New Board Designs
Firewire Takes a New Look at Performance
The surf industry has always been slow to adapt to new technology and materials. Many surfers are traditionalists who feel the preservation of the surf soul trumps all other matters. Perhaps this is why shapers primarily used polyurethane foam to make surfboards since the 1950s. Not until the recent close of Clark Foam in 2005 did we see an influx of new surfboard construction with different foams and materials. One such new creation were the Firewire surfboards with their distinct wooden rails and funky air valve.
Whats The Deal With Firewire?
Firewire seems to be drawing a lot of attention these days and is common to see in surf shops or the local lineup.
"I'm starting to wonder if there is something to the hype and whether it will really improve performance," said Riley Stevens, a local surfer at Trestles California.
Many are catching on.
"You see a lot more people surfing Firewire boards and seeing them in the water is becoming very common," Steven said. "They look pretty cool with their distinguishing decal on the upper left side of the board pointing to an interesting little air valve."
They are popular for their models with balsa wood rails, which is a parabolic stringer. In traditional foam and center stringer surfboards, the perimeters flex and twist which causes the board to slow and fatigue. This is called torsional flex. So a board with flex alone is not necessary going to give you the desired functionality. Without the element of strength, flex is useless. This is a tricky balancing act.
How Firewire Improves Flex
When Surftech came out with their Tuflite boards made from EPS foam and shelled with epoxy fiberglass, surfers loved the added buoyancy and strength. However, there was a perception that the performance of Tuflite boards lacked flex and the performed poorly in choppy waves. Surftech recently addressed those issues with their TL2 technology. The most optimal flexural characteristic achieves the perfect balance between flex and strength.
This led to Firewire’s rejuvenation of the parabolic stringer with their Future Shapes Technology (FST) models. It features a parabolic stringer design combined with low density EPS foam. The idea was to strengthen the perimeter, where the surfer can apply a more control weight to the surfboard’s rail thus gaining more controlled buoyancy. Balancing stiffness and flexibility on the perimeter of a Firewire board allows you to lean in to the stringer in turns rather than a foam rail. As pressure is applied to the wooden rail stringer, this bends and shoots you into the direction you’re turning as it flexes back.
According to Surfboardshack.com, testimonials about Firewire surfboards are positive overall in terms of performance but there has been some criticism on the board’s durability. Still, many surfers claim they feel the benefit of enhanced drive, better wave face penetration, and more acceleration through each turn.
How Are Firewire Surfboards Made?
Firewire uses a proprietary sandwich blank construction to create a much lighter and more durable board than traditional PU (polyurethane) surfboards. It has very low density with only 1lb of EPS (expanded Polystyrene) foam. This is much lighter compared to the 2.5 to 3lb per cubic foot of regular polyurethane cores. A 3mm layer of high density aerospace composite is added to the core for strength. The shell is made up of a fiberglass and epoxy resin. Some surfers have experienced a Firewire surfboard snapping under light conditions but Firewire claims to have fixed the defects.
Firewire added different variations and advanced their technology with their Direct Drive (DD) Model. This model replaced the balsa rails of the FST model with interior carbon rods that are suspended inside high density rail foam. The rods run along side the interior of the rails and connect to the base of the fin box. The purpose is to control the rate of flex and flex memory.
Firewire Board Variations
Firewire has other variations such as the FST-Springer model and the Rapid Fire. The Springer technology found in their Taj Pro model is a variation of the FST with the addition of an added balsa stringer in the center of the surfboard for added stiffness. The Rapid Fire model is a variation of the Direct Drive with a bamboo deck skin. It has an additional pound of EPS foam which means an air valve is not needed due to higher density and less air in its core.
The retail price of Firewire Surfboards are higher, yet still comparable to traditional PU surfboards. If I am buying a new board, I wouldn't question the additional cost if the board performs anywhere near as well as what the manufacturer claims.
You can find the Firewire technology in a variety of shapes and sizes. They make everything from pro model thrusters to retro fish to longboards. If you would like to read more on Firewire's ratings and review or you're looking for more specs on their different models, see the following in our comprehensive surfboard directory: