To begin with, we will take a look at the most common styles of fiberglass cloth.
We'll check out the different ounces used, the weave patterns, how they all affect your surfboard and why shapers may pick one or a combination of a few for each individual board they build.
Some glassing going on in the Stamps Surfboards workshop. Image: ASILDA Photography.
1. FIBREGLASS "SKIN"
All surfboards have some sort of cloth material and resin mixture, used as the "skin" around the core or the foam of the board.
95% of the time this cloth-like material is made up of a fibreglass based weave of some sort. There are some exceptions, like for instance in experimental or alternative situations where someone is trying something new.
Sometimes it’s environmental purposes like a cloth made out of bamboo. Other times it is structural experiments like full on carbon fiber, kevlar, or even something crazy like a basalt based weave, derived from volcanic rock.
But, for the most part, a fiberglass woven cloth has been the go to and remains so today for the majority or surfboards manufactured around the world.
There are a few styles that are most common, such as 4oz E and Warp style (don’t worry, we will get into explanations soon). There’s also 6oz E and Warp. D-sized or S-glass (which is linked with the finish on the cloth); and then there’s Volan’s. These are commonly used with heavier cloths like 8oz and 10oz material and found on many classic style logs and retro/alternative boards.
The making of an Eye Symmetry model. Each process is as important as the next.
2. THE STANDARD "E" CLOTH
The most common material used in surfboards around the world is the E Glass in both 4oz and 6oz.
It is the go to standard for most board builders as it provides enough strength and performance for most people and most boards, and is cost effective for both the manufacturer and the customer.
It can be found laid up in a number of combinations.
For standard shortboards, you will commonly find two layers of 4oz E on the deck and one layer on the bottom. For a heavier footed surfer or alternative/retro shapes and some longboards, many board builders will choose to blend a layer of 6oz and 4oz on the deck, and maybe a 6oz layer on the bottom.
Sometimes even going to two layers of 6oz on the deck and one on the bottom, again, common on the longboards where you are trying to keep the weight down.
Warp Glass, also most commonly found in 4 and 6oz, also an "E" glass, except there are more fibers running up the length of the weave.
This helps to add a little more strength and structure vertically to boards and is a good option for those who tend to buckle boards easily. It won’t be the end of your buckling nightmares, but it will help to resist it a little bit. It also tends to lay down a little flatter than traditional E glass, so board builders might use it as the top layer to help ensure a cleaner finish, especially if your board is getting color work and or a gloss coat.
Usually board builders will blend this with the standard "E" glass since if you have two layers of Warp on top of each other, the weave can give you a funny look as there are too many strands running together vertically up and down the board.
From left to right, some of DHD Surfboards glassing options, Standard 4x4x4, Ultra Lite 4 x Toe Patch x 4 and Strong Deck 4x6x4.
4. THE "D" SIZE CLOTH
Now, when you really want to start adding strength to a board while still keeping the weight down, you can start looking into D-size cloth.
This is in reference to the finish of the cloth.
Most cloths, whether they are E or Warp, will have a finish on them. This is what allows the cloth to feel softer, and therefore lay down on the board better for the guys who glass the boards. This finish also adds to the look of the cloth in terms of how clear or white your board is going to look after it is complete.
With D-size cloth however, the fibreglass strands come straight off the loom with no washing or finish put on it. This makes the material a little stiffer to handle when glassing, but adds a lot of strength to your board.
If it is of good quality, D-sized cloth can also be the clearest of the bunch, which allows your board to look as white as possible. It does add to the cost of the board, but not by very much. This style is also commonly found in 4oz and 6oz, mostly with the standard weave but sometimes in a Warp weave as well.
And then, if you need to, you can step it up to the S glass...
5. "S" GLASS
"S" glass is a little more expensive, but it can definitely be worth it to have that added strength to the board. Also found most common in 4 and 6oz, S glass has a special finish making it one of the strongest options available. Often used by shapers for their team riders, it allows them to get away with only putting a single layer of 4oz on the deck to make the board that much lighter for competitions, and high performance, critical surfing.
It is not enough strength to warrant a regular surfer to go with one layer, but if you do the standard two layer deck, you have an extremely strong board.
Now let’s take a step back from the shortboard arena and have a look at material that is very common on classic Logs and some other retro or alternative designs... Volan’s.
A SUPERBRAND inlay being laid out on The Vapors model - often used with S-Glass.
6. CLASSIC VOLAN
Commonly found in 7.5 (often called 8oz) and 10oz, Volan cloth actually came from the boat and tooling industry, and is what was available for surfboard builders in the 50’s and 60’s.
It is a much heavier cloth, and can absorb a lot of resin. This makes for a very strong and heavy board, which is great for traditional style longboards where weight is often an advantage.
It has a greenish hue to it which can give even a brand new board a nice classic look. Two layers on the deck can be too heavy however, so many board builders will combine this with a 6oz E or Warp cloth on top of a single layer of either 7.5 or 10oz Volan.
This helps again with colour work and for a cleaner finish, while still being able to see the classic weave of this heavy cloth.
SUM IT UP
Most of our highly skilled glassers select a recommended glass type for each of their board models on Boardcave. This could be team lite (4x4) for a high performance good wave board like the Head Shifter by SUPERbrand or a Standard (4x4x4) small wave everyday option to last a little longer on your Magic Black. You can always fully customise this further if you choose or select the shapers recommended options - variety is the spice of life!
There are many other fabrics of different ounces, materials, weaves available on the market. We just wanted to help clear the air for some of the most common styles used on the majority of boards produced throughout the world.
Just like concaves, tails, noses, rails, rockers and everything else surfboard related, there are also multiple combinations of the above mentioned styles that might be used for one reason or another. An example could be combining a layer or D-sized cloth with a standard E, to give you a little more strength, keeping weight down and managing cost.
As always, it all depends on what you are looking for, how the board is intended to be surfed and the strength to weight to cost ratios. As with anything in this world, you get what you put into it, so if you are willing to spend a little more money, you can have a board that lasts you much longer.