View Full Version : How long do boards actually last?
10th February 2007, 03:54 AM
Another post made me think of this question...
How long do boards last? Do they wear out from use?
My waterski has a bend curve built into it to help it carve through the water. After a few seasons of heavy use for a serious non-pro, a ski can get soft and need to be replaced. I've never broken a ski, but that would be the ultimate failure point.
Windsurfers have been designed to flex (or not flex much through the materials used). Do they wear out then? Do they, after a few seasons of heavy use start to show signs of not being as stiff as they once were?
I've never had a situation arise where I thought my board was getting tired, and I know many people still enjoying boards that are 10 years old. I still enjoy my waterski even though I know it is getting soft, so I'm not advocating that things need to be replaced... it is still all about having fun on the water.
I'm just curious of equipment gets old and tired after awhile. I don't think I've ever read about this in the windsurfing industry relating to boards.
10th February 2007, 04:28 AM
That's more of a 'How long is a piece of string' question.
There are so many factors to a boards longevity that it would be hard to say.
Firstly there is the construction of the board. A formula board is a very different beast to a wave board and both can come in a number of different constructions.
The next thing to consider is the weight of the rider and how they sail a board. You may get a lightweight wavesailor that just rides the wave but does not do ariels next to a heavyweight that does double backies. I'm sure you can guess which board wil last the longest.
The next thing to consider is climate. Boards can go soft very quickly if left permanently in strong sunlight but worst still is rapid changes of temperature or pressure.
Lcation is another factor. I often sail on a pit thats had millions of bricks dumped in it so my boards get a bit of a battering compared to some friends that sail on nice soft sand.
My boards also get used loads, especially the mid sized ones. I probably get a lot more time on the water than most. As such I tend to replace my boards sooner while they still have some value left.
Having said all that, we all like shiney new toys. That is often the main factor in replacing a board for most people. There are the odd few I know that have boards fo 15 years and have only replaced them when they have fallen apart. But most just like new stuff.
As an average though, most of the boards I see are no more than 5 years old.
10th February 2007, 07:24 AM
Hmmm. I pretty much agree with Phil, but I don't think he answered your question.
Leaving a board in strong sunlight, dragging it over bricks, flat landing huge aerials, putting on the biggest sail you can hold onto, etc., constitute abuse in my view. Not much longevity in that, particularly if you buy ultralight construction techniques designed for maximum performance at risk of hardware failure. But all of that is sort of stating the obvious.
What about an average-construction board, kept in a good board bag, ridden but not to the point of a T-shirt that I have that says "Sail hard until something breaks". In other words, if you use a board at its nominal design parameters and treat it tenderly, how long will it last? The answer is a long damned time.
Sheltered from unnecessary UV exposure (which will degrade the composites), a board with proper weight of cloth and good epoxy density will be VERY resistant to fatigue. If one then does a good job of maintaining the hull (doing good patches on minor dings and abrasions), it will probably last your lifetime. Getting it to last that long will require repaintings, maybe some patches of glass and gel-coat, but it ought to last a long time. Boards made with plastic skins should last even longer. Cover it with EVA foam, and the foam may need re-gluing or replacement but as it protects the board, the board should last longer still! And all of this being properly protected, made of appropriate weight glass / carbon / kevlar cloth, well maintained, it should NOT alter performance characteristics, either.
So while I think Phil is basically right (except that most boards I see are 3-4 years old and OLDER), he's missed the point that a sailboard can last a really really really long time.
To that end, I must say that as the industry leader (in my view), Starboard could do our planet a great favor by helping sailors recycle their boards. In the context of global warming, we all must do our parts to try to maintain the planet and leave it as we inherited it. Those of us who love to windsurf represent a tiny part of world petroleum consumption, but we do consume it and are left with old "retired" boards that are not properly maintained and thus destined to be regarded as unused trash, polluting the world. Recycling retired sailboards as a form of conservation is probably somewhat akin to turning off the Christmas decorations in order to save on power consumption. Nonetheless, I think the fact of global warming leaves all of us with a moral imperative to leave a smaller footprint from our time on this Earth. Thus, as windsurfers, consumers of lots of plastics and composites, we need to clean up after ourselves. Starboard could really distinguish itself if it were to assist sailors who buy a new board to dispose of the old one. I myself would gladly pay a little more for that service.
10th February 2007, 07:45 AM
While Phill104 has offered many thoughtful factors that say much about the situation, I thought that I might be able to comment, as I use up my equipment and don't focus on a timely resale. In fact, except for a JP board that was found to be substandard early on, I still have all my boards since 1992. I've got quite a museum of stuff. In a way, my collection of antique Ferrari's of a sort, especially since it's all fairly high caliber custom stuff.
