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Bodyboard Construction

PARTS OF THE BOARD AND WHAT THEY DO-

Deck- The top of the board where you lay.

Slick bottom- The bottom of the board that has a smooth or slick material such as Surlyn or HDPE.

Nose- The front of the board where you hold on.

Rail- The side of the board. Often the rail of a board is expressed as a ratio such as 50/50 or 60/40, etc. The theory is that a 50/50 rail is faster but a 60/40 offers more control. Most companies now make their boards with 60/40 as the standard ratio. I personally think that there is very little difference between the two and both work very well on any board. Some boards have single rails and some have double rails. The inner rail piece is referred to as the "pin" on our website. Double rails add more stiffness to the board.

Tail- The back end of the board. Click here to see tail types.

Channels- Gouged-out areas on the bottom of the board that help to channel the water to enhance performance. There are MANY channel configurations out there, and basically, they help you hold on the face of the wave better and enhance speed, but can decrease maneuverability, ALTHOUGH when combined with certain tail designs and templates can work perfectly and be very maneuverable. Especially effective in this respect with bat tails. Crescent tail boards don't necessarily need channels, but some people prefer them even with this tail type for that extra bite.

Stringer- Now offered by most manufacturers, stringers made a brief appearance in the 80's, and are very popular once again. It's basically a straight rod inserted into the board to maintain the stiffness of the board. They can be made of many different materials. Lengthens the life of the core.

Mesh- A chicken wire-like plastic material sandwiched into the core of a board to enhance projection and durability. This material is only used by a couple manufacturers as an alternative to stringers.

Template- This term refers to the basic shape or outline of the board (ie: narrow nose, wide nose, etc.).

Chine- This is the part of the board's rail that wraps over the side of the board from the deck. It's usually much smaller than the bottom part of the rail.

Rocker- Not technically a "part of the board", the rocker refers to how flat a board is. Example...if you lay the board flat on the ground, and it doesn't rise up at all in the tail, it has "flat rocker". Naturally, the nose curve is going to keep the nose off the ground, but the tail on most production model boards should be flat on the ground and the board shouldn't "rock" more than just a little bit. The more "banana-like" the curve in a board, the more rocker it has. I personally like about 1" to 1.5" of rocker in my boards because they turn better, and it works well for me for dropknee, but 95% of all bodyboarders prefer flat boards because they provide the maximum speed. With that said, the rocker of a board will change as it ages because of the different materials that are used on the deck vs. the bottom. Deck skins tend to expand faster with age, and therefore will cause a flat board to end up with a touch of reverse rocker in many cases. Heat accelerates this process, so keeping your board in a cool place when not in the water is the best defense for this problem.
TAILS

Bat Tail- A tail shape that slightly resembles the wingspan of a bat. There are many varieties of bat tail, but basically, there are points at either end of the tail, with some form of rounded or pointed area in the center of the tail. Bat tails are generally loose, and provide lots of maneverability. These tails are preferred by most prone riders. If you like doing lots of maneuvers tight in the pocket and prone ride alot, go for a bat tail. There are many marketing names for bat tails including "wing" tails, etc., but they are all varieties of the bat tail.

Crescent Tail- First introduced by Morey in 1982, this is a tail that holds you well on the wave. The design has square "pegs" on either side of the tail, and a "U" shape connecting the pegs. The crescent holds your body on the board and holds you on the wave face very well. If you don't like channels, this is a good tail design. The crescent is the call for full-time DK riders or prone riders that are interested mainly in tube-riding and carves, and not quite as much about spinning moves tight in the pocket. It provides maximum hold, but doesn't release quite as easily as a bat tail if you like to spin.

CORES, FOAM TYPES and BOTTOM SKIN TYPES

Crosslink- A type of foam characterized by it's denser, more compact feel, and unwillingness to absorb water. Very durable deck and rail foam material. It is known by other names that companies use to make it sound exciting (ie: Green Cell, Dura Deck, etc.).

Arcel- Developed for bodyboards in the mid-80's, this is a light, strong foam used for bodyboard cores. It's properties included maintaining it's stiffness even in warm waters. The downside was the ease with which it dented when you squeezed it. The manufacturer of Arcel, Arco Chemical, has stopped producing it due to lack of demand. It's pretty much been replaced by Polypro (see below).

