In 2019 Firewire acquired THUNDERBOLT – a complex and meticulous method of crafting longboards through eleven separate build steps per board, preferred by many of the world’s best longboarders for the way the technology flexes, bends, and resists breakage.
In 2020 Dan Mann traveled to Hawaii to learn about the tech (both Thunderbolt RED and Thunderbolt BLACK) from 2x World Longboard Champion Harley Ingleby. He was specifically interested in asking Harley about the role carbon fiber played in the build process.
Dan was curious for two reasons – he firstly was a sponsored professional longboarder in the 90’s – what he calls a separate and previous life, and secondly – he has built boards using carbon fiber for years from his shaping bay on Coronado Island in California.
Dating back to 2002, even while participating in the founding of Firewire in 2006 and overseeing U.S. board production through 2008, Dan has continuously experimented with carbon fiber as both an exterior laminate in place of fiberglass, and also as an internal flex control system laminated beneath fiberglass.
This is why Thunderbolt caught Dan’s attention: as explained by Harley Ingleby, Thunderbolt BLACK utilizes carbon as an exterior laminate, beneath which fiberglass is used in ‘A’ and ‘V’ shapes on the boards bottom and deck to control flex along with the deck’s ‘T Stringer’.
Thunderbolt RED is the opposite. It’s laminated with fiberglass, beneath which carbon fiber acts as the flex control system with the same ‘A’ and ‘V’ structure controlling flex in alignment with the ‘T Stringer’ on the deck.
You can see the ‘A’, ‘V’ and ’T Stringer’ lamination layups in the video below. These three elements compose Thunderbolt’s AVT System.
This process of reversing fiberglass and carbon fiber’s position as both an external lamination and an internal flex control system is the crux of Dan’s discussion with Harley.
In short, both methods of Thunderbolt technology employ carbon, but in separate ways. Thunderbolt BLACK is stiffer because it’s exterior is laminated with carbon, and Thunderbolt RED flexes more (and more immediately) because its exterior is laminated with fiberglass.
This means that if you’re making quick decisions in a surf shop near you about your next performance longboard, you can most likely expect Thunderbolt RED to work best in smaller or weaker waves, and Thunderbolt BLACK to work best in larger or more powerful waves.
Watch the conversation between Dan and Harley on YouTube here.