Firewire Surfboards are an interesting and probably one of the best implementations of the epoxy surfboard solutions available on the market at the moment.
You will most probably have seen the Firewire board with “Parabolic Balsa Rails”, which basically means instead of having a normal central stringer, the board has 2 balsa stringers on the rails. This makes the rails more rigid and the center of the board more flexible, so if you think a normal board has a rigid stringer in the middle and more flexible rails – thats how the sales pitch goes anyway.
The materials used in the construction of the surfboard are very strong. I heard somewhere Taj Burrow goes through about 1 Firewire Surfboard for every 20 Webbers he used to surf. I’ll get through to my experiences and personal feelings later on.
I’ve also heard Firewire surfboards are more environmentally friendly than regular surfboard, I’ll cover why.
Here are some general key facts and information about the Firewire Surfboard.
- Update November 2008: New Firewire Surfboards are no longer shipping with fins to save the customer cost, save on unwanted fins being distributed (environmentally motivated) and to give customers the extra bit of cash to buy the fins they want.
- You can only choose a firewire from a pre-determined shape. Currently Taj gets custom shapes, so they are possible, but probably not economically viable.
- My 6’2″ firewire cost R5500 including vat, a boardbag and some fancy fins (before they stopped shipping with fins).
- Taj Burrow has had some of the best results on the WCT whilst riding on a Firewire surfboard.
- Firewire boards are made out of epoxy, but don’t have that super rigid/crazy light ratio. They are about as light as a normal surfboard and just as flexible.
- The boards are “designed” in CAD/CAM by NEV and Dan Mann
- If you ding the board you have to get out the water straight away and dry it for a week before you can fix it.
- The board has a little vent that is a little round screw which has an alan key socket. When you buy it there is a sticker next to the plug/screw/vent which says “do not mess with the vent and don’t cover it with wax”. This regulates the pressure inside the board (okay for you technical guys it allow the air inside the 1lb EPS foam core to expand and contract during extreme temperature or air pressure changes). There is a Gortex membrane in there, and does not require you drain or touch the plug at all.
- The balsa rails (stringers on the rails) control flex and add strength, apparently the long term flex memory is better than in a standard surfboard.
- You’ll pay more for a Firewire than a regular surfboard, but it will last you longer (unless you leave it in the sun or get friendly with some rocks)
- The core of the board is made from EPS (Expanded Polystyrene)
- Corecell is used in the board and is used on wind turbine blades (strong) this allow the flex to remain intact for longer than traditional blanks materials.
- The Firewire factories moved from Australia and San Diego to Thailand.
- You can buy a Firewire in South Africa through Billabong in J-Bay, call Errol (or someone who knows what they are doing) on +27 (0) 42 2002640 or you can email cheron [at] countryfeeling.co.za
Environmentally Friendly? Perhaps a bit more than regular surfboards.
- EPS foam is more environmentally friendly than PU (polyurethane) foam. Over a 5–year lifespan, including the construction process, a traditional PU surfboard releases 50 times more Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) than an EPS foam surfboard.
- Firewire recycle the excess EPS material.
- Epoxy resins are used to glass the boards, unlike polyurethane based resins, Epoxy only emits 2% of the VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).
- Epoxy is less harmful on the glassers (they are humans too), and they do not need to wear a mask to work with the substances like regular resins which are some of the most toxic substances on the plant.
- Clean up requires simple (natural) citrus cleaners.
- They won the EuroSIMA Environmental Product of the Year Award in 2005.
- Their goal is to make manufacturing boards more and their vision is that the design and production of a surfboard that can be recycled indefinitely by reusing old boards in the manufacture of new board.
- The board is very, very fast. I flew off my board when I bottom turned the first time then my board projected forward twice as fast as I anticipated.
- The deck of the board is tough, I still don’t have any pressure bumps on the deck.
- The board is flexible (not rigid like a normal pop out) and is quite heavy compared to a Tuff Lite. So in Cape Town when it is a bit windy this board is not too light.
- The board is slightly more buoyant than a regular surfboard, which can make it difficult to set your rail in a turn. I found on my backhand I had to keep my front foot 1-2 inches behind where I normally do in order to get the right amount of heel side rail in the water.
- The board is easy to fix if you buy the epoxy sun cure
- The only major damage is from a surf at Queens when I got friendly with the rocks jumping in.
- The board goes well in small waves
- The board skips like a pebble in bigger waves (above head high)
- A lot of people ask you about the board when you surf.
Here are some picks, I’ll add some later of the poor nose that took a bump recently.
Update – February 2009
I’ve just noticed some delimitation around the valve between the layers of the epoxy. This manifests itself as a circular bump around the valve, where there is a bit of extra thickness due to the water being in there. I’m going to get in touch with Firewire to see if there is anything I can do about it.
Update – October 2010
Never heard back from Firewire about the delimitation :-(.
I’ve not used the board in a while so the delimitation around the valve has not got any worse. I did ding the nose a while back and fixed it with Sun Cure epoxy resin. The resin crumbled off eventually, and I had to fix it again. My only complaint is the cost of a small tube of epoxy resin – R180.
I jumped in at Big Bay for a stormy surf and I really appreciated the extra float and drive. Still going well, and looking in good shape.
Update – October 2011
I took my board to get the little dings fixed and the de-lamination around the plug fixed up at Cape Doctor. The dude there did a fantastic job and it was a pleasure getting my Firewire fixed properly.
Update – January 2012
I had the chance to surf two of my brothers Firewire Dominators up in East Africa. They are Firewire’s answer to a fish hybrid and they go exceptionally well in small surf. If you live in a place where you are missing sessions because you are struggling to surf waves smaller than waist high add a Dominator to your quiver.