Polypropylene- The newest wave of core material. Polypro is light, springy, and strong. Like every core though, it's not uncreaseable and it is the most expensive of all cores. Many companies use their own names for it. In most cases, it's just polypro.
It comes in two types. Extruded polypro is made from strands of polypropylene and offers very good projection and durability in the board. Beaded polypro is a step up and is extremely lightweight, durable, water-resistant, and as a result, expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Dow or Polyethylene- Used to make bodyboards since the 70's, it's still the standard foam. It's compact and comes in different densities, and has excellent projection and super performance, but isn't as long-lasting as polypro unless combined with some kind of internal stiffener like mesh or a stringer, and is also a bit heavier than Polypro. It's used on the deck and rails of most bodyboards as well.

Surlyn- Invented by chemical giant Dupont, it's the stuff golf balls are covered in, and many bodyboards have on the bottom. It's slick and durable, has great speed and projection.

HDPE- High Density Polyethylene looks and feels very similar to Surlyn, but it's not as flexible as Surlyn. It performs very well, but keeps the cost of the board down. Most bodyboarders wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT BODYBOARD SHAPES

As a general rule of thumb, most prone riders prefer a board with a wider nose (something more than 11" wide on a 41" or longer board). A classic prone shape will also have a higher wide point meaning the Nose To Widepoint measurement is going to be a lower number. The theory is that you are pivoting from your elbows and shoulders, which of course are further up the board.
The average dropknee rider prefers a narrower-nosed board with a lower widepoint since the bulk of their weight is further back on the board. If you ride both styles, something in between will work. Generally, dropkneers prefer crescent tail boards, and prone riders do better on bat tails, but if you do both, it's your choice.

HOW A BODYBOARD IS MADE

Step 1: The first step is to gather the materials. Bodyboard companies buy these materials generally from the same place, and they buy in large quantities. Rolls of "PE" (polyethylene) or "Crosslink" foam, stacks of core blanks in either Dow or Polypro.
Step 2: The tools to make the board are fairly common in the bodyboarding industry. A laminator to heat-laminate the deck and bottom skins to the core, knives to hand-cut the rail and tail pieces of foam, a heat gun to laminate the rail and tail piece to the core, and an asbestos glove and a bucket of water to wet the glove for use with the heat gun.
Step 3: Specific bodyboard models have pre-cut templates. These templates are typically made of wood and are exactly the shape that has been designed by the company and/or rider who's name is on the board. The foam core, which starts as a rectangle roughly 48" long and 24" wide is cut to shape using that wooden template and a very sharp knife. Once the outline of the board has been cut, they use special angled knives to cut the chine and rails in one sweeping motion, as well as the nose and tail. Some companies use computer-programmed shaping machines to cut these parts of the core, but most still use real people.
Step 3 1/2: If the board has a stringer, it is placed on a specially-built table with clamps. At one end of the table, there is a drill and a LONG drill bit pointed right at the tail of the board. A lever is pulled and the drill bit cores out a tunnel directly through the tail up into the core of the board. The drill is removed, and a stringer is placed into the tunnel.
Step 4: A specially-designed laminator is heated up to a desired temperature, and two people hand-feed the shaped core through it with the bottom skin. The laminator heats the backing on the slick skin as well as the core so that it "melts" slightly. As the two pieces feed through, they are pressed together before the foam cools. This forms a heat lamination of the bottom skin to the core. That is left to cool for about 20 minutes, and then it is fed through again, this time with the deck skin. Now you have a shaped core with both bottom and deck skins laminated to it. The excess is trimmed off to the shape of the board with sharp knives.
Step 5: Once the core has cooled, it's time for the rail and tail pieces. Large rolls of foam are cut into strips. The board builder takes the asbestos glove and dips it in a bucket of water, then fires up the heat gun, which resembles an industrial-strength hair dryer. He/she then takes the rail piece and places it on the rail of the core, and points the heat gun at the rail, starting from one end and moving toward the other. All the while, he/she keeps the heat gun pointed at the interface between rail piece and core so as to slightly melt that area making the two stick together. The wet glove pushes that rail piece down onto the core to ensure a solid bond, and it keeps the board builder's hand from becoming liquid! If this step is done correctly with both rails and the tail piece, there will be consistent lamination from nose to tail.
Step 6: The rail and tail pieces are now trimmed with a sharp knife, and the rough edges are once again wet gloved to seal any open cells along the seams of the board.
Step 7: The board is now placed under a stamping machine with a colored mylar sheet on the deck. The company's logo, engraved in steel, is heated up, and stamped onto the mylar, leaving an imprint of the logo/logos on the deck. The board is then shrinkwrapped with sticker/poster, etc. and is boxed up for shipping.

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