Pulp Magic

JULY 18, 2016

World’s Gnarliest Surfboard

At first blush you might not think of paper and crashing ocean waves as a particularly good match. But a segment on the Discovery Science Channel opened my mind.

The show, “Outrageous Acts of Science,” profiled Mike Martinez of Ernest Packaging Solutions who was tasked with creating a paper surfboard. The project is part of the very clever “Cardboard Chaos” series from Ernest Packaging Soutions that I have been following with fascination. So far they’ve designed a skateboard, a kid’s bicycle, a snowboard and a guitar all made out of corrugated. But the first time they scored TV time was with their new surfboard.

Traditional surfboards usually begin with foam core but Martinez decided to use Hexacomb® for the structure because it’s lightweight, eco-friendly and incredibly strong. One of the engineering challenges was fitting a polyurethane stringer down the center of the surfboard for added strength. They had to cut an exact slot through the hexagons without weakening the honeycomb structure. And then they covered the surfboard in fiberglass just like a normal surfboard.

The corrugated surfboard has a few notable features that foam core surfboards lack. First of all, it’s practically transparent. Hold it up to the sun and you can see right through it. And it looks great riding the waves with the underwater world just below your feet.

The second key feature is that if you spring a leak the water only floods a few hexagonal tubes at a time. In addition to being super strong, the structure keeps the board afloat much the way watertight compartments were supposed to keep the Titanic buoyant. (If only they had used corrugated instead of iron!)

Who knew you could make a good surfboard out of corrugated? Come to think of it, is there anything paper and paper-based packaging can’t do?