How a Fatum Surfboard is Made – Part One – The Blank

At Fatum have been making surfboards for over 35 years and we like to think we have learned some things along the way. Gero is never content with keeping things the same but is instead always looking for ways to improve the quality of the end product. It’s a process of asking questions and always looking to see what can be done to make things better, a kind of evolution.

We thought it would be cool to take you through the process of how we make a surfboard so you can understand what goes into it.  This is the first part of four posts that will end up giving you an idea of the process, skill, dedication and love that goes into every surfboard. We start with Part One – The Blank.

At Fatum we use a company called ‘Surf Blanks Africa’. The Blank

The heart and soul of a surfboard. The blank is possibly the most important part of a surfboard. It’s like the foundations of a building or the chassis of a car. Without a good blank the rest of the board will collapse.

Surf Blanks Africa

We use exclusively blanks from ‘Surf Blanks Africa’, they are a small family run business and are based in Durban (South Africa), they make what we think is the best range of Polyurethane blanks in the world at the moment. Gero works closely with them and every 4-5 months we have a container load shipped up. One of the biggest advantages of having a good relationship with your blank supplier is guaranteeing the consistency of the blank, it allows us be confident and sure about the end quality of our product.

There are a few different categories of PU Blank that we use. They are colour coded as below.

Green Blank – this is typically buoyant, more lively and less dense, ideal for any performance-based board. We would use this for all of our shortboards. Skippa’s, Bulldogs, Fusions, Bonds etc.

Blue Blank –  A good solid middle of the row and the most used, it is a bitdenser and stronger than the green blank but trades of on flex and weight. We would use this on our crossovers, minimal and even performance longboards. Dukes, Mobys, Masters etc. Right now the quality of these blanks is just astounding.

Red Blank – This is quite a bit heavier than the blue blank but extremely strong. We only use these blanks for heavy traditional longboards that are meant to be heavy. Therapy, zeDon etc

Gero uses these blanks as they are reliable, consistent and are small enough to work with him on his rocker lines. Pressure dings are very uncommon in Fatum surfboards, it is one of the things we ‘hang our hat on’. Another reason to use a quality blank builder like ‘Surf Blanks Africa’ is how far into the blank we can ‘find’ the board. Softer foam nearer the core of the blank means harvesting the actual board nearer to the outside surface of the blank will make for a stronger and more durable surfboard. The fact that they take into account Geros rocker curves makes digging the design out much nearer to the surface and gives a stronger end result. To make sure all of our clients get consistent quality in their boards we have to start with a consistently superior product. For us, that is working with a blank manufacturer like ‘Surf Blanks Africa’.

Gero pictured here finishing off a little 5’11” Disco Fish.

How eco-Friendly is this?

The short answer is that it is not eco-friendly. However, it is important to keep things in perspective. A PU (Polyurethane) blank, when manufactured, produces a lot of carcinogens and is by far the most harmful process to the environment of making a surfboard. However, if you consider that the whole process of making a surfboard from start to finish is equal (emissions wise) to driving a car for twenty minutes we can see there are other ways to offset getting a good board.

Can’t you get Blanks any closer to Europe?

There are currently (at the time of writing) no blank manufacturers in Europe that (in our opinion) make a quality blank. The process is very labor-intensive and would be too expensive to be made here. The blank is the heart and soul of the board and we think that is important to get right.

Yellow Boards

If you see a white surfboard starting to go yellow, this does not mean that there is anything wrong with it. PU goes yellow, in fact it goes through yellow to brown just as a reaction with air. In the good old days, this was one reason that shapers started using resin tints. To hide the fact that white surfboards start to go yellow after 5-6 months.

There are certain blank manufacturers that use bleaching agents to keep their foam white but this does not make them better. Here at Fatum we try to focus on giving every surfer the best possible surfboard for them.

Look out for Part Two in this series, The Shaping Bay.