How Are Paddle Boards Made? Interview With A Board Shaper

Have you ever wondered what goes into shaping a paddleboard or a surfboard? We’ve certainly always been curious! We decided to find out so we interviewed board shaper Mauricio Di Bartolomeo of Wave Warrior Surfboards and Tuga SUP.

How did you get into shaping boards?

I was 16 and had just learned to surf in my home break in Venezuela. I bought myself a terrible board for learning and I desperately needed another one.

The few that were available were just so expensive. I managed to source some foam, Fibreglass Cloth and resin to make our first couple of boards. The designs received great feedback and I got asked by my friends to make a few more – at that point I decided that I needed to step it up and look for facilities that would allow me to make my designs using EPOXY and advanced composites like carbon fibre.

Paddle Board Being Shaped

What technologies and materials do you use?

The technologies and materials we use today are significantly more advanced than the ones we started out with. Currently, we design our boards using 3D technology. Once the boards are perfectly shaped, we laminate them using the finest inputs in the industry.

We always try to reduce the amount of synthetic materials we use by replacing them with natural ones such as natural bamboo veneer. We use 6oz Fibreglass Cloth and EPOXY resin as well as low-density Expanded Polystyrene blanks to make our boards as light as possible. Our 2016 race line and river surf boards are laminated with 6oz Twill Weave Carbon Fibre, and we are currently trying out PVC and Polycarbonate composites to shape our new generation of performance SUPs.

Tell me about shaping in 3D:

Shaping in 3D allows us to push the limits as we get to run hydrodynamic tests on our computers, which shows us how the board will behave on the water before it is shaped.

The software is really advanced and allows us to do design our boards with incredible precision that would be very hard to achieve by hand.  We don’t leave it all up to the machines though, we hand finish all of our boards to ensure they each have the essence of our design and iron out any imperfections. As a result, our boards are a marriage of science and art.

What are the advantages of using 3D board models?

Shaping in 3D has many advantages. First, it has cut down on our feedback loop from our riders as we get to try the upgrades and changes with them using software, enabling us to keep making our boards better, faster.

Second, this technology ensures that our boards will be consistently shaped, no matter where in the world they are bought or surfed. Additionally, we make our 3D design files available on our website, which enables clients to get a feel for the board in the event that they don’t live close to one of our dealers. This gives them more confidence, as they know they will get exactly what they see.

Questions To Ask When Buying A Stand Up Paddle Board?

  1. Does the board company offer a manufacturers’ defect warranty? Reputable companies have warranties that cover delamination. We offer a 1-year warranty on all of our Tuga paddleboards in the rare event of any manufacturing defects.
  1. What is the density of the fibre cloth? Try to look for boards laminated using 6oz Fibreglass Cloth, or 6oz carbon fibre. Some companies use 4oz material, which is not as resistant and more prone to damage.
  1. What fin box system is used for side fins? Personally, I believe that any company that cares about the performance of their SUPs should use Futures fin boxes for SUP side fins. It is a much sturdier and resistant fin box and works much better when surfing. They are a bit more expensive, but it is very worth it for the riders.
  1. If you are buying a board that looks laminated with bamboo or wood, ask if the wood or bamboo is real. We use 100% real bamboo on all of our boards because it makes the boards stronger and lighter, while allowing us to replace on layer of fibreglass cloth. However, many companies use bamboo or wood graphic paper. It looks the same but does not have any of the benefits of natural bamboo.

Thank you, Mauricio, for your awesome insights and advice!