Driving down the road in Brazil it is extremely common to see surfboards and stand up paddleboards (SUP’s) strapped to the roofs of cars. You will even see them attached to the rear ladders of the semi-trucks thundering down the highway. It is not an exaggeration to say that surf sports are extrermely popular along coastal Brazil. And why shouldn’t they be? With over 4600 miles of coastline there is plenty to go around.
To supply this demand there are any number of surfboard manufacturers – or shapers – in Brazil. On a recent trip to São Francisco do Sul we stopped in at a local surf shop, Pró-Ilha, to look at a new SUP and buy an upgraded paddle for Elizabeth. While we were there, the guys asked if we’d like a tour of the manufacturing area to see how their surfboards are made. Well, of course!
I knew that Pró-Ilha manufactured surfboards – I even own one of their boards – but I had no idea about the size and scope of their operation. For the record, we have no financial affiliation with Pró-Ilha, they are just an awesome company here in Santa Catarina.
Surfboards are basically made with a rigid polyurethane foam core – called a blank – that is sanded into the desired shape (hence the term shaper) and then covered fiberglass and resin. Pró-Ilha gets their blanks from X-tra blanks in South Africa.
Pró-Ilha has an impressive facility. They utilize CNC planers to form the initial shape of the board. Modern machinery like this speeds up the process and allows them to produce a larger amount of boards than if it was all done by hand.
Even though the intial shape is formed by the CNC machines, these boards are still custom products. The final shaping of the foam core is finished by hand by one of their skilled shapers.
Once the board has been sanded into its final shape, it is time to apply the fiberglass.
Custom paint jobs and decals are added before the final layer of resin. A final wet sanding to bring out the shine, and the boards are packaged and ready to ship to the customers.
We can’t thank the folks at Pró-Ilha enough for the tour. We had only stopped in to look around a bit and were given a look into an awesome, local manufacturer. We’ll definitely be stopping in on our next trip to pick up our new SUP.