A better board: Glassing with a Bio-Based Epoxy Resin
Let's be honest, not too many people think about the various glassing options for surfboards.
That's why I'm writing this series. We're surfers and we rely on unpolluted natural resources to enjoy riding waves. We should be asking the simple question "is there a better board... one that minimizes the damage to what I love so much?" Related, is there a better board that lasts longer than other boards do?
The first two posts in this series were easy. Picking out an alternative surfboard blank isn't that hard as they are increasingly available. Connecting with your favorite shaper should also be an easy proposition. The thought of the glassing step… made me pause. It felt daunting and what I found out is that it doesn't have to feel that way.
I'll make this easy and speak to the surfers out there that just want to know what they should do… and then I'll geek out with the surf nerds out there.
Short version. Get your board glassed by someone who uses a Bio-based expoxy resin, like "Super Sap" by Entropy Resins.
Entropy's "Super Sap" Epoxy Resin (as with other petroleum based epoxy resins) is non-toxic, makes a stronger, longer lasting surfboard, and it can be used to glass any kind of blank. Additionally, the "bio-based" content of the 'Super Sap' resin significantly cuts the carbon footprint of this resin, which can be a big plus for the fate of our oceans (more on that below). A list of glassers that use this resin can be found here.
Notice I didn't say "ask your glasser to use Entropy Bio Epoxy Resin." That's intentional as this stage in the board-building process is pretty dialed in (low tolerance for change, thin financial margins, etc). Your local glasser may not want to use something new... so find someone who will.
Long version. Understand why a glass job with a smaller impact is important, then get your board glassed by someone who uses a Bio-Based epoxy resin, like Entropy's 'Super Sap'
There are three main reasons you, as a surfer, should seek glassing options that deliver the performance and durability you want but do so with a lower impact to the environments we love so much.
1. For the purposes of a surfboard, Epoxy resin has approximately twice the strength as Polyester resin
Epoxy resin (in general) is better than Polyester resin. It has superior technical performance as the graphic to the right shows. An epoxy resin board can take more "force" (stress) and be "flexed" (strain) more than 2X as much as a polyester resin board before breaking. That means your board will be less likely to get dings of any kind (pressure dings, dings from hitting rocks, dings from being dropped by airline baggage handlers, etc).
The increased strength also means your board will last longer.
Epoxy resins produce stronger surfboards because of their increased adhesion properties, higher tensile strength, and perhaps most importantly, because they can handle significantly more stress & strain before breaking. Short story - this means your next surfboard is way less likely to ding, crack, or snap if it is glassed with epoxy resin, allowing you to surf it harder, faster and longer.
I've summarized the other pros and cons of each in the graphic to the right below.
GEEK OUT DETAIL.
- Check out this Material Science web portal for engineers and designers that compares the full story of Epoxy resin vs. Polyester resin.
- Discussion of stress & strain as applied to materials.
2. Entropy's Bio Epoxy Resin has a much lower CO2 footprint
We are surfers; we arrange our schedule and sometimes our lives around maximizing our time in the ocean. It's important that we don't kill the golden goose. i.e., No one wants to surf in a dead ocean.
The reason Entropy bio-resin is better than traditional petroleum-based Epoxy or Polyester resins is because it has a notably lower carbon footprint. If you need a quick primer on why our carbon footprint matters to the ocean, check out this article in the New York Times, A world without coral reefs.
The positive benefits to our oceans from sourcing significantly lower carbon intensive products and materials is a home run for why all of this matters.
GEEK OUT DETAIL.
- Use of Entropy Super Sap resin can have a ~50% reduction in CO2 emissions related to the resin vs. traditional petroleum-based Epoxy or Polyester resins.
- Smaller carbon footprint means reduced contribution to negative Climate Change related impacts on the world's oceans including: sea level rise, ocean acidification/loss of coral reefs, coastal erosion/loss of beaches, etc.).
