How is a surfboard made? : Visit of the TAHE Outdoors France factory (
We were lucky enough to be invited for a visit to the Tahe Outdoors France factory in Vannes . For those who don't know, the Tahe Outdoors group is the first European outdoor sports group to buy Bic Sport in 2019. No more Bic surfboards, make way for TAHE boards, the group's new brand and SIC!
On the program, a behind-the-scenes visit to the factory that manufactures half of the world's surfboards . Today, the Tahe Outdoors France group exports a large part of its production. Renowned for their accessibility and solidity , TAHE and SIC boards have been part of the surf landscape for a long time.
It should be emphasized that this plant is special by the processes and technologies used, but also by its location in France , which makes it unique in its kind. Today, more than a hundred people work every day on the Vannes site: from production , to design , to marketing , everything is centralized in the TAHE premises.
What surprises the most is the industrial tool , it is unique in the world ! On site, there are many more machines than in the other factories we visited. Some of them have impressive proportions.
We are far from the shaper in his workshop who works the foam bread by hand. But make no mistake, it takes real know-how and skilled labor to run this plant. A majority of tasks are done manually , such as pausing pads, packaging and cutting.
One of the points that draws our attention is that at TAHE, nothing is thrown away : everything is transformed! The scraps are crushed and then melted to give birth to the raw material of the boards.
In fact all boards are constructed with over 30% recycled materials . If we look at the life cycle, TAHE boards are the most reliable and durable on the market . We still come across riders with their Mini Malibu Bic from the 80s and windsurfing fans remember the unbreakable Tiga boards.
Our visit begins with the discovery of the plate machine . Yes yes, you need plates to make surfboards in the TAHE factory. This one is more than 15 m long and it works non-stop every day. At TAHE we also manufacture kayaks , paddles and windsurf boards . For all these toys, you need polyethylene sheets. Depending on the types of products and technologies, their thickness and color change. Without these plates, it is impossible to make our surfboards or our kayaks. As Kevin tells us, this machine runs 24/24 and 7/7 .
The plates are made either of a thin layer of Polyethylene and a base of recycled Polyethylene, or of a layer of ASA and a base of ABS. These small balls are heated and then crushed in a roller, which will form a large plate. Then the plate is cut to the desired dimensions. Depending on production needs, we change the settings of the machine which will then make colored or thicker plates.
The offcuts go to the grinder which will then make shavings which will be melted in turn .
Now that we have these famous plates, the serious things begin! To make a surf, you need a core that has the shape of the board: the famous shape .
Two options, EPS expanded polystyrene or polyurethane foam . At TAHE, the particularity is that the foam breads are made 100% on site. Their EPS bread is reputed to be the best in the world, thanks to its density and weight. A good surfboard is above all a good bread . Bread is the basic ingredient of your surfing, if it is of poor quality your board will not survive the sessions or the sun.
At TAHE there is no machine dedicated to the design of EPS bars. To make your Mini Malibu, you need an aluminum mold into which polystyrene is injected at high pressure: it will take the shape of the mold. Just take the board out of the mold and the next step begins. With this technique, there are no scraps or scraps, unlike CNC machines that cut the bread and leave scraps. Most foam bars for the majority of other brands are imported into Europe from the USA or Asia and then laminated at the final production site. In times of surf shortage, having a production close to the market makes sense .
We have the mousse bread and we have the plate. Next step ? Head to the mould.
Depending on the technologies , the boards may be wrapped in fiberglass . The advantage is that our famous plate can be thinner, and therefore our board will be lighter. It will also be a little more expensive, but more efficient with a touch of water close to traditional surfboards. The fiberglass is laid by hand by a dedicated team .
Then, head to the next machine with the mould. This one is impressive! It's like NASA: sensors, suction cups... Here, there is technology! The machine will take one of the famous plates to heat it. During this time, someone will position the foam block and the inserts in the mold: fin boxes, carrying handle for the SUP boards, strap inserts for the windsurf boards. This is where the magic begins: the plates are placed by the machine on the bread . You have to wait about 1 min and your future board is ready to come out of the mold .
Once out of our mould, our board will undergo intensive work by a team of three people . You must first cut the plate around the core, then put the boxes, the pad and the stickers. This is the most complex part and the one that requires real know-how. When we see them doing it, we can tell you that they are real pros . Maybe not as well known as a shaper, but without these men and women, it's impossible to have a beautiful TAHE surfboard.
We have just told you about Ace-Tec technology , now we are going to talk about the most impressive: Dura-Tec technology which uses an extrusion blow molding process . This one exists nowhere else than in Vannes , as proof the machine is huge!
It must be at least 10m high and even a big hole had to be drilled in the factory floor to place it. With this technology , TAHE can manufacture solid, light products with a very good quality/price ratio, three essential elements for having fun on the water whatever your level of practice.
Again, you need an aluminum mold . In this one we just perform an extrusion. To put it simply, a kind of liquid is continuously injected into the mould. The plastic-based liquid is propelled with air out of the mold leaving a central cavity. The compressed air cools the part, which freezes in its final shape, that of the mould. So here we are with a sort of plastic sock in the shape of our board . Next step, fill our sock with a foam to form the core of our board.
In a new mold, we just inject the liquid foam which will then cool to form the board . After a few minutes, you can open the mold and the board is ready! Just put the stickers, the pad and the fin boxes in the locations provided and you're done. Our Dura-Tec board is ready to take its first waves.
This technology is available on the TAHE surf range.
Once all the boards are ready, go to packaging and storage before heading to your local surf shop, our logistics center or your surf school.
At TAHE you can feel a sense of pride in the team , whether in production or in the offices: here we are proud to produce 100% Made in France boards!
We will also remember from our visit:
- A team of enthusiasts , available and smiling
- A desire to offer more sustainable products that are accessible to all
- An approach to reduce the environmental impact of products at TAHE
- We don't joke about waste and everything is done to reduce production-related losses as much as possible . More than half of the products are easily recyclable, and we can see the group's desire to engage in new production solutions that are even more responsible for our beautiful planet.
This is part of the reason we chose Tahe Outdoors Group products!
If you are near Vannes, you can visit the Tahe Outdoors shop / showroom. We also went there and found the shop super beautiful and welcoming.
To know more about Tahe Outdoor
For an overview, head to the video made by SUP Passion!
📸: Swen Rilhac, Tahe Outdoors France group
About the Author :
Clément Morandière is an expert in the board sports industry. Over the years he has worked for some of the best known brands in the world of surfing, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding.
He worked at Starboard International , where he spent three years managing the international distribution of Starboard Windsurf and Starboard SUP. During this period. He has also worked closely with Starboard's R&D department , testing most products for paddle sports and windsurfing.
As founder of Ocean Essentials stores he also made a significant contribution to the boardsports industry. He also worked as Brand Manager at Jorcani Sports, where he was responsible for re-establishing the distribution of the Starboard and Severne brands in France.
During his career, Clément also played a key role in the distribution of Surftech in Europe , which helped make this surf brand more accessible to European surfers.
With all his professional experience and expertise in the board sports industry .
Clément is a valuable asset for all things surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and Windusrf. His knowledge and experience make him a go-to expert for anyone looking to learn more about these exciting sports.