Behind the Great Pacific Iron Works store near Ventura Point is the small tin shed where Yvon Chouinard set up his blacksmith shop in 1966. The shed once housed Bob Cooper’s Australian Surf Shop and Morey-Pope’s shaping room. The location was ideal for everyone’s passion: surf and build the finest mountaineering gear in the winter, climb and sell the gear in the summer. Chouinard Equipment Company went on to redesign and improve virtually every tool used in mountaineering, from carabiners to crampons. In 1973, the company branched out to make outdoor clothing under the Patagonia® label.
Almost 25 years later and after 4 years of shaping traditional polyurethane blanks, Fletcher, Yvon’s son, started Point Blanks to build better surfboards in a shack next door to the original Iron Works. Like father like son: Fletcher and Point Blanks proceeded to lay-up and destroy hundreds of fiberglass/ foam panels until they found a better, stronger and lighter way to build boards. And, with a group of freethinking surfers and shapers, designed higher-performance boards using the new technology. From there, our surfboard business has grown, exploring new fiberglass composite technologies and expanding our circle of shapers and test riders. We’ve also got a new name, Fletcher Chouinard Designs (FCD). But we always come back to our desire to build a better surfboard.
When we decided to make surfboards in 1996, we wanted stronger boards with no decrease in performance. “Causing no unnecessary harm” has always been a business goal of ours, so these boards also had to minimize the use of toxic and nonrenewable materials. We were committed to not building “pop-out” boards, because to do so destroys the relationship between surfer and shaper, and because pop-outs keep board design from progressing. We weren’t out to revolutionize the surf industry; just break a few materials and process paradigms.
We’ve spent years studying and testing materials. Thousands of test panels have been stressed, compressed, crushed and snapped. At first the panels broke in series – one component would break and then another, until the entire panel would fail. After a few months we got all the components to break at once, but at a very high load. We started to get excited; we had doubled the panel’s strength through a synergy of materials with no increase in weight. The search for the best combination of materials is never ending, and we continue to evolve our construction methods as new materials become available.
Since 1999 we’ve used extruded polystyrene, which is similar to the foam used in beverage and fast-food containers (Styrofoam®). This foam contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), a source of air pollution. Extruded means the material is forced through a small opening, like toothpaste is extruded from a tube. This gives the foam directional properties similar to wood or a honeycomb. As such, the foam has a constant density throughout.
The most common complaint about epoxy boards in the past is that they didn’t flex. However, we’ve found that they can be engineered to flex as much or as little as you want them to, depending on how you glass them. Our stock boards tend to provide a happy medium of weight-to-durability, so the average surfer will be able to keep his favorite board for a long time. A lighter weight board might flex more, but will be less durable. For those surfers who can really tell the difference, we make more flexible boards that are still tougher than the industry standard.
The higher compression strength of extruded foam means a stronger core to resist the downward force of the outer shell under a load. Lighter than average foam allows us to put more layers of fiberglass in the outer shell. This increases strength and resistance to breaking and buckling. We’ve built a state-of-the-art glassing facility, and worked carefully with materials manufacturers, to ensure the best craftsmanship and perfect resin-to-glass ratio for max strength and minimal waste. The entire process is done in Ventura, CA, and complies with the strict environmental laws of the USA.
The stringer is the backbone of a board; a board without a stringer is like a body without a spine. You can add stiffness by making the skin or shell stronger (as is done with sailboards) but then you lose flex and the board feels dead. Too much flex, especially on a longboard, and the board feels slow and mushy. A board with the proper ability to flex should have a certain timbre that feels alive. All the components of a surfboard have to work together for proper rigidity, flex and strength.
Stringers contribute to a board’s strength by creating an I-beam within the foam/cloth/resin composite. In our stock boards, we use renewable woods with a high strength-to-weight ratio. This allows us to use laminated stringers that are stronger than single-ply, especially in the critical areas of the nose rocker. Because each size and style of surfboard has different strength and flex requirements, we use different stringer arrangements. A laminated stringer 1/8” to 3/8” wide is standard; the specifics vary depending on the board.