Anyway, I experienced few types of degrading damage that eventually requires board replacement. The least damaging, and most sustainable in nature through relatively simple rescue methods, is the softening of the deck just in front of the rear footstraps. An injection of epoxy helps breathe some life at this stage of the game, but it doesn't necessarily restore youth. I find that this problem usually arises in about 4-5 years, but I've got some boards that don't exhibit the problem after over 8 years. All these boards were built by the same guy, an internationally well known designer/builder.
Another deck related problem can be the areas were the mast strikes the surface of the board. All this damage is surf related in nature. While most of my wave/B&J boards have done pretty well in this respect, one of my latest boards started to destruct fairly early in its life, by beginning to show damage within the first and second year. The board has still held together after over 4 years, but I'm running on borrowed time now. Actually, I'm considering bringing an 11 year old version of the same board out of retirement, which I used for over 6.5 years before retiring it. This older board proved to be much more robust. Really, it's because these boards are constructed from surfboard foam and polyester resin that I've been able to continue to use a compromised board without employing any real repair strategy. Some time ago I took the damaged board to The BoardLady for a potential repair, and she thought it was hopeless. These boards were built by a different guy that's got a specialized following.
Lastly, the real death of a board is the soft bottom in the rear section of the board under the footstraps. One of my favorite boards suffered this fate after about 6.5 years. Never a leaker, but the bottom was pulverized inside. The ESP foam under the divinicell gets delaminated and crushed over time, and just turns to dust inside. The way to tell is the coin or stiff finger rapping test. The idea is to sound test the bottom for integrity and strength. A proper bottom is crisp sounding in resonance, and this can be discerned easily, even on an old board by testing the forward nose section. However, if the bottom is failing, the sound is greatly muffled and lacks the crispness that characterizes a proper bottom. In reality, the bottom and rockerline no longer functions in an optimum way, and some form of undesireable compliance is introduced. In fact, I could actually see some deflection by pressing in the bottom with some direct force. Maybe still sailable, but way off the mark in performance. Unfortunately, there is no repair strategy that will save you at this point if this kind of problem arises.
Well, the above kind of gives you my picture over quite a few years where boards have sustained some hard use. I'm a bit heavier than you having peaked at about 86kg, but more recently at about 70kg. I know others have other nightmares that they have experienced, especially those that are catastrophic in nature. For instance, the sudden delamination out of nowhere. That happened to me under warranty on a Seatrend that I bought in 1987, but never since. However, I've been transporting and storing all my boards in vans since 1990, so my exposure hasn't been as great.
I hope my thoughts give you some perspective on your question.
10th February 2007, 01:53 PM
Apart from abuse, as already stated here above, board life depends on construction and materials.
As for the skins, actually resin cures with time. The resin is liquid because is made of short molecules; when they by action of time and heat start to aggregate in longer chains, the resin gets solid. The longer the chains, the stronger the resin, and this kind of aggregation process that leads to longer chains goes on continuously.
Divinycell is a long lasting material, too; plus it is not subject to point loads as the skins (in fact the skins are supposed to distribute point loads over larger areas in the foam).
Polystyrene actually is the weakest part, as it tends to deteriorate over time; but it really does not have too hard a job to do, so if the deck and bottom are hard enough probably one will not notice.
My most used board is an RRD Avantslalom 278 that I bought in 1999 and retired last season. Apart from flat landings, I think that slalom boards do the hardest job; in fact they are continuously hammered by chop and ripples at high speed and under high loads. My 5,7 kg. 278, after 8 seasons of use with no respect at all, still has a stiff deck. The bottom just shows small pin points, only under a given angle to direct Sun light, they must be around 1/10 mm. high; probably due to the tiny holes in the divinycell that get resin inside and resist better to the (small) crushing of nearby areas. Performance is OK, so I guess that the rockerline is not altered.
6th August 2011, 02:57 AM
Lastly, the real death of a board is the soft bottom in the rear section of the board under the footstraps.
True. My mostly used board is a DRAM HS105 and she suffered the soft deck syndrome between the front and back footstraps section after 8 years of pretty intensive usage (about +800 hours of TOW). The upper deck cracked because of soft foam failure. Cut out a large soft deck patch, filled in with bubble foam, fiber-glassed over with 2 layers, a finish paint job et voilą, still going fast & furious for another year. However, new cracks are progressively developping outside of the repaired area. Considering to buy a new board because the internal foam structural failure is widening and worsening with increased usage in that section of the hull's deck.
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