This is a classic story, one of our favorites to write about. It’s a story where two life-long friends become frustrated with a problem and they go out and create their own solution.
Meet Edison Conner and Parker Borneman, owners and founders of Varial Foam. Both grew up in Santa Barbara, both lifelong surfers. Their frustration? Broken surfboards.
Let’s dive a little deeper into who they are and what they’ve got as a solution. Edison is a Science Superfreak. He went to Penn and focused on Materials Science & Engineering, graduating with a BS in Engineering before going to UCLA and getting his masters in Mechanical Engineering. Then he went to Space Exploration Technologies… SpaceX. Yeah, the company making consumer friendly journeys to space (he was a rocket engineer there). Like I said earlier – Science Superfreak. It should come as no surprise he is in charge of product development. Parker is no slouch either. He’s the business/marketing guy and a graduate of USC. The two get along fabulously until the battle for LA goes down – then it’s alma mater vs. alma mater.
So what’s their solution? A totally new foam. There are certain properties of polyurethane or polystyrene cores that are inherently flawed. For example – current cores are not the same density the entire way thru. This leads to all sorts of issues with structural stability After studying the problem more intensely, Edison determined that using high-modulus core materials in surfboards would advance surfboard strength and performance beyond anything possible with current cores.
Their first iteration was a core made of aluminum honeycomb. The same honeycomb cores that were developed during the space race for making lighter and stronger parts than would have ever been possible with wood or foam. The core is bizarre looking. You can’t even imagine a board being made out of it. Its metal and a bit mind blowing. The rails of the board would be made of a Varial developed, high-modulus surfboard foam. (What’s that mean?) A high-modulus core means that it is very hard compared to normal surfboard foam. That firmness supports the skins better so they can’t buckle, AND it transfers all the surfers’ energy through the board to the water’s surface. Meanwhile, it doesn’t affect the overall flex of the board at all; high-modulus boards flex in bending and twist just like traditional surfboards. Need an even simpler definition? Win, win, win.
Ok, back to the story – like every first version, there is evolution, revision and modification. The revision came when the guys used the foam originally intended just for the rails as an entire blank. The result was surfing’s first high-modulus foam core. The rigidity of high modulus core eliminates the need for a stringer and makes boards 20% lighter, 25% stronger, ultra-responsive, and they never yellow – all great for the surfer (remember above – win, win, win). When I took a couple boards out to demo Parker told me to keep the same dims I typically surf and feel the difference. The difference was immediate in paddle speed. I noticed more of it, which is pretty impressive considering I was more excited about a board that is less apt to snap. From a responsiveness standpoint it was tough for me to feel (I’m an average surfer) but when guys like Kelly Slater, Danny Fuller, Tyler Gunter, and CJ Kanuha are using the boards they must feel something this guy just can’t (here’s Kelly saying something clever with a Varial Foam Surfboard in his hand).
For the shaper Varial Foam has a uniform density and yields boards that are extremely repeatable. No soft centers and no hard pour lines. The guys have worked with multiple top shapers during their formulation process to ensure the foam can be shaped with current tools and no extra pain in the process. Doc Lausch from Surf Prescriptions has been instrumental in the process. He’s been a great partner to the guys and been actively involved from the start. He’s also shaped more Varial boards than any other shaper to date. But there are several other shapers experimenting with the foam: Rusty, SUPERbrand, …Lost, Spyder, Byrne, Album Surfboards, AJW, and Aipa. Because the boards can be finished in glassed polyester or epoxy resin the only reason to hold you back is perhaps the premium. Blanks are a little more to make and in the end the board will run you about 30% more than a PU. But it’s lighter and stronger so you get more for the buck.
Like I said at the beginning we love stories like this – surfers frustrated with an issue and then finding a solution. Both Parker and Edison are super cool guys and we wish them much success with their new foam.
If you are interested in testing a board make sure to follow Varial on Insta, FB, and all the other social nonsense websites. They’ve got demos going all the time.