in Costa Rica revolves around the ocean.  There is nothing better than water time with your kids.  This experience of shaping a board with Surya and then using it in the ocean just adds another dimension to the experience.  It’s really inspiring to see her begin to understand how shaping a rail determines the lines that she can draw on a wave.  It’s a really cool learning experience for us to share.  Plus, she did a great job with the board.  She’s made every contest final since she began riding it!

Surya Folger
I prefer to shape my own board, rather than buy one.  I really enjoyed making it.  It’s fun to try something new and then ride it in the ocean.  The board is so fun because it’s easy to turn.  It’s very loose.  My favorite spot to surf it is called Piko Pequeño.  The paddle is easy and when you get a wipeout it’s smooth.  The board works really good there.

I was going to leave the board white, but then I saw a Yin-Yang in a magazine and I decided to paint it on my board.  With that design, it looked like it needed color so then I added the pink, yellow, and green.  My dad helped me paint it.  That’s my favorite thing about surfing too, it allows you to express yourself in your own unique way.  It’s really fun!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

EPS FOAM: Superfused (molded) VS Block Cut (Slab)

In addition to the traditional polyurethane foam blanks, US Blanks offers 2 two types of EPS foam blanks: SUPERFUSED and BLOCK CUT. This article is designed to help distinguish the differences between the two.
EPS Billets and Molded Blank

EPS: EPS is an abbreviation for “Expanded Polystyrene”. Expanded Polystyrene is a type of foam, sometimes referred to as Styrofoam. US Blanks uses EPS to produce surfboard blanks. It is regarded as lighter and more buoyant than traditional polyurethane foam. It cannot be used with polyester resin due to chemical reaction sensitivity. Epoxy resin works ideally with EPS foam.

Epoxy: Epoxy is a plastic-like resin used as an alternative to polyester resin in the construction of a surfboard. It can be used with both EPS and PU (polyurethane) foam blanks. Epoxy is lighter and stronger than traditional polyester resin and emits 50-75% fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than polyester resin.

 Polystyrene is one of the world’s most widely used plastics. It’s made into a variety of forms including foams such as expanded polystyrene, also known as EPS. EPS is a closed-cell foam, made up of tiny, hollow, spherical beads. In fact, EPS is made up of 98% air which is the reason behind its lightweight. Common uses for EPS are packing applications (foam peanuts, ice chests) and construction applications (insulation, void filler). EPS is inert and non-toxic, both to the environment and one’s health. Styrene is naturally occurring in many common foods such as fruits, coffee, cinnamon, and beef. Further, EPS is completely recyclable.

EPS Beads
EPS used as surfboard blanks began to emerge as a viable option for surfboard shapers in the mid 1990’s. At the time, Clark Foam dominated the market with their wide variety of polyurethane foam blanks which stemmed the growth of EPS. While the epoxy resin used with EPS blanks was both lighter and stronger than traditional polyester resin, the boards were more expensive to build, had problems with yellowing and were difficult to repair.

Those obstacles, however, were overcome and popularity for EPS blanks grew after the closure of Clark Foam in 2005. Quality polyurethane blanks were temporarily difficult to procure so shapers were required to consider alternative materials. Epoxy technology also improved with cleaner formulas, varying densities, and more controlled flex patterns. All of these factors contributed to the increased acceptance and performance quality of EPS blanks.

EPS blank usage is growing, but still accounts for a relatively small percentage of the surfboard  blank marketplace. It is currently the preferred foam for Stand Up Paddle boards and Wake Surfboards.

US Blanks offers two types of EPS foam:

EPS foam is made from a fusing together of small, pre-expanded foam beads. The key difference between SUPERFUSED & BLOCK CUT EPS is the fusion process.
Slab Cuts
BLOCK CUT (Slab Cut)

For BLOCK CUT, the beads are fused into a large block (3’x4’x24’). The blanks are then custom cut from the block into a specific size, shape and dimension surfboard blank. This process offers extreme versatility in blank size options. Unused EPS foam scraps are 100% recycled. 