A surfboard will buckle or break first on the side that’s hit (compression side). The industry-standard shortboard – with two layers of 4-oz. E cloth on the deck and one layer on the bottom – is only as strong as its weakest side. It will easily snap if hit by the lip. For reliable strength, a board needs more than one layer of glass on the bottom.
Both the type and weight of fiberglass cloth used affect a board’s strength. Warp glass has heavier fibers woven in one direction of the cloth. When oriented along the length of the board, it adds stiffness and strength, eliminating the need for a heavier, balanced-weave cloth. Two layers of 4-oz. warp is the minimum amount of fiberglass you’ll find on any one side of our boards.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, epoxy boards gained a bad reputation because often the wrong formulation of resin was used, and there was an unbalanced marriage of the various components. Most of these epoxy boards were also built without stringers. Resin technology has progressed since then, and the epoxies today are far superior.
There are thousands of different formulations of epoxy resin, depending on the intended use. The resin we use is blended to balance tensile strength, flex, hardness, impact strength and nontoxicity. It is about 2.5 times stronger than polyester resin and 300% tougher. This is important for ding resistance and durability over time.
Some epoxy laminators use polyester resin for the hot coat to save labor and material costs. But the two dissimilar materials often bond poorly, meaning the polyester hot coat will eventually chip off of the epoxy-laminated glass underneath. To prevent this, our boards are 100% epoxy for maximum strength and durability.
We use a UV inhibitor in our epoxy, which can give the board a slight purple tint when viewed indoors in certain lighting conditions. But outdoors the board remains an eye-blinding white. This is not to say they will never yellow, as any board left in the sun over time will see the effects of UV exposure.
We offer removable fin systems on all our boards. The strength, versatility, interchangeability and performance are vastly superior to glass-ons. Most of our boards can be built as a thruster, twin fin, quad or 5-fin on demand. If we don’t feel it is an appropriate marriage of fin set-up and shape, we will advise you on alternatives.
We offer both quad and 5-fin options on many of our boards. The 5-fin is sort of a mix between a single fin and a thruster. (Glide AND drive.) Usually better suited to front-footed surfers, the 5-fin combines a V-bottom with deep hourglass-shaped double concaves within the fin area. This helps to efficiently organize the flow of water through the tail and has other advantages as well. Fin drag is reduced, resulting in easier paddling and faster trim speed at the take-off. It is quick and lively rail-to-rail, and has great projection and flow through turns. The 5-fin can be a little stiff at slow speeds, but has a faster top end and more drive than a thruster.
The quad fin is a mix between a twin-fin and a thruster. Imagine cutting the center fin of a thruster in half and putting it out on the rails behind the lead fins so they can provide drive and hold, instead of just dragging in the center. Since the trailers are farther forward, the board becomes looser as well. A quad will generally surf faster than a thruster and won’t lose as much speed in turns. Quads are usually best for back-footed surfers, but many folks can adapt to them.
We originally set out to make a more durable surfboard with less environmental impact. We’ve achieved that. In doing so, we were also able to gain a whole new level of performance. Our careful combination of superior materials – especially the use of our stronger, lighter and more buoyant foam – lets us make thinner and stronger boards that perform better. Because our foam doesn’t crush and powder under continual flexing, we can build flex into boards that won’t “go dead” after a couple of weeks of hard surfing.
We do not make “pop-out” or molded boards. All our boards are hand-shaped by expert shapers. Our standard shapes are roughed out on a C&C machine first, and then hand-shaped.
Over the years we have come up with standard shapes that work well for specific surf conditions and styles of riding. These shapes constantly evolve as we work to perfect them.
We still offer custom boards at our discretion. Customers can fill out a custom board request form at our Ocean stores. Regular Patagonia stores can take custom orders if there is a trained sales associate on hand to walk the customer through the process, or the customer can contact us directly. We can do airbrushes and resin tints (light colors only), but we are not responsible for damage due to heat absorption from the sun. We no longer sell raw materials to the public.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on custom shapes.
FCD headquarters (not retail locations) has the discretion to either repair or replace a defective FCD surfboard that meets our policy, which we update from time to time. Please download the following form for making a warranty claim.
