Space-Age Surfing: Putting the Latest High-Tech Board to the Test

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In the late 1950s, surfers made the transition from riding heavy wooden planks to lighter more responsive boards built of foam and fiberglass. That switch was an absolute game changer. Since then surfboard construction techniques have remained largely the same — but the folks at Varial Surf Technology are finally looking to change all that.

Varial begins with their own high modulus foam derived from the aerospace industry (think: rocket ship foam that’s super strong and lightweight yet highly flexible) and then vacuum seals it with a hard fiberglass outer layer that’s made of the same stuff used to build giant wind turbines and racing sailboats. The result is a surfboard that’s 30 percent stronger and more durable and 25 percent lighter than conventional foam and fiberglass boards. With those benefits — and the promise of a faster, more responsive ride — this new technology has recently caught on with a handful of top pro surfers and big wave chargers.

To see how these advances might also benefit mere mortals, we tested a Walden Surfboards Deviled Egg [$875-$1,000;] made with Varial Foam and Infused Glass, which is an up-charge that accounts for approximately $150-$200 of the price above. The Deviled Egg is a new all-arounder model designed to handle a very wide range of surf conditions, perfect for our three-weeklong testing trip in San Diego and El Salvador.

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Although Varial is capable of making pro shortboards as light as 4.5 pounds, at 7 feet 2 inches-long, our board is markedly wider, thicker, and longer. Plus, a board of this size also requires a certain amount of heft to ensure good glide, especially in windy conditions. With that in mind, Varial engineered slightly more weight into our board for a total of about 10 pounds.

Our first major durability test came the afternoon before leaving for El Salvador, when the Deviled Egg slipped out of my hands and straight onto the concrete. While most boards would’ve been dinged badly from that sort of drop, somehow there was only one minor crack in the tail. Crazy.

On the waves, the board shines. From waist-high peelers to powerful double-overhead waves, the Varial Deviled Egg handled it all with a ride that was both extremely smooth and predictable. The board felt solid on even the steepest of drops and tracked well through turns while the foam seemed to provide just enough flex to make for a lively and responsive feel.

During our three weeks of testing, the board held up nicely to the daily grind of double surf sessions most days as well as the rigors of Third World travel. The only chink in the armor we noticed was marked pressure dinging (dimpling of the deck where you stand) but that is purely a cosmetic issue and, in some cases, may actually improve traction.

Bottom line: although professional surfers stand to reap the greatest rewards from this new technology, based on our testing and the relatively reasonable price we think average surfers who are looking for a stronger, longer-lasting surfboard with impressive responsiveness should definitely consider a board built with Varial Foam and Infused Glass.

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