SUPERFUSED blanks are fused into a pre-cast mold of a designated surfboard blank size, i.e., 6’5” or 7’2”, etc rather than the large block for the BLOCK CUT. While this limits versatility to the number of pre-cast molds, it allows for smaller beads to be more tightly fused and thereby produces a finer finished surface. The resulting foam more closely resembles the tight cell structure of traditional polyurethane foam. 

Key Points: 

BLOCK CUT allows for superior versatility in blank options. SUPERFUSED allows for tighter cell structure and fusion properties.
Molded (left) Slab Cut (right)


Key Benefits: The main benefit of EPS is that it is 100% recyclable. Additionally, it is lighter than polyurethane.

Performance and Flexibility: Performance and flexibility are matters of subjectivity and preference. EPS is lighter and more buoyant than PU. Both of those elements can allow the surfer to ride smaller, lesser volume surfboards which may, in turn, help performance and paddling. The flex properties are certainly different than PU. It is the responsibility of the shaper to determine the board dimension and stringer configuration that is best suited for their client’s needs.

Construction: The construction of an EPS surfboard is basically the same as a traditional PU surfboard. The foam core is shaped into the desired dimension and then wrapped with fiberglass cloth soaked in resin. The main difference is that one must use epoxy resin, as opposed to traditional polyester resin that is used with PU foam. Construction costs are slightly higher for EPS than PU boards.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Surfboard Stringers, The Possibilities Are Endless!

Stringers have been an integral part of surfboard construction since the introduction of polyurethane foam in the late Fifties.  Previously, solid wood surfboards had plenty of strength, but also a lot of weight.  The introduction of polyurethane foam allowed for surfboards to be much lighter, but also more fragile.  Early polyurethane surfboard builders glued a long piece of wood (often redwood or balsa) in the center of polyurethane foam blanks and coined the name “stringer”.  The stringer added strength to the foam blank and just enough flex and recoil to increase the surfboard’s maneuverability.  The wood stringer has remained a vital part of surfboard construction over the past half-decade.

While a single piece of wood down the center of the blank is considered to be the traditional surfboard-stringer configuration, many successful variations have been implemented over the years.  Every stringer configuration offers performance dynamics unique to a given board design.  When choosing a stringer configuration, a surfer should consider three main factors: strength, performance and aesthetic.

Every wood type has a unique level of hardness and flex, which will correspond with a board’s strength and stiffness (in regard to maneuverability).  Further, given a specific board design, offset stringers, curved stringers, or parabolic stringers would all create a different distribution of energy than a traditional straight, centered stringer.

While stringer configuration is an important part of a board’s performance dynamic, it is no more vital than foam density, rocker selection, fin placement, glassing schedule, or a myriad of other design elements.  A good shaper will be able to assist the surfer in deciding which materials and designs will best suit their needs.  The surfer, however, should have a frame of reference for communication with the shaper.  

Below, you will find a list of the various stringer options.  The stringer configuration offerings are only limited by one’s imagination and we are happy to fulfill custom orders.


The US Blanks in-house mill allows us to offer any variation of stringer thicknesses and configuration.  Some limits are set by the length or width of wood available.  Their red cedar comes 6” wide and will not fit all rockers, and the poplar plywood has a length limit of 8′.

They offer 7 types of stringer material, 4 types of raw wood and 3 additional offerings.  A description of each follows.

Basswood Fine straight grain with an even texture. Creamy white in color and medium weight. Relatively soft.

Red Cedar - Straight grain with medium texture. Reddish brown and highly aromatic. Lightweight and soft with high durability.

Cedar Alternative - Sourcing consistent and reliable Cedar is increasing difficult and expensive to procure. The cedar alternative offers similar shape-ability and aesthetic as cedar.
Balsa Wood - Very soft, lightweight, yet strong, with a course, open grain and bright yellow/beige color.

4mm Unidirectional Poplar Ply - They offer three versions of Poplar Plywood; Basic, Team Ply, or High Performance Ply. 

