The iconic board's namesake, surf champ Gabriel Medina  ©Gualter Fatia/Getty Images
The iconic board's namesake, surf champ Gabriel Medina ©Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Supply audit: the Medina surfboard

10 May 2019

How do you create a world-beating product? Just ask Johnny. When skill meets craft, a legend is born (or shaped, in board lingo)…

What’s so special about this board?
Brazilian board-maker Johnny Cabianca shaped it with his friend Gabriel Medina, the surf world’s reigning male champion (pictured above). The Medina is the star’s preferred board if he wants to fly through the air. If he’s going to use a lot of curves to generate speed, he’ll use the DFK (it stands for Da Freak Kid).

Surely one board is much like another?
Hardly. Surfboards vary according to expertise, physical fitness, climate, the kind of wave being surfed and the materials used. A beginner’s shortboard can be as short as 1.88m while a longboard, the kind used by Polynesian settlers of Hawaii back in the fourth century, might extend to 3m. Some surfboards feature GPS, thermal sensors and wifi. Old-school surfers sneer that these boards have more tech than soul.

Did Hawaii invent surfing?
Hawaiians have used surfboards for centuries – in 1778, when Captain Cook visited the islands, they were part of everyday life. Sadly, the Christian missionaries who followed in Cook’s wake discouraged surfing, believing it was sinful. The pastime didn’t really recover until Olympic swimmer and actor Duke Kahanamoku, aka The Big Kahuna, popularised it on Waikiki beach. Kahanamoku was surfing’s first – and greatest – global ambassador. Today, 35m people in 162 countries surf and boards are made around the world.

How are surfboards made?
In the most common method, a hard polyurethane foam core, called a blank, is split from head to tail and a 6mm wide wooden strip, called a stringer, is glued between the two halves. The blank is then shaped, painted, laminated with woven fibreglass cloth and saturated with a polyester or epoxy resin. Some makers – including Cabianca – use an expanded polystyrene foam. One maker, Homeblown, uses natural oils to make the foam core for its eco-friendly board.

Isn’t the surfer lifestyle a bit of a cliché?
It has been popularised by Hollywood in countless movies, the music industry, tourism and fashion. Yet some still ride the waves in search of that mystical, revelatory experience known as ‘stoke’.

How can I blend in with the other dudes?
If you’re dishing out compliments, try: “You’re a dilla, man” – which tells someone they are a calm, low-maintenance surfer. Otherwise, using “awesome” works in most situations.

Everybody’s gone surfin’…
Although the Beach Boys were responsible for such hits as Surfin’ USA, only one of them – drummer Dennis Wilson – actually enjoyed surfing. 

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