Wood Is Good
Your mental image of a surfboard as white, light, and not-quite right may inspire you to both look back and realize that wooden surfboards are not a new idea and also wonder what’s been keeping you from getting one. Surfing a true wood board (there are impostors!) is an experience you won’t forget… most people love the lively performance of a Grain Surfboard and the knowledge they may never have to replace it.
History of Surfing Wood
It’s hard to remember that for over a thousand years, surfboards were carefully shaped solid pieces of wood, hand-hewn from logs. These boards were very heavy and the excess of weight limited their range of performance. But by the 1930′s (30 years after surfing’s modern-day re-birth) boards were being “chambered”, meaning the solid planks that comprised the surfboard were being disassembled and hollowed out before they were re-assembled. This made boards a bit lighter, but wasted an incredible amount of wood. In 1929 (long before he invented the fin) Tom Blake created the first board built around an internal frame… within six years, half the boards on California’s beaches were of this “cigar-box” construction.
Grain’s boards are a natural blend of this traditional construction style with New England boat building craftsmanship. But we also throw into the mix advanced materials technology, performance-oriented designs, environment-friendly components and a dedication to continuing the evolution of this seminal branch of surfboard construction.
We craft our boards one at a time using predominantly Northern White Cedar, with some Western Red Cedar thrown in for color (red cedar not included in kits). The Northern White Cedar we use comes from sustainable forestry professionals, which means there’ll be plenty of wood for our boards in the future. Our millshop then air-dries the rough-sawn wood, and planes, quality inspects and stores it on-site. By choosing this wood, we’re supporting small, family-owned sawmills right here in Maine. Grain Surfboards consume only about a third of the wood used in a chambered or solid board.
White cedar is super light, extremely rot-resistant and beautiful to look at because of the dramatic grain patterns we arrange on each kit and board. The natural qualities of these woods combined with the unique construction methods we employ ensure durability, strength, and lightweight rideability for many years.
Look around, and you’ll find plenty of foam boards covered with a veneer of wood. These aren’t “wood boards”; usually stiff and flex-less, in the water they feel nothing like a true wood board. Remember that – while foam boards have been a major contributor to advances in surfboard design – foam wasn’t introduced to surfing because of its benefits to the surfer, but because of it’s benefits to the manufacturer. And even most “green” foams still create a significant net loss to the environment in transportation CO2, off-gassing by-products and toxicity of the principal components.
Once you try a wooden board you’ll discover that wooden surfboards ride with more energy and carry more momentum down the wave. And while they may seem slightly heavier on land, in the water that weight converts entirely to momentum. More momentum means they paddle better, drop-in more positively, dampen chop on breezy days and build more speed. Wood boards feel much livelier, and with the additional speed, maneuver handily. A well-constructed wooden board feels solid underfoot but also transmits a pleasing softness like nothing you’ve ever experienced on a foam board. Wave after wave you’ll find new ways to praise its qualities. Wood is just good.