Building With Balsa
The inescapable fact is that the workaday surfboard is a dirty ride. Foam, fiberglass and resin aren't eco-friendly, but balsa wood is, and more and more surfboards are being made of it.
"Balsa is the natural, light material that was first used to a make a more responsive surfboard." states Chispa De La Torre, an Ecuadorian shaper. "It is stronger than foam, lasts longer and holds up better in powerful surf."
"Considering that they last forever if shaped by a master, a balsa board can be a tremendous value," says big-wave gun builder Gary Linden.
"Getting wood is difficult but not impossible, you have to get a good source and have patience," says De La Torre.
Long Term Investment
"The lifespan is about eight years from maturity to felling," Jim "Hail Yeah" Yarborough, who has been working with balsa for the past 20 years. "It is a tropical hardwood with the lightest density of all hardwoods."
"The reward of pride and mana to surf a hand-built hollowsurfboard can't be compared," says Yarborough. "They're much like a guitar. The guitar sings andrides the rhythms and undulations of sound waves."
For A Price
Balsa boards are expensive. A shaped board, complete with glassing, can cost an upwards of $5,000, putting the boards out of most people's budgets. On the plus side, you'll never have to buy a board again.
The photographer as the subject. Test pilot mission in Ecuador.
Want to learn more about balsa wood and surfing? There's a place for that. In the Ecuadorian jungle is "The Balsa House," it's a pretty good place to get started.