Applecore Stringers - Appelcore Stringers are comprised of three plys of 1/24th inch basswood laminated together. The lamination adds strength and consistency to the stringer. Further, Appelcore Stringers are available in a range of 6 color options (wherein, the basswood is dyed).
Powerline Stringerz - Powerline Stringerz are a wood alternative, made of a 4-ply non-woven polymer. It is lighter and stronger than wood and impervious to water. It cuts easily with hand tools and on shaping machines. It is colorless, but reflects and embodies a chosen glue color.

PVC - PVC is a wood alternative. It is a plastic, available in 3mm and 4mm, colored red or white. It offers plenty of flex, but less strength than wood.


Center Cut - A single piece of wood in the center of the blank.  This is the most common and traditional stringer arrangement.  Any type of wood can be used.

Multi's - 2 or more stringers in any configuration.  Any type of wood can be used.  Many variations of Multi-stringers have unique names, some are more widely known than others.  Off-Set is a commonly used name for any number of stringers located away from the center of the blank.

Flared - Flared stringers begin in the nose or tail and curve to exit along the rail.  Any distance, angle, curve or wood type can be used.

Wedge - Wedge cut indicates the wedged-shape aesthetic of the stringer cuts, but there are a number of different ways to achieve this aesthetic.  Varying styles of wedge-cuts are known by nicknames and clarification is often needed when ordering.

A wedge configuration is made with 2 pieces of wood, starting close together, perhaps touching, and then separating into a “V” on the other end.  Any degree of separation is acceptable.

“Model A” refers to a wedge cut that begins close together in the tail and separates in the nose.  ”Reverse Model A” refers to a wedge cut that begins close together in the nose and separates in the tail.

Wedge cuts can also include Multi stringers, T-Bands, and any stringer material.

T-Band - A T-Band simply refers to 2 or more stringers that are laminated together. Any type of material or thickness is acceptable. 

Parabolic - Consisting of 2 stringers, the name refers to the shape of the stringers. The two stringers are bent and follow the contour of the rail of the surfboard, one on either side. The desired function is a faster return to static post flex.  With a strengthened perimeter, the surfer can apply a more controlled weight to the board’s rail, thus gaining more controlled buoyancy. The added flexibility on the perimeter of the board allows the surfer to lean into the stringer as opposed to the foam. This flexes the stringer and recoils the surfer out of the turn as it flexes back which equates to more speed, acceleration and torque through each turn.

Colored Foam Inserts - US Blanks offer a variety of colored polyurethane foam and can insert wedges, halves, or straight cuts between stringers. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

POLYURETHANE FOAM - Definition and History


“PU” foam, as it’s known, has been the predominant material used in surfboard construction for more than half a century.  The goal of this article is to share the history and lineage of our product and aid in the understanding of the material that is at the core of our surfing experience.


Polyurethane: Polyurethane is a plastic, which in the case of surfboard construction is used as a foam.  Polyurethane foam is the most common type of surfboard core.  It is usually wrapped with fiberglass soaked in polyester resin to finish the board’s construction.

Polystyrene: Polystyrene is a plastic, which in the case of surfboard construction is often intended to reference Expanded Polystyrene, also known as EPS.  Expanded Polystyrene is a type of foam, commonly known as Styrofoam (although Styrofoam is a brand name owned by the Dow Chemical Company).  US Blanks uses EPS foam to produce surfboard blanks as an alternative option to polyurethane foam.

Mold: In regards to surfboard blank construction, “mold” is defined similarly to other plastics industries.  It is a hollow cavity in which polyurethane is poured.  The polyurethane foam expands to fill the capacity of the cavity and hardens.  The polyurethane foam is removed from the mold and the resulting form is a surfboard blank.

Blank: “Blank” refers to the foam structure from which one shapes a surfboard.  Surfboard blanks are made in a variety of shapes and sizes intended to closely meet the shapers requirements of a desired surfboard, thereby not wasting an excess amount of foam.  The blank roughly resembles the contours and shape of the finished board.


Polyurethane was first used in 1937 by Otto Bayer in Germany and quickly found applications during World War II where it was used in aircraft construction (coating and insulation).

