by Jason Horton
For some reason, the topic of surfboard graphics is a little… divisive. Surfers have been painting art onto surfboards for pretty much as long as we’ve been shaping them, but despite this, many dismiss boards with artwork as ‘too flashy’. In other words, while some surfers let their surfing do all the talking, others see surfboards as the perfect canvas for self-expression.
Surfboard graphics: a rising wave
One reason many surfers love board art is the culture. Surfboard art really began in California in the late 1950s, when the Hot Rod car subculture crossed over into the Hot Curl surf scene. Beautiful pin lines and resin tints played a big part in the evolution of surfing culture. By the late ‘60s and through the 70s, surfboard art was in full bloom, thanks to psychedelic designs inspired by the counterculture movement. Many surfers began incorporating bold colors and intricate patterns into their boards, often with trippy and surrealistic imagery. This trend was influenced by the psychedelic art of the 1960s, as well as the album covers of bands like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead.
The 1980s weren’t so great for surfboard art. Although there was plenty of airbrush and neon on display, in general the industry moved towards mass-produced boards with standardized designs aimed at a broader audience. Meanwhile, skateboarding was surging in popularity, and screen printed deck art inspired by everything from punk to hot rods was leaving surfing in the dust. A similar thing happened in the 1990s, when snowboard graphics took the skate style to a bigger canvas, making skiing look dull and conservative in comparison. Meanwhile, surfboard art was seeing a resurgence in the use of resin tinting, and generally the 1990s saw a return to the roots of surfboard art, with surfers and shapers focusing on the natural beauty and artistry of the craft.
Image: ‘80s Skateboard designs: Powell, Dogtown, Variflex, SMA, Santa Cruz, Blind
From a technical perspective, this evolution wasn’t surprising. It’s much easier and cheaper to print onto small wooden decks or plastic skinned snowboards. Whether it’s hiring a guy to apply custom graphics to a finished surfboard or producing large format colour prints, adding full board graphics to a custom shaped board is always going to add to the end cost. Not that starving artists have much to complain about: if you’re artistically inclined and ready to get stuck in with a few spray cans and/or Posca pens, a white blank board is a great place to start.
Gabriel Medina’s Graphics
Johnny is a big fan of custom artwork on boards. Gabriel is too. Since around 2015, we’ve used various graphic designs to introduce a seasonal theme to his quivers. Some of these were printed on rice paper; others, like his signature circle element, were spray painted on. Inspired by these circles, design office LANGE & LANGE suggested the Solar System and Moon Phases quivers. Gabriel loved the concept, so we decided to print these directly onto fiberglass cloth for glassing into the surfboard’s deck or bottom – a relatively new technique that makes full-length graphics easier.
Some of Gabriel’s quivers from the past years: left side with sprays, right side with prints
Fiberglass cloth printing
This technique involves printing high-quality graphics directly onto 2oz fiberglass cloth. This is applied on top of the standard 4oz cloth used at the glassing stage, creating a durable and vibrant design. It’s quite a similar process to rice paper, but has a few advantages: the cloth is easier to lay up on a full-length design, making it less susceptible to ‘bubbles’ (trapped pockets of air). The reason we use 2oz fiberglass cloth for graphics is because it is both lighter and shows more detail than the coarser standard 4oz cloth. So while an extra layer of 2oz cloth does add a little extra weight to the board, it’s not a lot, and it adds strength. We sometimes get requests for full-wrap graphics, but because of the way cloth is trimmed and wrapped around the rails, designs tend to get distorted, and don’t usually turn out that great. So, we find that painting the rails usually looks best with a full-length graphic deck and bottom.
Full Spectrum Surfboards
Now we have found a partner that can print to the standard we need, we’re stoked to now offer custom prints on all our surfboard models – top, bottom or a full wrap. The response so far has been great, and we’re gradually getting more and more requests for full deck graphics. Sure, it costs a little extra, but for those customers who come to us with a design they want to use, or even an idea that we can realise with the help of our designer – it’s worth it to make their custom surfboard a true original.
> one side with painted rails or pin line: 100€ + VAT
> two sides with painted rails or pin line: 160€ + VAT
> one side with painted rails or pin line: 130€ + VAT
> two sides with painted rails or pin line: 200€ + VAT
Instructions print file
> the graphic design has to be submitted ready to print
Board length 5’11 = 180cm, add 5cm = 185cm
Board width 19“ = 48cm, not much to add as we will paint the rails or let them white
Make a square 185 x 48cm with the design in min. resolution of 150dpi
Send it as vector or raster image.