- Bio-content in Super Sap resin is sourced from waste stream of other industries (biodiesel fuel and paper production)
- Entropy Super Sap is currently the only surfboard resin to have been lab certified for it's environmental claims and that meets US Gov. requirements for bio-content labeling. Go here for more on this subject.
3. Polyester resin is toxic and has cancer-causing chemicals in it, Entropy's Bio Epoxy Resins... do not
Polyester resin has Styrene in it.
Entropy's Bio Epoxy Resins do not use Styrene.
Here is another worthy New York Times article to understand what this means.
GEEK OUT DETAIL.
- Polyester resins generally contain between 30% and 50% styrene by weight (EPA 1997)
- The New York Times piece above states "Styrene is mostly a concern for workers who build boats, car parts, bathtubs and shower stalls. Studies of workers exposed to high levels of styrene have found increased risks of leukemia and lymphoma and genetic damage to white blood cells. There is also some evidence that styrene increases the risks of cancer of the pancreas and esophagus among styrene workers, the report found."
Let's remember... this blog series is oriented around finding a better board, one that last longer and perfoms as well or better than alternatives. It's also about finding the combination with the smallest impact. Above I noted our opportunity to a least take a small beginning step to help decrease the damage we're doing to our oceans.
The above paragraph speaks to the personal health and safety of surfboard industry workers who have to use these materials, and the eventual release of these toxins into our shared environment from the production process. Not to mention when a surfboard ultimately ends up in a landfill, where these toxins can leach into our soil, water and air.
My personal journey...
As I mentioned in the first post, I was really taken with the idea of getting a surfboard made from… trash.
The next step was glassing and I wanted to try out Entropy's 'Super Sap' Resin.
I picked E-Tech Glassing, E-Tech Boards who are in LA because Kevin Whilden from Sustainable Surf shared they were among the best out there and most committed to help transform surfboard construction. They seemed like the perfect fit for this project and they turned out to be exactly that.
I met with Todd Patterson and Ryan Harris at their facility near LAX and from the second I walked in the door I could tell something wild was happening. Wild in a good way. The Mini-Simmons SUP inside the door was my first clue that these guys were willing to try anything and work with surfers who really wanted to push the boundaries. Race paddleboards were stacked against the walls, little handplanes made from foam scraps... this team was working on every angle of the sport I could think of.
I also noticed it didn't smell like… pretty much every other glassing shop I've been to. We usually smell styrene when we're around glassing bays... it's a carcinogen. I didn't smell that that there at all.
Think about that point and let it sink in… this isn't about just a process that has the lowest impact on the environment but we're also talking about real people's health.
The E-Tech Glassing, E-Tech Boards crew were awesome at every single stage. They were perhaps something beyond awesome… they not only helped "fill my order" but they invested in me... they educated me on the value of their choices such as embracing Entropy Epoxy Bio-Resin and smaller details such as the value of putting a bamboo veneer on the deck (extends life, adds durability, fewer pressure dings)...
If you're in the Southern California region I definitely recommend Greenhouse Glassing, their site is here and below is a video of their process. You can email Ryan and Todd there at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.
I had them set my Pill up with a five box set-up (with the center box able to take a singlefin). I'm aware the "five box" set-up can seem a bit over the top (I'm not exactly Kelly Slater). I see the five box option as a way to get more use from this board. I was looking for a board that was durable, I could take out locally and also take on trips. I don't know how many fin combinations this set-up equates to but I can tell you I've ridden it with a single Greenough flex-fin, as a quad and with some MR twin fins I had.
Extra thanks to Todd who literally drove to LAX and met me in the lot of a Taco Bell to deliver this board as I was about to hop on a plane to El Salvador. That picture of me at the end of the video was just before midnight... and twelve hours later that board was in the water.
Also big thanks to all the others that made this process possible; Kevin Whilden and Michael Stewart who are helping transform the industry over at Sustainable Surf. Thanks Clay at Marko Foam and to Timmy Patterson for shaping a board that I love.