Prior to commercial polyurethane surfboard production and working out of his garage in Pasadena, California, seminal surfboard designer Bob Simmons (who introduced fundamental design elements of nose-lift, foil, and sculpted rails) first began experimenting with polystyrene foam as a surfboard construction material in 1947.  He made “sandwich” boards constructed of a polystyrene core sandwiched between two planks of balsa plywood with hand-shaped balsa rails enclosing the design.  Simmons learned that polyester resin dissolves polystyrene on contact so the plywood kept the volatile components from meeting.  He then sealed the design with fiberglass.  During the summer of ’49 Simmons partnered with local Malibu surfers Joe Quigg and Matt Kivlin to sell more than 100 “sandwich” constructed surfboards.  This construction method outlined the building blocks for modern PU surfboard construction.

During the early 50’s polyurethane was being a used in common household items, like insulation in refrigerators.  Dana Point surfer and board builder Whitey Harrison successfully cooked a polyurethane blank in his barn in 1955, but never attempted larger production.  In 1956, brothers Dave and Roger Sweet found success selling polyurethane blanks in Los Angeles, but lacked the precise designs that would aid shapers in fully embracing the new material.

Hobie Alter
Meanwhile, reliable balsa wood supply was dwindling, which prompted shaper Hobie Alter and his glasser, an engineer named Gordon “Grubby” Clark, to switch their entire supply of surfboard material from balsa to foam.  The pair invested in a secluded factory in Laguna Canyon, where they designed a mold that would create a blank in two halves, divided lengthwise.  The halves were glued together with a wooden stringer.  The design was finished with fiberglass and coated with resin.  By the summer of 1958 the foam and fiberglass construction had secured its place as the premier performance surfboard in California.

The new technology was widely embraced by surfers, but the popularity of the movie Gidget in 1959 greatly increased America’s fondness for beach lifestyle.  Alter and Clark were perfectly positioned to accommodate the new demand and they quickly established Hobie Surfboards as one of the leading names in surfing.  In 1961 Clark bought Alter’s share of the foam production business.  The split was amicably, and Gordon Clark officially established Clark Foam.  The business moved to Laguna Niguel in 1964, and by the end of the decade Clark had the lion’s share of the world surfboard blank market.  With his engineering background and a keen business sense, Clark made endless improvements to his production line and portfolio of blank offerings.  He accommodated the ’60s surfing boom and held a steady grasp of his paramount position as the world’s lead supplier of surfboard blanks for the next 41 years.
Gordon Clark

After the closure of Clark Foam in late 2005 two former key Clark employees partnered with two industry veterans to form and launch US Blanks in early 2006.  US Blanks redesigned many popular blanks sizes and used their sizable team of highly experienced, former Clark employees to produce consistently high-quality polyurethane blanks on a large scale.  US Blanks additionally offers EPS foam and, over the following 7 years, has secured their position as the world’s leading supplier of surfboard blanks.  As of 2013, polyurethane foam is still the most widely used core for surfboard production.  US Blanks manufactures a water-blown, Isocyanate based Polyurethane foam.


US Blanks manufactures a water-blown, Isocyanate based Polyurethane foam.  Polyurethane surfboard blanks can be glassed with either polyester or epoxy resin, making it versatile in terms of giving riders more options.  Polyurethane foam is regarded as easier to shape than other types of foam.  It is also slightly less expensive than Expanded Polystyrene.  US Blanks offers PU blanks in 6 varying densities, 9 foam color options, and over 50 different blank sizes and dimensions.  Each blank is cut and glued to order, to the client’s specific rocker and stringer requests.  Thousands of rocker adjustments are available to choose from or custom adjustments can be accommodated.  US Blanks’ in-house mill allows for almost any conceivable stringer configuration to be incorporated into any surfboard blank.  The result is a completely customizable surfboard blank that Foam E-Z can get for the customer in one week!.  US Blanks is also the only polyurethane surfboard blank company manufactured entirely in the USA, from their facility in Southern California.