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When it comes to your next surfboard you want to make sure that you are informed about all aspects of your board’s constructions. Not only will you be able to make a better purchase, but you will be able to better predict how your board will perform on the water. A major factor in your board’s construction and shape is what kind of foam your board is made out of.
A long time ago, the majority of surfboards were made out of polyurethane or PU foam. Ever since Clark Foam, the largest supplier of PU foam blanks, went out of business in the mid-00s, shapers and surfboard makers scrambled to find replacements. A decade and half later, there are some great materials out there that can help your board rip.
So let’s jump into our breakdown of the different kinds of surfboard foams. By the end of this you’ll know the difference between foam types and which is best for your situation.
Polyurethane or PU foam has been the standard surfboard foam practically since the board construction progressed from wood blanks.
Boards made from this material are then wrapped in fiberglass and sealed with polyester resin.
Polyurethane foam boards are the traditional construction.
These boards offer a balance of flex, strength, and board feel.
Typically, a surfboard built with this kind of foam will feel smoother on the face of the wave.
Pros of Polyurethane foam boards
These boards are often hand shaped and have a higher degree of craftsmanship.
PU boards are easier to repair by yourself since the resin is often easier to work with.
The feel of polyurethane foam is often preferred because it allows for boards to cut through choppy surf and stay in the water for a smoother ride.
Cons of Polyurethane foam boards
PU boards are often times heavier than alternative constructions that are the same size.
PU boards are less durable than EPS boards.
PU boards do not float as well as polystyrene foam boards.
Expanded polystyrene, EPS for short, is a surfboard foam that has become more popular in the past decade and a half.
The foam itself is a kind of styrofoam similar to what you would find in packaging.
For surfboards, EPS foam provides durable, lightweight boards.
When it comes to EPS foam, there are several different ways to finish the board.
Soft tops are typically made with EPS foam.
But, the foam can also be used to make boards similar to traditional hard surfboards.
In this case the shaped foam blank is covered with fiberglass and glassed with epoxy resin. Because of this, these kinds of boards are sometimes called epoxy boards.
Epoxy boards are known for being incredibly light and very durable. If you are looking for a small board that will still float you and allow for easy paddling, an EPS board is your best bet.
Pros of polystyrene boards
EPS foam is very buoyant so that you need less volume even if you want more paddling power.
Epoxy boards are often very fast on the face of the wave if you are looking for a board to help you surf small waves.
Epoxy surfboards are incredibly durable. They can take a more normal wear and tear than a traditional PU board.
EPS soft top surfboards make great beginner boards.
These kinds of boards are often cheaper than PU boards.
Cons of polystyrene surfboards
Boards that are made using this kind of foam are not always hand shaped which can mean that it’s not as high of quality as a PU board.
Repairing an epoxy board is much more difficult than a polyurethane foam board. If you accidentally use the wrong resin it will destroy the foam inside the board.
Epoxy boards often have a vacuum seal when they are glassed meaning that the board can become waterlogged quickly if you ding it.
EPS surfboards are stiffer than PU boards which can cause the board to have trouble in unruly surf or choppy conditions.
Which Kind of Foam is Best
The true answer is that it depends on the conditions you are surfing in and what your skill level is. If you are a beginner looking to get into surfing, epoxy surfboards are great as entry level boards. Because they are light, buoyant, and durable, they make ideal beginner boards. The EPS soft top surfboard is exceptionally ideal for beginners.
If you are a more experienced surfer, it depends on what kind of conditions you surf in and what you are looking for. Epoxy boards are great for small wave boards and when conditions are clean. When waves get a little bigger and more powerful, you may find that your EPS board sits too high up on the wave to fully control. If you typically surf a long, peeling point break, you might have a better experience riding a PU board.