Surfboards come in all different shapes and sizes – that’s obvious. But there’s also variations to a surfboard’s core.
And just like every design element of a particular board, the surfboard’s core material is going to have an effect on the way it performs in the water.
Beyond performance, a surfboard’s core also has the highest influence on how eco-friendly a surfboard is.
What is a PU or Fiberglass Surfboard?
A PU or fiberglass surfboard typically refers to a board made from a polyurethane blank that’s glassed with polyester resin.
The PU/fiberglass surfboard is responsible for huge amounts of progression in surfboard design and surfing itself, but it also is responsible for a lot of environmental drawbacks.
The bottom line is simple – PU surfboards are bad for the environment and unsustainable.
Polyurethane blanks are produced from petroleum based chemicals that are toxic and don’t break down.
PU surfboards do have their benefits though.
- They’re relatively easy to shape since the foam is dense and consistent.
- The weight and density of a PU blanks makes it good in a variety of conditions and allows you to really take advantage of your rail.
- They have a unique flex to them, providing for further performance benefits.
The History of the PU Surfboard
Polyurethane foam surfboards came about in the 1950s after experimentation by Hobie Alter. Hobie opened a factory to mass-produce this new type of board and placed Gordon Clark in charge of operations.
In 1961, Clark set up his own company, Clark Foam. Clark Foam became the main supplier of surfboard foam in the United States and helped facilitate much of the surfboard’s design progressions.
By 2005, the year Clark Foam shut down, its estimated that the company provided about 90% of surfboard blanks for the U.S. and about 60% worldwide.
Clark Foam ultimately shut down because it was not able to adapt to and meet EPA standards around chemicals used in the production of the blanks and processes used to make them.
The closing of Clark Foam was an abrupt change for the industry, and really helped to bring new and alternatives surfboard blank materials to the forefront.
Ultimately, the shutdown was good for the environment and more progress in surfboard design.