Poached From Surfline But that said, I'm actually a very open-minded surfer. I'll try anything once, and so, I was stoked to learn more. Then I heard shaper Matt Biolos from ...Lost was using the tech and my interest was even more piqued.
So I got in touch with the folks at Hydroflex Surfboards (hydroflex-surfboards.com) and soon heard back from a German guy named Bufo. Unfortunate name, really (I guess it doesn't translate well from the old Deutschland). Anyway, it took a while for me to sift through the language barrier and the marketing mumbo-jumbo, but eventually I got a clear idea of what Hydroflex SuperCharger technology is all about. And I think it's actually some pretty cool ****.
It all starts with a stringerless EPS foam blank. The thing can be handshaped by your favorite local shaper or pumped through some computerized shaping machine. Doesn't matter. Once the blank is shaped, the Hydroflex folks bombard that raw shape with nearly a million tiny, hair follicle-sized shards of glass and epoxy resin. How it works exactly, they won't reveal.
From there, the shape is machine-glassed: wrapped in fiberglass with epoxy resin and vacuum-bagged (with a small air valve installed on the top deck) until, voila: you have a stringerless surfboard that's 30 percent lighter and potentially more durable than a conventional foam and fiberglass rig.
You see, those tiny shards of glass and resin create a sort of root system that binds the entire epoxy shell directly to the EPS foam core. The result is a board that's lighter than a team glass-job, yet amazingly resistant to pressure dings, delams, and garden-variety dings. And at the end of the board's lifetime it can be fully recycled. Seriously. Check YouTube. You'll see. And apparently this is the first truly recyclable surfboard.
But that's not all folks...and here's where things get a little marketing mumbo jumbo for my taste. Thanks to the way the foam core is rooted to its epoxy shell, you can also pressurize the inside of the surfboard without deforming its shape. Simply attach a bicycle pump to the deck valve and start pumping. Basically, the added air fills the gaps between the tiny balls of EPS foam and the board's internal pressure is increased.
This does a few things. First, pressure dings are virtually non-existent. I'm a large surfer (6'1" 200 lbs.) but after three weeks of surfing a Lost Rocket made with Hydroflex SuperCharger I had nary a pressure ding on the deck. Apparently the constant outward air pressure from the core prevents the deck from denting in permanently.
If you do get a ding in the board, that same air pressure also helps the foam core avoid absorbing water and makes it very simple for you to find the source of the ding. Just submerge the board, look for air bubbles, and repair it like you would any other epoxy glassed board.
Bufo and his boys also claim that you can vary the flex and dampening feel of the surfboard by adjusting the amount of internal air pressure. For large surf with super glassy conditions, pump the board up to 9 psi (pounds per square inch) adding stiffness for increased speed and maximum projection out of your turns. Smaller, choppy surf? Depressurize the board to around 2 or 3 psi, making the board more flexible and the ride damper and less bumpy.
I played around with the pressurization a little but I didn't feel a really noticeable difference. I consider myself an average surfer so maybe it takes someone way more dialed in to feel it, but I'm not sure.
The reason we're focusing on the construction of this board rather than the potential performance benefits of Hydroflex is because testing the performance of surfboards is an inexact science at best. With all the potential variables of wave conditions (set by set), and winds, rider skill/experience, board shape and size, it is literally impossible to do an apples to apples test with a standard foam and glass board versus a Hydroflex board.
That said, I was very stoked on the board though, yet I couldn't be sure if that's because I dig Biolos' Rocket shape or because the SuperCharged board tech is just so damn good. Either way, the board felt light and right without being too corky. It rode better than sandwich-style constructed epoxy boards and much like a conventional surfboard -- which is to say, I dug how it felt on the water.
While I'm still not sold on the Reebok-style pump-it-up part of the tech, I am stoked that Hydroflex is doing their best to push the envelope to come up with a board technology that's potentially stronger, lighter and more durable AND that doesn't require the shape to be cranked out by some computer. Nope, your favorite shaper can still make you a custom board to be then glassed by Hydroflex. In fact shapers like Biolos at ...Lost, Timmy Patterson, Donald Takayama, Jeff Clark and Nectar Surfboards have all already started working with Hydroflex. That's some pretty impressive company.
In general, the Hydroflex SuperCharger option adds about $150 bucks to a custom shape. While I don't feel comfortable backing the variable pressure technology as the next greatest thing in surfing, I am suitably fired up on the fact that Hydroflex has made potentially significant strides forward in creating a stronger, lighter weight board tech that can be shaped by backyard shaping legends -- not just CnC machines.
Some may disagree, but here's my bottom line: Hydroflex Supercharger boards do ride well and God bless these Germans for trying to push our sport's technology forward some. Surfing can use a little bit of shaking up -- and I think we may see great things to come from the Hydroflex guys.
Thanks for posting that article, JL. The little hand pump is funny looking - but I guess effective for "airing up" the board. From what I've read, VW helped Bufo develop the foam used in the boards. I "think" the basis is an XPS foam - with the 'glass impregrenation during extrusion. I don't know...interesting concept, doesn't appear to be any way to replicate it without THAT foam. I also have to wonder what that pressurized board would be like in 100+ degree temps :) I just have this vision of it blowing up like a blowfish and floating away - some guy yelling: "hey grab my board before it floats away!" :) Have you seen the video of that guy jumping up and down on a Bufo, using it like a trampoline? Too much fun.
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