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Construction of a bodyboard...

The figure below shows the individual components of a bodyboard. These individual pieces are then joined together using a thermo-welding technique. The components may be made of similar or different materials. The types of materials usually used in the manufacturing of bodyboards is outlined below.

Bodyboard Materials

Materials play an important role in the performance of your board and your performance on it. Unfortunately there is a good deal of confusion about the materials used in producing bodyboards. Plastics manufacturers brand their products with trade names which are often rebranded by bodyboard manufacturers seeking "whiz-bang" names. This article discusses some of the most common materials used and examines their properties and effect on performance.

Where materials are known by their trade name (Surlyn, Arcel, Ethafoam etc), I have tried to give both their generic name (scientific name) and manufacturer.

The density of these materials is quite important as it tells us how buoyant a material will be. I list two values here - PCF and Specific Gravity. PCF stands for pounds per cubic feet. Specific Gravity is the density of the material compared to water. In both cases the smaller the number, the more buoyant the material. Water has a Specific Gravity of 1 and a value of 62.4 pcf.

Cores, Deck and Rails

Dow
Generic Name: Polyethylene
Density: PCF 2.2, Specific Gravity 0.0352 
Despite having been used to make bodyboards for 20 years, polyethylene remains the staple core for most low to mid-range bodyboards thanks to its a reliable mix of projection, water-resistance and weight. It is compact, comes in different densities, and has good projection and overall performance. As well as being used as the core it is also used on the deck and rails of most bodyboards. Warm water can sometimes cause polyethylene get too flexible and to develop a rocker and warp over time. Cold water is better since it tends to stiffen it up somewhat. Although not as stiff as other cores, polyethylene is still a major player when combined with strengthening agents like mesh or stringers.

Arcel
Generic Name:
Expandable Polyethylene/Polystyrene Interpolymer 
Manufacturer: Nova Chemicals
Arcel is a mix of polyethylene and polystyrene. Developed for bodyboards in the mid-80's, this is a light, strong foam used for bodyboard cores. It is a tough, flexible, durable foam that is stronger and more water resistant than polyethylene. Arcel maintains its stiffness even in warmer water but has a tendency to dent.

Polypropylene
Polypropylene is light, highly responsive, strong, springy, waterproof closed cell foam core. It stays stiff in warm water, provides great projection out of turns and has better flex/memory response than other cores. Polypropylene is much stronger than polyethylene, with half the weight. Initially, the high lamination temperature made it difficult to bond to the finishing (deck skins and slicks) without glues. New lamination techniques seem to have rectified this problem.

Polypropylene comes in two types. Extruded polypro is made from strands of polypropylene and offers very good projection and durability in the board. Beaded polypro is a step up and is extremely lightweight, durable, water-resistant, and as a result, expensive, but you get what you pay for. 

It is generally accepted that polypropylene is the premiere core material in the market. Polypropylene is the lighter, gives more projection and is more water resistant than any other bodyboard core. It is fast replacing Arcel and Dow as the cores of choice. Like every core though, it is completely resistant to creasing and it is the most expensive of all cores.

Ethafoam
Generic Name: Polyethylene
Manufacturer: Dow
Density: PCF 2.5, Specific Gravity 0.04
Ethafoam is a strong, resilient, medium-density, closed, fine-cell polyethylene foam.

Zote Foam
Generic Name: Cross-linked polyethylene foam
Density: PCF 2.8, Specific Gravity 0.045
Zote foam is a closed cell cross-linked polyethylene foam. It tough, flexible and resilient. It is also water resistant and has a good U.V. stability. Zote foam is also known as Plastazote.

Sealtex
Generic Name: Non-cross linked Polyethylene. 
Density: PCF 8,  Specific Gravity 0.128
Sealtex offers excellent slip to grip ratio and is highly water-resistant. This material is sometimes used for decking.

Softlon
Generic Name: Cross-linked polyethylene
Manufacturer: Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd
Density: PCF 2.06,  Specific Gravity 0.033
Softlon is an irradiation cross-linked polyethylene, closed cell foam with excellent resilience, toughness and flexibility, low water absorption, excellent chemical resistance, and good UV properties. The foam is nitrogen expanded. Softlon is generally used for decks and rails.

Crosslink Foam
Cross-linked foams are a high density cell foam. These foams are characterized by their denser, more compact feel and resistance to water. They are very durable deck and rail foam materials but are usually more expensive than standard polyethylene foam.

