You’re all filthy, gnawing rats killing the planet. Now buy this surfboard.
The story goes that New Zealand shaper Paul Barron was pouring resin over a board and spilt some on his wool sweater. It’s a story of ruined outerwear, to be sure, but there’s more.
The moment gave Barron a spark.
Three years on, Barron Surfboards is working with Mark Price of Firewire to use wool cloth instead of traditional fiberglass wrap.
The “Woolight” boards should be available this new year.
But why bring shepherds in? ‘Cause fiberglass ain’t too eco-anything and wool-based resin is much friendlier to the planet, much more “sustainable”, as they say.
According to Barron and Price, it’s also going to help a troubled wool industry in NZ.
Price says, “The closer we can bring our surfing equipment to the natural world and reduce its toxicity it’s a win.”
Ahh, the surfboard as message, metaphor and theory!
The past few years have shown us boards made from a mishmash of materials: discarded cardboard, tossed aluminum cans, cigarette butts (mine), vinyl records, Styrofoam coffee cups and any other piece of roadside trash coloring the highway.
The now-drying Tom Wolfe shared that any successful piece of modern art needs a theory – a message – and these art boards certainly come ready: you’re all filthy, gnawing rats killing the planet.
Now, buy my art board.
These things are more installation than vehicle, though, yes?
The unusual greyish wool decks on the Barron/Firewire look equal parts tool and art, but maybe not the kinds we see hung over a fireplace.
These Woolight boards might say something about sustainability, sure, but also gliding on seriously fine equipment. Testers say that they’ve got the same feel as a normal glassed board. When he’s not prattling on with Chas in aisle six, Machado’s even had them underfoot, not a bad endorsement.
(Or should we wait for an official Longtom review before throwing out our cash for the shepherd’s delight?)
Either way, most of us would be numb to the subtleties.
And question marks pop up, too, about widespread use of eco-boards by the everyman. South African outfit Hurricane Surfboards plays with bio-materials like flax and hemp. Word is that Twiggy Baker will be riding them exclusively next season and that’s great, but they say the boards have much longer curing times than resin and eco-materials costs up to 300% more to use. That’s gotta pass down to you and me somehow.
So, let’s get some perspective in here by Surf Prescriptions deity Jeff Doc Lausch.
Doc’s been planer-in-hand for over thirty years and knows a bit about glass.
“I’m all for new materials that out-perform and are better for the environment. However, if they fail in being as strong, easy to work with, and cosmetically beautiful then it doesn’t make much sense to me,” he says.
But has Doc ever played with alt-materials?
“The first surfboard I ever made, in 1969, was a stripped-down log that I glassed in my friend’s carport with a bedsheet and polyester resin. Board lasted about 15 minutes!”
Always interested in alternate materials, though, he never abandoned the idea and a couple of years ago built some boards with cardboard core.
“One was wrapped in paper that was soaked in some poly-latex paint stuff. Board lasted about one hour. The other was wrapped in fiberglass soaked in polyester resin and the board was strong and durable. It’s still rideable today.”
Doc offers a reasonable balance.
He says that he believes all of us surfers care deeply about the environment, but we also care about surfing at the highest level of our abilities. If there is an alternative that proves to be equal or better in all areas of performance and durability it will be accepted.
“Fiberglass has proven to be all things needed to manufacture and state of the art performance surf craft.
Cleanly stated, “fibreglass rules,” says the good doctor.
Firewire keeps a hard eye on the future, and there’s talk about expanding the wool technology to boats and other craft.
A good investment here?
Is there a market for this?
Or do we simply care first about steamrolling waves on trusted fiberglass?