Data-gathering hardware could improve surfer performance

A surfboard integrated with data-gathering hardware could revolutionise board manufacturing processes and improve surfer performance.

Scientists from Spain’s Tecnalia Research & Innovation have partnered with board maker Pukas to research the mechanical properties of surfboard materials and to analyse user technique.

‘Professionals still use equipment based on technology from the 1970s. No parameter measurements have been done — until now. Product improvement using this information means selling more boards,’ project leader Urko Esnaola told The Engineer.

To gather data, the board has a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS and compass, as well as pressure sensors and strain gauges.

Pukas told Esnaola the equipment, including batteries, would be too heavy to give accurate readings.

‘We did a lot of work to get rid of the weight, soldering by hand and using different materials where possible,’ he said. ’A normal board weighs up to 2.8kg. We got ours down to 3.1kg.’

Data transferred to a computer produces a map of the critical points on the board. Findings can then be used to choose materials with favourable properties into designs.

Tecnalia claims that users will also benefit in the short term. Information gathered on foot position and board movement can be analysed and incorporated into training.

The equipment has been tested and it works. ‘The board is ready and working,’ said Esnaola. ’The second phase of the project is to get testing with surfers. Now the fun starts.’