A soft board is just a regular shortboard with an epoxy resin layup – no foam. A traditional shortboard has a ‘glass job’, using fiberglass cloth on the outside of the board, with about 4 oz of glass fabric in each layer. A soft board uses the same amount of cloth but comes out of the mold at around 15 or 18 lbs instead of 30-40. The epoxy reduces flex quite a bit, making paddling more efficient and also providing some dampening to make it easier to ride rougher waters.
The Soft Board and Float Feature
All shortboards are buoyant but most epoxy boards are not that great for actually catching waves because they’re so heavy – they typically have negative buoyancy. A soft board, however, is great to catch waves with because the epoxy makes it so much lighter than a regular shortboard – normally around 1/3 of the weight.
Advantages of Soft Boards
-It is easy to carry by hand or over your shoulder because they are so light at 15-18 lbs.
-It is Great for first-timers who might have a hard time paddling because their board will be significantly lighter than foam at 8 – 10 lbs instead of 12+ lbs. This also makes them good for older people as well because the paddling doesn’t take as much out of you when you’re younger, but becomes more difficult as you age. It can give people that extra boost needed to paddle out.
-It is great for beginners to learn standing up because it doesn’t require as much paddling power to catch waves, resulting in faster learning time than with a foam board.
-It is easy on your joints because there’s no weight added onto the front end of the board.
-Taking away the strain that comes from catching tons of waves on a heavy frame.
Older people who want to get into surfing or younger people who have body aches after surfing often benefit from soft boards. The epoxy makes it easy riding rougher waters too… since they are so buoyant, you can pop right back up if you wipe out and are thrown against rocks/sand/reef without fear of breaking your board or injuring yourself.
Disadvantages of Soft Boards
-Lack of buoyancy makes it harder to do cutbacks, but easier to frontside carve and you can turn your back on the wave for an easier bottom turn since they’ll just float up past it. This ensures that you won’t get as tired out as quickly when catching multiple waves with foam because you have to fight the board not to drop into each wave.
-You need to be careful when turning your back on the waves and paddle deeper than usual because if they go over a shallow reef/rock/etc. they may bury and submerge underwater and create friction that will hold them down causing them to sink faster. Once this, there’s nothing you can do and you’ll have to get someone else to help you get it back.
-Epoxy doesn’t chip easily as fiberglass does, but instead feels on the outside of the board if you hit multiple rocks/reefs/etc. (although there is some sort of coating that can be placed over epoxy for increased protection).
– Since they don’t require as much weight to stay afloat or ride on top, the rail gets extremely thin compared to a regular shortboard which makes them more susceptible to snapping when hitting sharp objects.