Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Green surfboard, green room. Some captions just write themselves. Teamrider Hopper Eichstaed, planting the seed.
The Origin of the Surfboard
As you ponder your new summer stick, think green. The recycled surfboard may be on the rack sooner than you think.
March 11, 2009, 9:26 PM
By: Jake Howard
The stamp says it all. Make your next board a recycled board.Up until I walked into Just Foam, I'd never been to a surfboard blank factory. I'd seen plenty of raw, half-made surfboards, but never witnessed the foam actually being produced. The closest I'd been was when Clark Foam closed down and every surf publication dutifully ran images of sledgehammered molds mournfully cast out in an Orange County back alley.
Several weeks prior to my foam factory experience, I'd gotten an email from the publicist for Green Foam, and while not one to usually pursue such obvious sales pitches, when the words "recycled surfboard" came up, I curiously conceded. That's how I came to know Joey Santley, one of the masterminds behind Green Foam.
I talked to him briefly on the phone. He lives in San Clemente, I live in San Clemente, we agreed we'd probably dropped in on one another at Lowers at some point, then set a date to meet at the factory.
"After the fall-out from Clark Foam and the experimentation with materials that followed, if we've gotten to a point where PU foam blanks are still the material of choice, then why not try to make them better?" Joey theorized, greeting me in a dim, foam-dusted front entryway. "If part of making something better means making it more friendly for the environment, then repurposing the wasted foam from shaped blanks—essentially grinding the foam up and re-blowing it—is a no brainer. Right now 25% of a pre-shaped blank ends up in a landfill. For the first time ever, now we can turn all that stuff that would normally just be thrown out into new, grade-A blanks."
Walking into the proverbial light, we opened up into the heart of the factory. Hundreds of virgin blanks were stacked and racked from concrete floor to steel rafters. You could almost hear the hymns of the surfboard angles reverberating off the tin roof...or it might have been the rain.
"The guys are in the back right now looking at the latest batch," said Joey. The "guys" he was talking about was Green Foam co-conspirator Steve Cox, along with Just Foam's S.L. "Sid" Shneider, who's been instrumental in getting all of this off the ground.
Steve popped out of a mystery door. "This latest batch is really clean," he said, smiling at Joey. "Come and look...but the reporter has to stay."
I felt like C3PO trying to get into the cantina bar in Star Wars. He may as well have called me a droid. "He can come," said Joey, sticking up for me.
"Here, come check it out. But it's top secret, so you can't talk about what you see back here," he warned, inferring I was the kid that betrayed the secret of the ever-lasting Gobstopper.
Steve and Joey cackled back and forth, switching between chemist and surfboard-speak. I moseyed along, trying to forget what I was seeing, which wasn't that hard because I didn't really know what any of it was anyway. We came to a florescent light box, where Sid was inspecting a gleaming white blank.
He was looking for particles of chopped up stringer, little sinkholes, and other imperfections. "This is as good of quality as you're going to get with any blank in this entire factory," said Sid.
Helping me understand more of what they were looking at, Joey explained how when you grind up surfboard waste—stuff like foam castaways, stringers and glue—and reuse it you get a grainier, more organic look to the blank. "Surfers are so stuck on having that brand-new, white surfboard, if they can get past that weird mental block, I think the surfboard business can become much more green."
"The only effect any of this 'pulp' material has is purely aesthetic," said Steve. "Based on feedback from guys who have shaped the blanks—Matt Biolos, Timmy Patterson, and Rusty—the particles didn't remotely hinder the boards being made. Planners and sanders didn't catch or skip or anything, just like shaping a normal blank."
It's still early days for the boys at Green Foam, and there's sure to be the odd hiccup here and there as the volume of what they're doing starts to increase, but they're undoubtedly on to something. The first time the public was privy to what they've been doing was when they debuted the blanks at the ASR trade show in San Diego back in January, and for now they've just been trying to get the blanks in the hands of the shapers.
"We're really fortunate to have some great shapers nearby," said Joey, as we walked out of "the lab" and began a tour of the facility. "I can be on my way home from work and drop a blank off with Matt or Timmy and they can have a go at it and tell me what they think. Al Merrick and Rusty have both shaped the blanks, and I think if we can get to a point where people like that are supporting and believing in what we're doing, we can go a long way with this."
In the words of Jerry McGwire, "You had me at hello." But as impressed as I was with what they were saying, I still had questions. The boards had to be more expensive, right?
"Nope," answered Steve, "it's the same price as a normal blank. We don't want to penalize people for doing the right thing."
OK, sweet. Well, then what about how many times you can recycle foam? Surely there's a limit. "We know it can be done at least three or four times, and probably more," answered Steve again.
I was now officially a believer. In fact, by the time I left, I was not only converted, I reckon every batch of boards I get from here on out is going to be recycled.
"We're extending the life of surfboards," said Joey, as we stood out front of Just Foam, my mind thoroughly blown. "We thought about the cradle-to-grave concept and how we can apply it to surfboards, and right now we're confident this is the best thing going."
I still had one more question. "Does this mean I can bring in all those crappy, old boards I have behind the house and recycle them now, like I do with my newspaper or motor oil?"
"Pretty much," said Joey. "It's a little more complicated than that, but that's a goal."
This could be your next batch of boards, eco-sensitive and everything.
Posted by Joey at 8:19 AM