Surftech, well-known in the longboard community for its sandwich epoxy boards that are super-light and durable, is poised to go full-bore into the shortboard market.
“We think that a shortboard should last a year — even if it’s ridden everyday — and at the end of the year it’s resellable,” says Randy French, shaper and founder of Santa Cruz-based Surftech, which has been experimenting with epoxy surfboards since 1989. “If a kid pays 450 bucks for a board and it delams or buckles, that investment has gone to zero. That’s like buying a car and having the engine blow out.”
So far Surftech has released seven shortboards running the gamut from a 5’6″ fish to a 10′ gun shaped and test-ridden by Mavericks charger Jeff Clark. A Ratboy model designed by M10’s Geoff Rashe is expected to be in production by early summer. That model, which will be available in a 5’8″ and a 5’11”, is designed for boosting airs.
“Our ultimate goal is to have 25 shortboard models,” says French. “It’ll take us five years to get there, but eventually there’ll be enough variety and state-of-the-art technology where a guy on the Top-44 could have a quiver to travel with.”
Unlike conventional boards that use polyester resins, Surtech’s Tuflite technology features an epoxy-based sandwich laminate made of six different layers of epoxy and fiberglass including a three millimeter high-density PVC sheet foam in the center, which is heat resistant and high-impact tolerant. The laminate is bonded to the EPS (expanded polystyrene) blank with heat and pressure.
The result is a more durable, better-performing board, says French, a veteran in the windsurf industry. For one, the blank is three times lighter than conventional foam, which allows for a thicker, stronger skin. Plus, the boards are stiffer so they paddle better and are more responsive.
“The technology is pretty wired,” says French, “but we’re always trying to make them lighter.”
Each model takes about eight weeks to set up and costs 5,000 dollars. And since each board is virtually identical to the master shape, the preliminary shape must be a proven and flawless design. “That’s why you want to work with the most futuristic shapers — like Doc Lausch, M10 Rashe, Rusty, and Al Merrick,” says French. “You want to work with the guys that are making the most state-of-the-art boards possible.”
Surftech gets a proven master from the shaper, and scans it into a computer. Each board is an exact replica of the original.
Surftech’s Tuflite technology has caught the eye of a handful of renown shapers including Mickey Munoz, Robert August, Dale Velzy, and Donald Takayama, who all have Tuflite signature models. French hopes Surftech’s Ratboy model designed by Rashe is the first of many pro models that will be designed by established shortboard shapers.
Though bringing an additional shaper and a pro surfer into the picture complicates the business side with contract negotiations, French says it’s worth it: “The idea is that a kid who’s interested in busting airs can get the exact board that Ratboy rides. It’ll get the kid stoked.”
Eventually, there will be three sizes of each pro model — for small, medium, and big waves (or surfers). “Once we get up the numbers we can make squash, swallow, round tails, and vary the widths,” says French.
Plus, to avoid making cookie-cutter boards, each board will be offered in four different base colors and with six different graphic options. “Plus with a combination of paint pens, rattle cans, and stickers, a kid can make it however he wants it,” French adds.
“Try before you buy”
The surf industry seems to accept change as readily as a Hindu eats a hamburger, so how does Surftech expect to get surfers to try Tuflite shortboards? With its “try before you buy” program, says French.
Try before you buy is essentially like renting a board, only the money a customer payys to demo the board goes toward the purchase of it. The program has been a success at Surftech’s 200 longboard dealers nationwide, and Surftech expects positive results from its shortboard dealers.
“We’re trying to make a board consistently so a kid could go in and pay a modest amount and try it,” says French. “It’s like when you’re going to buy a mountain bike — you get to take it for a spin around the block.”
Freeline on Santa Cruz’s East side has offered Surftech’s demo program for a few years, and is also one of the handful of dealers Surftech has selected to initially demo the new shortboards. “We have demo boards and it works great,” says Freeline Manager Tara Mel (wife of Peter Mel). “It helps sell the boards.”
French says the shortboard demo program will start off slow, and will initially be available in a handful of ‘core shops. “We think it’s a positive change,” say French. “That’s one of the weaknesses of conventional custom boards — you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. We’re in the business of cloning the magic board.”
For more information on Surftech’s Tuflite technology call (831) 479-4949, or visit Surftech online at www.surftech.com