Lets Make A Surfboard
As a young surfer back in the mid 70’s I learnt the skillful art of surfboard making at the eager age of 14. The person to introduce me to the shaping bay was a new friend who had just moved in down the street from my home, boarding as a young apprentice jeweler. Ben was from Queensland and a very keen surfer, with the know-how of surfboard making. Being a couple of years older than me and a keen instructor, he took it upon himself to share his knowledge with me and this is when I first decided I wanted to become a surfboard shaper.
The very first board Ben helped me to shape by hand (no shaping machines back in those days), was sitting atop the shaping stand in the spare room under Ben’s house. The owners of the house Ed and Glad Marshall, who kindly agreed to let us make our boards in their basement essentially, weren’t at home when we were about to do something extremely dumb.
Before I let you in on what happened next, just bear in mind that when working with fiberglass resin and cleaners, the materials are highly flammable. Acetone is the cleaner in particular that you use to clean up tools and hands once you are done with your resin mix for fiberglassing the surfboard blank.
Now, I was not aware of just how flammable and dangerous this material acetone actually was, but I was aware of the incidence of surfboard factory fires in Brookvale, the home of many famous Australian surfboard manufactures, like Bennett Surfboards, Aloha, McGrigor, Dion Chemicals and Hot Buttered. Some of which had recently burnt to the ground and been reported on the news on the telly.
Caution:Flammable Materials Inside
So, when Ben decided to “light up a durry” before we applied the finish coat of resin to my lovely almost complete surfboard, I jokingly said, as he struck the match and put it to his freshly rolled drum cigarette – “Oh OK I will see you in Heaven” and then within a split second boom! The room, my board and Ben’s hands were on fire.
Instantly the tub of acetone that was about 2 metres away on a bench from where Ben struck the fateful match and connected the flame from the match to the ice cream bucket of volatile material.
Now Ben’s first instinct was to grab the flaming bucket and toss it out the window, but unfortunately he had forgotten that in the basement of this old house, the window was one of the old style louver types and they were almost completely closed. So as he threw the contents of the bucket at the window this then spread the flames to the floor, which incidentally was covered in highly ignitable polyester foam dust from my shaping efforts.
With room well alight, surfboard now aflame, and Ben on fire, my first instinct was to run out for my life. But I realised that we had to put the fire out or Glad and Ed would return home to a smoldering heap of ashes, which probably would included the grisly remains of two young foolish surfboard makers. Now as I dashed from the room, I was thinking about the distance the garden hose was from the room and quickly calculated in my head that it would not reach. As I am doing the maths on this, I notice a whole lot of carpet underlay lying in a heap, in a side area that lead further under the house and immediately grab a large amount of this and rushed back to the room to dive on the flames and essentially smoother the rapidly spreading inferno.
Now Ben was by this stage trying to put out the surfboard, forgetting completely about the “on-fire” state of his hands, as “we simply couldn’t let the first board of Greg’s go up in smoke”. Good ole Ben, had his priorities in the right place.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Once I had the fire out and all the potential of a disaster eliminated, we stood in a smoke filled room coughing and spluttering, thinking just how lucky we were.
The story ends well, with my board rescued from an early grave and no real signs of damage, as it was mainly the acetone that was burning, and not the fiberglass itself. And the lesson was not completely learned on that day, as I managed to set a couple more boards alight but not how you are probably thinking.
Both times it had to do with a “hot mix” of chemicals when fixing a dinged surfboard. The old style of ding repair kit required you to carefully mix the correct proportion of catalyst and resin, to achieve the desired cure time. If you add in too much harder you are likely to cause a heated reaction on the surface of the board and the result could be a fire. Well that is exactly what happened on more than one occasion but fortunately, on both times I was at the ready with a bucket of water to keep the heat and the damage to a minimum.
Fire Risk No Longer – And Quicker Too
Well the days of fixing surfboards with messy demanding chemicals are long gone. In fact today, all you need to do to fix a ding is a product called Solarez. This is a material that is premixed with an ultraviolet light curing material that will set in a matter of minutes. All you need do is simply apply the resin-fiberglass mixture directly into the hole of the ding, place a plastic clear strip on top for uniformly finishing the ding and then place the board in direct sunlight. Wait about five minutes and volia! your ding is repaired. You may need to apply some wet and dry sanding but essentially you are back in the water in a matter of minutes, all without the risk of life and limb or any chance of a fire breakout.
To order some Solarez, just visit the Solarez page and click the add to cart button now. You will be glad you did, and so will Glad and Ed (if you have a Glad and Ed that is ; ).
Keep surfing, your bro Greg.