CARE AND FEEDING OF AN FCD SURFBOARD
Epoxy/extruded polystyrene boards need the same care and attention you would give any other board. The sun and heat damage all surfboards. To protect your board, keep it in a reflective board bag (don’t use a board sock, it makes the board hotter than using nothing). If it’s too hot in your car for a dog, it’s too hot for your board. Bottom line: Keep your board protected from exposure to sun and heat.
Extruded polystyrene will absorb 73% less water than normal surfboard foam. This makes minor dings less of an immediate problem, but they should still be repaired as soon as possible to maintain structural integrity. A board with a major ding should be removed from the water and fixed immediately, just as you would any type of surfboard.
Any board will pressure ding, particularly shortboards with super-light glassing. We try to anticipate high-impact areas and beef them up with extra glass, but sometimes gravity wins.
Exposure to heat and sunlight degrades all surfboards over time and must be avoided. We use a resin that has a UV inhibitor and UV stabilizers, however it still yellows if left in the sun.
A local glass shop can do repairs, just remind them to use epoxy resin. Do not attempt to repair the board with polyester resin; the styrene in the resin will dissolve the extruded polystyrene foam. Epoxy ding-repair kits are available from shops that carry our boards. Cleanup can be done with alcohol. It does not require acetone.
Before you attempt a major ding repair, make sure the foam is absolutely dry. Do your repair in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When you mix your resin and hardener, don’t try to eyeball the amounts. You must be exact; use an accurate measuring device. A stir stick with depth notches on it works well. Adding more hardener will not make the resin go off sooner; in fact, it may not harden at all.
A second coat of resin should be applied before the first coat is completely hardened for maximum bond. If more than 24 hours pass before you apply a second coat, sand the area, then clean it with alcohol before applying the next layer of resin.
Quick repairs are best done with stickers, waterproof tape or epoxy glue (including 5-minute epoxy, epoxy sticks and epoxy Solarez®). These glues will turn yellow or brown, so you should eventually do a proper repair with epoxy resin.
Solarez is a registered trademark of Wahoo International.
SURFBOARD SATISFACTION AND CARE
Fletcher Chouinard Designs® surfboards are of superior quality, and are tried and proven shapes. You can be confident that your FCD surfboard will be strong and well constructed. If it isn’t, we may repair it, replace it, or refund your money, whichever we decide once we see your board. However, we can’t be responsible for boards that are abused, like being left in a hot car, dropped, road damaged, stored in the blazing sun or thrashed on the rocks or pier pilings. Furthermore, we can’t be responsible for problems resulting from normal wear and tear – those dings, dents and delaminations from unrepaired cracks are inevitable. We also cannot tell you your board won’t break: All boards break under the right conditions.
If you have a problem with your board, tell us what is wrong and we’ll figure out how it should be handled. It may be a repair, it may be a replacement, it may be a refund, or it may be your responsibility.
We pride ourselves on our workmanship and stand behind our boards. However, taking care of your board is ultimately your responsibility and we’re not responsible for the problems below.
• Damage when using a dark board bag.
• Damage from the freeway, in an airplane or in transport.
• Repairs done by an unauthorized repair shop.
• Fin losses in or out of the water.
• Broken/buckled boards will be repaired (not replaced).
• Lost, stolen or intentionally damaged boards.
• Natural discoloration when exposed to sunlight.
• Damage or loss to a third party.
• Any body injury caused by surfboards.
• Damage from commercial, rental, demo and instructional programs.
• Boards with unrepaired dings or holes stored in damp conditions.
WE DO NOT WARRANT THAT THE SURFBOARD YOU PURCHASE WILL MEET YOUR PERSONAL EXPECTATIONS, REQUIREMENTS OR SUSTAINABILITY. WE EXCLUDE AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ALL EXPRESS AND IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. OUR LIABILITY TO YOU FOR ANY DAMAGE SHOULD BE LIMITED TO DIRECT DAMAGES AND SHALL NOT EXCEED THE AMOUNT YOU ORIGINALLY PAID FOR THE SURFBOARD.