HCL
Full Name:
Hard Crosslink Foam
HCL is a higher density type of crosslink foam. This material is super light and strong. HCL bonds with the inner core to achieve maximum strength and less delamination. HCL is virtually water resistant.

Majikore
Generic Name: Polypropylene
LMNOP's version of polypropylene, with a sandwich layer on either side of the core to make it stiffer.

PVA
Generic Name:
Poly Vinyl Acetate
PVA is a cross-linked foam with good memory and water-resistant properties.

Slicks

Surlyn
Generic Name: Ionomer
Manufacturer: DuPont
Density: PCF 58.7-60.5, Specific Gravity 0.94 - 0.97
Surlyn is light, flexible and delivers good recoil. It is has good impact toughness and abrasion resistance. It is considered one of the best materials by the industry for projection and speed. Surlyn is also used in golf ball covers, dog chew toys, bowling pins, hockey helmet.

Kraylon
The newest bottom skin, it's thicker and slightly more durable than Surlyn. It is also extremely light and stiff. Some manufacturers claim it to be better.

HDPE
Full Name: High Density Polyethylene 
Density: PCF 59.9-60.5, Specific Gravity 0.94 - 0.96
HDPE looks and feels very similar to Surlyn, but is a softer, less durable bottom material that performs very well but keeps the cost of the board down. Works great when combined with stiffer cores, or cores with stringers.

ABS
Full Name: Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene
Strong, crease and crack resistant plastic sometimes used for slicks.

Structural Features

Mesh - Plastic Mesh is added between the core and top skin, or two layers of Mesh can be added between the top skin and core, and then between the core and bottom skin. Mesh adds strength, durability and unlike Stringers, they add flexibility throughout the entire board, not just one area.

Stringers - These are lightweight, carbon fibre rods placed in the core of a bodyboard. They add strength, durability and flexibility without adding weight to the board. Prone boards normally have one stringer. Dropknee boards generally have two stringers to prevent the board from twisting and warping.

Channels - Gouged-out areas on the bottom of the board that help to channel the water to enhance performance. There are many channel configurations out there, and basically, they help you hold on the face of the wave better and enhance speed, but can decrease manoeuvrability, although when combined with certain tail designs and templates can work perfectly and be very manoeuvrable. Especially effective with respect to bat tails. Crescent tail boards don't necessarily need channels, but some people prefer them even with this tail type for that extra bite.

Chine - This is the part of the board's rail that wraps over the side of the board from the deck. It's usually much smaller than the bottom part of the rail.

 

more details on board specs

Board Dimensions

 

Nose Width

A wide nose board helps prone riders by having a large planing area in the front of the board. A dropknee board has a narrow nose due to the fact that most of the surface area is toward the tail.

Board Width

(Normally Between 20.5 - 23 inches) Measured at the widest point on the board. This measurement is critical because it is directly related to overall curve of the template. A board with a large difference between the nose width and mid width will be very "curvy". This type of board will turn very quick and snappy. Having a small difference between the nose and width will keep a "straight" template, normally used in larger waves for long drawn out turns

Tail Width

(Normally Between 16.5 - 19.5 inches) Affects the overall curve while helping the board get on plane sooner. A wide tail planes soon but sacrifices turnablility by straightening the overall curve and making a rail to rail transition more difficult. A narrow tail makes rail to rail riding easier. Our Gull Wing Tail option helps add lift in the tail for those who want that option.

Board Length

A general rule of thumb is having a board that comes to your belly button. A smaller board is easy to handle while a larger board will be more stable.

Nose to Wide Point

Measured from the nose to the overall wide point. This point is the pivot point of your turns...further back for dropknee or tail riders, toward the nose for most prone riding.

Rail Ratio

Rail proportions are described as ratios. 50/50 being 50% bottom rail and 50% top rail. Normally a lower (50/50) is looser, while a higher (60/40) rail makes for more stability and little more holding power. The smaller the rail % the easier it will contact the waves face. However if you are fairly heavy this could cause the board to bog down as too much of the board will go into the waves face so a larger rail % is suggested

Board Cores

 

Polyethylene (PE) PE

This is the most common core used in bodyboards. This core is softer than arcel and works well in most conditions. It works better in cooler water as it is prone to creasing in warmer climates. It has a good memory and flex for turning. When the water is very warm the board has a tendency to get too flexible, which effects the speed. If you combine this core with a stringer its durability and stiffness is improved dramatically.

