There are a lot of terms that get thrown around when discussing surfboards. Maybe you know a little bit about some of them. Maybe you just smile and nod your head when you hear people talking about construction nuances.
If you sometimes feel lost with all the information, we have good news for you. We’ll take a closer look at what goes into surfboard construction and break down some of the more commonly used phrases so you can know exactly what they mean.
We’ll talk about one of the most important surfboard materials: the stringer of a surfboard, why it's important, and how it affects the way your surfboard feels.
What is a Stringer?
Surfboards are made from foam blanks. The stringer is a part of a blank. Typically, it is the long piece of wood that runs the length of the board. Typically stringers are in the middle of the board but not always.
What Does a Stringer Do?
As one of the parts of a surfboard, stringers give the board strength and flex.
If a board had no stringer, it would be likely to bow in the middle from your weight.
This would make the board useless if you wanted to surf it. The stringer is one of the design features that lets boards speed on the face of the wave.
It is the stringer that helps the foam maintain its rigidity. Different stringer types also help give boards flex and that snap feeling that allows the board to return to its normal shape.
As your board moves over the water and pushes against the wave, it naturally bends. The stringer helps give your board the ability to flex over these without losing its shape or structure.
Your board’s stringer also gives the board strength. One of the reasons why boards, especially soft top boards, don’t buckle when waves break on them is the stringer. The stringer helps the board keep its original structure despite the beatings you’ll throw at it.
Do Boards Have Multiple Stringers?
It depends on the board. Many shortboards typically only have a single stringer down the middle of the board. Many longboards are the same.
However, many different longboards like those shaped by Donald Takayama or Robert August make use of triple stringers. One these boards, there is a stringer down the middle and then one on each side between the center and the outside rail. Mostly, this comes down to personal preference and style.
Many soft top surfboards have one to three stringers running down the middle of the board clustered together. Since these boards are made out of EPS foam rather than more traditional polyurethane foam, they need a little bit of a different structure. These stringers mostly help soft top boards keep their intended rocker shape and let you surf the way the board was intended.
Different types of construction and experimentation has led to alternative placements for stringers.
Some EPS boards make use of parabolic stringers.
The parabolic stringers are placed closer to the rails rather than through the center of the board.
Despite their odd location, these stringers accomplish the same basic functions as normal stringers.
Some boards such as Firewire boards don’t make use of traditional stringers.
These boards instead reinforce the rails of the board with wood making a board that has something like a rail stringer. The idea with these is to give the board strength but allow for more flex from the board since EPS foam is typically more rigid.
The advancement of foams and glassing techniques has even led to truly stringerless boards. Instead of relying on a wooden stringer for strength, these boards use the foam material, glassing techniques and different wrappings to give the board its strength. These boards are more interested in giving the rider more feeling of flex with the board.
Which Type of Stringer is Best?
Surfboard design has been making use of center stringers for decades because they work. If you want a surfboard that rides how you would expect it to, you will want a center stringer surfboard.
Plus, having a stringer in the center of your board makes it much easier to line up your tail pad placement so it doesn’t hang off the edge of the board.