So my friend Ash left me his soft top surfboard when he left New Zealand for an incredible job opportunity and life experience working in Qatar. It was a great fun sized board (7’4″) with plenty of rocker allowing it to handle bigger waves. I generally used it for terrible west coast days where the only thing you could see down the entire stretch of Muriwai Beach was white wash.
Not sure when it happened, but it buckled right in the middle at some stage and became impossible to surf on. You could paddle it fine, but standing up meant the board would bend in the middle from the weight and you wouldn’t be able to do much.
I had been thinking about repairing it for some time (Plan A), or using it as a blank to make an even more exciting board (Plan B). I ended up deciding that I would diagnose the problem by performing open heart surgery on the soft fun board, to see if I could repair it.
First thing I did was cut the soft green foam off the top to see if there was any noticeable sign of damage in the foam where it was bending. During the entire process, I couldn’t help but think: “Please let it be Plan B”.
The first surprise I had was that there was no obvious stringer, or any fiberglass, as I was expecting. It would seem that the board had never been water-tight!! Being made from polystyrene, sea-water must just get absorbed into the foam and polystyrene would leave a bunch of salt in the foam once it dried. This was strange, and my original repair plan of adding more fiberglass to the area was probably not going to work (Yes! Plan B!). There was a crease passing horizontally at the time, and I started to wonder what was in the middle of the surfboard.
I removed all of the green foam and the hard plastic that was glued to the bottom of the surfboard, and grabbed a hand saw. I marked up the middle of the board from nose to tail and started cutting. It was easy at the start, but then at one stage I was sawing and making barely any progress. There was something very hard in there. The saw dust started to turn brown and smell of wood, that’s when I found the hardwood “stringer”.
I didn’t want to damage the foam, so I patiently kept sawing, despite not getting anywhere quickly. I had to swap arms a few times, and it took maybe half an hour, but eventually, I cut through whatever was there, and finished the last part cutting quickly through the remaining foam. I carefully split one half from the other, and lowered it to the ground.
And the diagnosis was complete. The “stringer” was nothing more than a piece of hardwood (with a nail hanging off it). During production, the polystyrene was probably expanded around the hardwood into the surfboard shaped mould. Due to the soft-top surfboard not being waterproof, the hard-wood “stringer” had become moist, and with moisture comes mould. The “stringer” became weak and snapped in the surf , causing the whole board to buckle. You can see the internal damage in the middle of the rectangular hole in the picture above, where stringer had snapped causing the foam to buckle and crack.
This opened up an exciting possibility to completely re-design the surfboard, recycle the materials, and make it something new.
More in next blog post!