Tim Bessell’s Parabolics

 Fresh, clear epoxy, bright white foam, two stringers up the sides, light blue rails, Tim Bessell’s parabolic surfboards are a new species in the development of surfboard design.
    It’s not necessarily a new technology, but a return to old experiments with new materials.
    Shapers have worked with stringers that line the rails since the 60's, Tim Bessell said as he showed me a black and white photo of a surfer running up the sand, a board under his arm with two stringers shaped in the foam like a really long Jesus fish.
    But it’s the recent developments as per Nev Hyman and Bert Burger of Firewire that parabolics have resumed a place in surfboard designers’ shaping rooms.
    “I was so impressed ... I really wanted to be a part of the movement,” Bessell said.
    That’s referring to an epoxy board with wood stringers that surround the rails: a board that can be jumped on without snapping.
    What’s more important is the board’s ability to snap out of turns: the board flexes from its shape into a turn, then reflexes back to its original form coming out, which shoots the surfer forward – like a parabolic ski.
    Bessell calls his parabolic board the XTR-Reflex – he has several shapes, like the Eliminator and the Pocket Rocket; a couple display models lean against racks in his La Jolla showroom.
    They’re epoxy boards with a core of white foam surrounded by two stringers surrounded by blue foam for the rails – the same kind of light blue foam used in S-Core boards.
    What can only be seen close up are parts of a black carbon strip attached to the stringers for durability and support.
    “They’re not easy to make; they’re not cheap to make,” Bessell said.
    His epoxy boards cost $850 and he can make a polyurethane model (PU) – the traditional foam and polyester resin board – for $650, but the epoxy/XTR lasts longer than a PU board.
    Bessell said that what sold him on the idea was the reflex memory, the ability to flex into and out of turns. His team riders are on the boards. They love them, and he recently sent some boards to Chris and Dan Malloy.
    But what about Hyman and Burger?  They’ve got their boards in a couple of surf shops, but Bessell said they weren’t sure how to get their technology to the shapers, whether to employ shapers, contract, etc., so Bessell started making his own design.  “I’m going my own way,” he said.
    What sets Bessell’s board apart from other makers is the carbon strip that he joins to the stringer for reinforcement.  “In the future more carbon will be used.  It’s the real deal,” he said.  He has a patent pending on the innovation.
    Another point he stresses is that his boards are custom shaped.  Custom shaped, he said, is the way to do it, the way to be happy with the board, it’s what the pros do. “People need to utilize their local shapers,” he said.
    Since Bessell started making the parabolic boards his business has improved. “It’s blowing up because of the reflex model,” he said.    
    This is after Clark went out of business, after more foam producers filled the void in the market, and after the parabolic paradigm arrived. Bessell said the resources are “unlimited;” that there’s excess foam.
    With all these resources and new technologies like S-Core and carbon boards – Bessell has those too – the industry is going through radical dynamics of change.
    “We’re in the Renaissance of surfing design,” Bessell said.
    The technology is changing from the traditional fiberglass surfboard.
    Beyond the classic PU board, Bessell uses extruded polystyrene (EPS) foam – the parabolic boards have two different densities of foam:  the white core and the blue sides.  The denser, blue foam is used at the edges because more strength is needed at the rails.
     The EPS foam is lighter and stronger than Clarke’s PU foam, and it still maintains its flexibility.  A key factor about the EPS foam is that it doesn’t absorb water, so in the case of a ding, the board won’t be ruined.  Bessell uses XTR foam from EpoxyPro, Javier Huarcaya’s Oceanside based company.
    In the past, XTR boards would delaminate from gas that the foam released.  In recent years, EpoxyPro has put vents in their epoxy glass jobs, which release the gas and, since the foam doesn’t take on water, allow the board to stay afloat.
    Putting all the elements together, Bessell shapes his boards by hand for each customer and then sends them to EpoxyPro for glassing.  From ordering a board to picking it up from the shop, a customer waits eight weeks.
    His boards then go into the hands of anxious surfers and, for most, immediately into the water.
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