Paulownia is by far the fastest growing hardwood tree in the world, absorbing large amounts of CO2 in the process. It is native to Southeast Asia but today it’s used throughout the world with a number of uses from construction to bio-fuel. The Paulownia trees are able to grow in areas that lack good quality soil and with its ease of growth, they can quickly reforest an area. It is knot free, which greatly reduces wastage, it’s also disease resistant and has a high temperature resistance – making Paulownia wood almost bullet proof to the elements.

Australian shaper Paul Joske is known to be the first to make an unglassed paulownia surfboard in 1999. At the meantime, Tom Wegener had also been experimenting with this wood and found it perfect to start the Alaia revolution, which helped spread the benefits of this “new” wood throughout the world.

From all its benefits, there are three main reasons that make Paulownia the best timber to make surfboards:

Light weight
Paulownia wood is the lightest known timber other than balsa. It is also named the Aluminium of Timber. It is around two thirds of the weight of the lightest commercial wood currently being grown in Europe. Paulownia wood is a third of the weight of Oak and half the weight of Pine.

Paulownia wood has the highest strenght to weight ratios of any wood in the world, with a strenght of 18lbs p/cubic ft. against balsa with an average weight of 10lbs p/cubic foot.

Salwater resistant
Probably the most interesting characteristic for making wood surfboards: if it resists salt water it means there is no need of fiberglass or any other chemical sealer!  

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BAMBOO: the steel of timbers

Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, and it’s been used in Asia for centuries for a wide variety of purposes, such as building materials, as a food source, or as a versatile raw product. Bamboo has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel. And like paulownia, it’s water resistant.

At Flama we’ve been experimenting with bamboo for a while, with amazing results:

Paulownia + bamboo plywood: A bullet proof mix! A 0,3mm bamboo veneer glued at 90º over paulownia creates a superflexible panel that is perfect for the deck and bottom skins of our surfboards.

Two layered bamboo plywood: you can make super strong, yet flexible fins by gluing two layers of 3 to 5mm bamboo panels. The flex can even be controled by adjusting the grain direction of each layer.