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johnson : board manufacture, 1963 
Barry Johnson : How a Board is Made, 1963.

Johnson, Barry: How a Board is Made.
Johnson, Barry: Surf Fever
The Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, 1963, pages 13 to 16.

This article is from a basic introductory book with a considerable focus on Queensland's Gold Coast, unlike most o f the early literature which tends to be Sydney based.
Of most interest is the chapter on How a Board is Made, pages 13 to 16, with accompanying photographs from Woolsey's Brisbane factory and Joe Larkin's Coolangatta factory.
The photographs are probably not in the correct sequence.
Page 13

THE trend in surf board making has progressed in the last twenty years.
During this time lighter and lighter boards were introduced in quick succession until to-day we have, what some term the ultimate in board construction - Polyeurethene, Polyether and Polytron.
The poly substances, as they are called, have proved so serviceable because of their ability to withstand prangs.
Another, and perhaps more important feature, is their characteristic of not absorbing water should they be damaged or the fibre glass covering become perforated.

From about 1940 onwards, radical changes were seen in the design of the surf board and balsa gained popularity along the Californian coast and in Hawaii.
The surfers there were quick to realize and appreciate the handling ability of balsa as compared with the old laminated spruce boards used in the late 1930's.
With the introduction of Polyeurethene to Australia in late 1959 by Barry Bennett of Sydney, another change was seen in the method of surf board manufacturing.
Up until then surf boards could be made by do-it-yourself enthusiasts quite inexpensively, but nowdays the initial cost of a mould would prove too much for the average surfer to outlay.

The poly surf board is born inside a mould which is made of fibreglass and has steel bands around it in order to strengthen it.
These bands are to hold the mould in proper shape when it is clamped down and the foam expands. Inside the mould is placed what is known as a bleeding paper, which is a porous paper-like substance that enables the air inside the mould to escape as the form expands and fills the entire space.
The polyeurethene is in a liquid form and is poured into the previously prepared mould which is clamped tight before the foam has time to expand.
Inside the mould, the foam expands under pressure.
Once it has hardened and set, the solid blank, as it is now known, is removed from the mould and is placed in an oven where it is baked by an infra-red process.
This makes it expand as much as possible.

It is well worth remembering that polyeurethene is very unpredictable and for that reason only skilled men undertake the baking of blanks.
Some foams expand out of all proportion to their size, while others faint or contract through over-baking.

After baking, the board is split down the centre and a wooden strip is inserted and the board is glued together again.
This strip is usually of maple or cedar and adds strength to the board and makes it very rigid.

The board is then shaped.
The shaping of surf boards is an art in itself requiring much skill and patience and an exceptionally good eye.
There are very few good board shapers in Australia and unfortunately for Sydney, one of its leading shapers has left and has opened up his own board factory at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.

As you all know, the general shape of the surf board in Australia, and in the rest of the surfing world, is somewhat elliptical, tapering towards both ends.
Before the actual shaping is commenced, the bleeding paper and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of skin foam is stripped from the board in 'order to reach good workable material.
The bulk of the surplus foam is usually removed with an ...

Page 14

... electric hand plane and the residue with a smooth plane and a sure form file, although various shapers have their own ideas as to the most suitable implements to use.

After sanding down to remove all rough edges and to give it a smooth finish, the board is ready to receive its fibre glass coating.
The sanded board is first coated with resin in preparation for receiving the fibre glass mat.
After the mat is laid on the board and cut to the appropriate size, it is rolled so that the resin will saturate the glass.
Another coat of resin is applied and is rolled into the mat as before.
If needed, another coat of fibre glass matting is laid at this stage, but this is optional, and if not needed, the finishing coat of resin is applied.
Resin, as mentioned above, is a chemically prepared substance which, when mixed with a promoter and a catalyst will combine with the fibre glass to form a hard, water-proof coating over the outside of the board.

Colours and designs are put on the board after the last coat of resin.
They are put on with ordinary masking tape and pigmented resin and have a specific purpose.
As all boards have the same basic shape and look much alike, there must be some means whereby riders are able to identify their boards - so different designs are used.
Another reason why boards have bright designs is to make them easily visible to the swimmer in the water.
Unless they are painted brightly they are very hard to see if caught in a broken wave and can be dangerous both to the rider concerned and to other riders and swimmers.

This chapter gives only a very brief out-line of the making of a surf board and for the protection of the manufacturer, various technical details have been omitted.
I would point out that it is not advisable to attempt to make a board on your own because, should the attempt prove a failure, quite a large sum of money will go down the drain.
Therefore, I suggest that to obtain a good quality board, you should see a recognized manufacturer.

Page 26

(Surfing Personalities)
Now in his thirties and a former Manly beach inspector, Joe Larkin began riding surf boards when he was only eleven years old.
Although now semi-retired from board riding, Joe is still a great.
Regarded as one of Australia's leading board shapers, Joe, who has worked for such men as Bill Clymer, Gordon Woods and Barry Bennett, has now opened his own board factory at Miles Street, Coolangatta.
Doing quite well too, I hear.
Although heading well on the way to being twice as old as most present day surfers, Joe Larkin can still show even the best of them a thing or two.
He rides mainly at Kirra and Snapper Rocks and, of course, rides a Joe Larkin board. 

Page 15
Step One 
Sanding the Edges.

Ray Woosley's factory 
in Brisbane, circa 1963.

Johnson, Barry: 
Surf Fever
The Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, 
1963, pages 13 to 16.

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home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2010) : Barry Johnson: How a Board is made, 1963.