When Charlie first started getting his Freshwater Bay Paddleboard designs from idea, to CAD files, to production the main board factories didn’t want to know. They were too busy making boards for the big brands to consider making them for us.
By working his way down a list of SUP factories, Charlie finally got one to agree to make some prototypes of his hard board designs. Time passed and with great anticipation, the boards finally arrived. The first boards were, quite honestly, terrible…! Construction was poor, the finish was awful and the factory didn’t really care too much about it. Some brands still have their boards made in this factory, and in many factories like it. But not Freshwater Bay Paddleboards.
These boards didn’t see the light of day as far as the public was concerned. But, more importantly, boards had been created and Charlie could now go to other, better factories, and say ‘Hey, I have designs, I have boards, I need the quality to be higher!’. From this inauspicious start, Charlie started moving up the ranks and now Freshwater Bay Paddleboards are made in some of the best factories in the World, alongside those major brands. It took time and effort to get there -flying out to factories for meetings, working on prototypes with them, and checking construction – all before we sold our first board. But that’s how we do it at Freshwater Bay Paddleboards and that’s what sets us apart!
Our goal has always been to make Freshwater Bay Paddleboards the best boards possible, regardless of expense. Quality starts with the right attitude, and we only work with manufacturers that share our attitude; the boards have to made right, every time!
Hard Board Construction:
The best hard boards start with a great shape. Freshwater Bay hard boards are designed not only for all-round flatwater paddling, but also to hit the waves. That comes from our longboard surf heritage, which you can see throughout our style. Freshwater Bay Paddleboards may have similar dimensions to many other boards, but don’t let that fool you; the bottom contours and thinned out rails at the tail, mean the board is fast and highly manoeuvrable in the surf, while maintaining stability for flatwater paddling. They’re not just another ‘All-Rounder’ SUP!
Once you have the right shape, you need the right materials. As with any leisure-sport product, you have to get the right balance between strength and weight. The more materials you use, the more durable the product (in theory!), but the extra weight makes them less manoeuvrable – not what you want when carving the face of a wave, or even just carrying your board to the water. Many companies add more and more layers of materials to make them stronger, but that isn’t always the answer. By refining the manufacturing process, and using the right high-quality materials in the right places, you can have a board that is both light and strong.
We’ve done a lot of testing over the years, and we think we’ve got the balance right!
We start with a 20kg/m3 EPS foam core. This is CNC machine shaped to replicate our CAD drawings as closely as possible, every time. The machined shape is then finished by hand to smooth out any rough cuts from the machine, and make sure the contours are right.
Then high-density reinforcements are installed where the fins, handle, and leash will be placed. Many companies don’t do this as it’s more expensive to manufacture. But we do.
We only use genuine imported surf industry standard FCS and Futures attachments for Freshwater Bay Paddleboards. We could use imitation ones to save money, like a lot of companies. But we don’t.
Once the attachments and fin boxes are installed, the boards are laminated.
We use a combination of fibreglass weights in the lamination process. Different weights have a different weave size and thickness, so using a combination of weights gives a higher strength to weight ratio. We also use a 0.5mm layer of wood between the fibreglass layers to add strength to the laminate. You may not see it on our painted boards, but it’s there.
We also add a layer of Carbon Fibre to the standing area of the deck. This helps prevent any compressions in the area people stand for 90% of the time, without adding too much weight. The rails, nose and tail are then wrapped in Kevlar to help prevent damage to these areas that are prone to a bashing.
Once laminated, the boards go through the ‘vacuum bag’ process. This causes suction that compresses the laminate to the foam core, creating a strong bond while removing any excess epoxy resin. At the end of this process we have a board that is strong and light, with a hard shell.
The boards are then painted using high quality urethane automotive paint and put in a warm, temperature controlled room – the ‘oven’ as we like to call it – to cure.
Once cured, we apply our Freshwater Bay Paddleboard Co logos, the clear resin top coat and then polish for a gleaming gloss finish. Each board takes around two weeks to make, and every stage of the process gets quality checked along the way. Once the deck pad is installed, they get a final QC and are good to go!
So that is how Freshwater Bay Paddleboards go from CAD to RAD!