This is one of the number one questions that we get; whether in person at the stores, or on the phone. Should I get my board in poly or epoxy and how different do they really feel?
Starting with poly (or PU for Polyurethane), this is the OG foam that has been used since the late 50’s to make surfboards. A poly board was almost certainly the first real glassed board you ever had. It is heavy(compared to epoxy) and prefers to be ridden in decent sized surf, that is where it excels. Using the weight of a poly board to work for you is key. Since the board is heavier, it generates speed easier on its own, without you having to give as much input. Poly boards will carry through your turns and you will feel the rail slice through the water. When you are surfing good sized waves and doing a lot of rail to rail surfing, you cannot beat the feeling of a poly board…that is simply what they are meant for. When you are watching surf contests, 99% of the competitors will be on poly boards. A typical poly board that you would want to have in your quiver are step-ups and standard shortboards.
Moving to what we call epoxy(technically referred to as EPS, or Expanded Poly Styrene), this material came around in about 1974. Epoxy is far lighter than traditional poly and it also has more float. Epoxy boards excel in smaller waves with not as much power. The reason being, it sits on top of the water(instead of digging through it like a PU) which allows the board to gain momentum easier on a wave that is weaker. That said another way, it is easier to catch waves on an epoxy board than on a poly board. This material is typically combined with a small wave shape that has a wider nose with little entry rocker, this further highlights the wave catching ability of an epoxy board. Once on the wave, an epoxy board is going to feel really light under your feet; allowing you to get going quick and maneuver the board easily. This feeling commonly referred as “skatey”. Many surfers prefer this material when working on aerials as well, since it is easier to throw around. When the waves get some solid size, epoxy boards handle differently depending on what type of wave you are surfing. If you are riding steeper, fast beach break type waves, the epoxy board will go great. However if it is really slopey and kinda slow like a point break; the epoxy board will struggle when you are trying to put it on rail. In the smaller stuff epoxy allows you to surf a 2 ft weaker wave as if it were a solid size wave. Meaning you can get speed and perform several maneuvers that you would not have been able to do on your standard PU shortboard. In recent times, brands like Lost surfboards have taken the epoxy board a step further by incorporating strategically placed carbon fiber strips to further enhance the performance capability.
So, should you get a poly or an epoxy for your next board? Well, the answer is, it depends. If you want a board that you are going to use for solid waves, your best bet is a poly board. However, if you are getting a board for your slow season where the waves are not as good, go for an epoxy construction; you will really feel how it will help your surfing when the waves aren’t giving you much assistance. At the end of the day, surfing is about experimenting; so try these different constructions out in a variety of surf and see what works best for you.
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