Polypropylene (PP) PP

Polypropylene has an incredible weight to strength ratio. The lightest core available. It is much stronger than polyethylene, with half the weight. It has a better flex/memory response than anything on the market. It stays stiff in warm water and the projection you get out of a turn is insane. It is also more resistant to the effects of heat. A stringer may also be added for those riders who like more stiffness and added durability.

Other Board Features

 

Stringer Systems

A hollow carbon/fiber/glass tube is inserted in the middle of the board, giving it incredible flex, memory and strength. It also keeps the rocker flat which makes the board fast.

Channels

Channels are used to enhance rail holding. They channel the water out of the tail and help the rail dig into the wave face. They are created in the boards bottom 6mm in from the rail and 25cm in length, they are tapered from entry down to 5mm at exit

Board Tails

 

Crescent Tail

This is a full radius cut from point to point on the tail. Best combined for DK boards and really hollow waves. Not a good choice if you want to spin.

Bat Tail

This tail will increase speed in powerful waves. Provides lots of maneuverability.

Clipped Tail

Words well for all conditions and styles of riding.

What board for what waves?

 

Hollow Beach breaks

When riding big, hollow beach breaks you want a board that is fast, fairly stiff and a little shorter than normal for speed and maneuverability.

Small Waves

For smaller, less powerful waves your board should be a little longer and wider to give you more speed.

board compatibility table...

The following table may be used as a guide to decide which bodyboard is compatible with your body type. It is only a rough guide though, as different people have different needs.

Inches

Weight

Height

38

Up to 55kg (121lbs)

Up to 168 cm

39

Up to 60kg (132lbs)

Up to 173 cm

40

30-65kg (66-143lbs)

Up to 178 cm

41

30-70kg (66-154lbs)

Up to 183 cm

41.5

30-75kg (66-165lbs)

Up to 188 cm

42

35-80kg (77-176lbs)

Up to 188 cm

42.5

40-85 Kg

Up to 188 cm

43

45-95 Kg

Up to 198 cm

44

50-100 Kg

Up to 208 cm

46

50-127 Kg

Up to 213 cm

Bodyboards come in many shapes and sizes, with different specifications, and in a variety of colours. With so many brands and models to choose from, buying a bodyboard can be very confusing. Some of the bodyboards available in the market can be viewed .

Useful tip: Ask around before you buy!!!

Frequently asked questions: 

How do I choose the right board?

It's important that a bodyboard should float your weight and not be so wide that you have difficulty paddling & carrying it. See above chart to see which board is suitable for you.

How do you duckdive?

The best way to duckdive is to: when you see the whitewater approaching, grab both rails with your hands in a tight grip, a few feet from impact begin to push the nose of your board underneath the surface. While trying to achieve depth, use your knee to help guide the board underneath the turbulence by pushing down with it on your deck. Once your are underneath the whitewater explosion, begin to push forward in a scooping motion. As the wave passes overhead, with your knee still in position, pull the nose of your board back towards the surface with your hands. The deeper the dive the more successful and the less chance you will have of being hit by turbulence!

What makes my board crease?

Boards crease mainly when pressure causes the bottom skin to bend in the opposite shape of the deck's rocker. This usually occurs while landing aerials, lip launches or freefalling into a closeout shore break. Once a board has been creased it can not be repaired. One way to minimise this problem is to have an old board handy for those testing days and keep your new uncreased board for mellower conditions.

How do you get lots of Air?

When attempting to do an air you need to get lots of speed and power. Your first priority should be a good bottom hand turn. You have to hit the lip with enough speed to allow you to project of the top of the wave. The more speed you have, the higher you will go! When your in the air, try to float for as long as possible, making sure that you keep in touch with the wave and don't sail off the back. Focus on where you are going to land, bring in your elbows which will create a softer impact so that your back and stomach don't take the full force. There are more back injuries caused by this maneuver than any other. Try not to sink on landing, or this will cause you to loose momentum to keep going.

How do you do a barrel roll?

As with airs, you need to do a good bottom hand turn and keep up maximum speed. Drift up the face of the wave to the top of the wave. As the lip begins to throw, project with the wave at the same time and go with it. While rolling, let the wave do most of the work. Timing must be perfect. Make sure your angle of approach allows you down-the-line speed. Once rolling with the lip, go for projection. Hold onto your board with a death grip and land keeping up your momentum.

For some helpful hints regarding your board click ..