Claire from Men's Journal called with some questions the other day. Something about a coming article about wood boards...
Here's what we had to say:
Thanks for your questions. They are very timely. If you need photos of wood boards, feel free to use anything off of our website or blog. If you click on the photos on the blog, you'll usually get carried to a hi-res version.
42 Surfboards is here today because of the eco-movement in surfing and in the world. Our goal is to build surfboards that are as easy on the environment as they are fun to ride. And so far so good!
Although I believe we build more 100% wood surfboards than anyone else in the world, we don't do it to be retro. We don't do it to be cool. And we don't do it because it is the latest thing to hit the surfing world. We build surfboards from wood because it is a fantastic sustainable material that surfs great.
Unlike many companies that shape a wood board every now and then, 42 Surfboards only builds chambered wood surfboards. When the day comes that we introduce another line of boards, it will only be because we have come up with something that is even more environmentally friendly.
Pushing our work further and further in the direction of being 100% green is the most important thing at 42 Surfboards. And it isn't something that is new to us. Our lead designer, Forrest Hubler, has one degree in environmental science and is working on a second one in mechanical engineering. Our lead shaper, Lars Bergstrom, has a masters degree in environmental science and a PhD in environmental and natural resource sciences. We are serious!
And if it isn't green enough for you that your shaper has a PhD in environmental science, Lars has been shaping surfboards for over twenty years. We are serious and we know what we are doing.
42's wood surfboards are designed to last a long time. They are super fun to ride. They are beautiful. They didn't get pulled out of the top of an oil well. And they didn't kill the poor guy who built the blank.
Here at 42 Surfboards, all we build are chambered wooden surfboards. That is just what we build though. In everything we do, our focus on sustainability. This means we not only maximize the resources that we use but also our time on the water. Because if we aren't having fun, our customers won't keep getting the most beautiful surfboards in the world.
Beyond having a good time at and around work though, sustainability directs where we get our materials from, where we buy our energy from, what we do with our waste, how we glass our boards, and even what our coming designs will look like. And every day, we get a little better.
After the huge storms of last winter, our wood is coming primarily from blown down trees that we harvest ourselves. We power both our offices and our shop with power generated by windturbines. We glass our boards with super-durable, low VOC epoxy. And we are always looking for the next step.
At the center of this approach though, lies the quality of our surfboards. At 42 Surfboards, our boards are built to serve as high-speed surf vehicles, shockingly beautiful art, and heirlooms. We want these boards to be passed down to our customers' grandkids.
By always questioning our business approach and our durability, we hope to reach our goal of not only having the least environmental impact of any board builder on the planet but to actually have a net positive impact on both our local and global environment.
42 Surfboards is small, but we are not little. We are loud and we always carry a big stick. One of those sticks is the money that we donate to the Surfrider Foundation, Sea Shepherd, and local environmental causes. In 2007, we donated over 6% of our sales to these causes, investing directly in the world we want to live in. This is a quote from a 2007 interview with Phoresia.org;
"Edward Abbey once said something on the order of "Constant growth is the philosophy of a cancer cell." I admire Yvon Chouinard and "Let my people go surfing" is required reading for all of our employees at 42 Surfboards. But I greatly admire the work of Edward Abbey and 42 Surfboards is not here to grow. 42 Surfboards is not here to become some mega-conglomerate. 42 Surfboards is here to build surfboards, be a great place to work, and show that you can have a positive impact on the environment while feeding your kids and doing something you love.
Being part of Sea Shepherd and The Surfrider Foundation are not something we do for image or marketing. These fantastic groups are actually part of our reason for existing. It is thrilling to take part of our earnings and commit them to real on-the-ground activism. At the same time though, it is an investment that any business that actually cares about our environment can't afford to miss. Just as David Brower said "There is no business to be done on a dead planet", there are no waves to be ridden in a dead ocean. We hope that all of our colleagues will join us in supporting Sea Shepherd and The Surfrider Foundation."
There is some notion that this idea of wood boards is new to surfing. That couldn't be further from the truth. The natural stoke that someone gets when they see one of our boards for the first time is something that I swear sits on a surfer's DNA. Surfboards have been built out of wood for 4000 years. And once people catch on to how fun wood boards are to ride and how much easier they are on the world around them, foam will be relegated to a blip on the surfing timeline. A foamy anomoly. Foam is the new kid on the block, not wood.
Wood is nicer to shape and it doesn't get stuck under your eyelids (although balsa and agave dust are pretty awful to work around). Wood is easier on the eye, easier on the planet, and easier under foot.
At 42 Surfboards we are surfers. We are scientists. We are fifth generation wood workers. And our customers are surfers who enjoy the fruits of our wierd culmination.
42 Surfboards has gone beyond the call of duty with our wood surfboards. Our boards are not only green, super durable, and build from beautiful wood, the boards are handcrafted to the tightest tolerances imaginable. Again, from Phoresia.org:
"No blank builders to date have ever been able to build chambered wood blanks to the specifications that we are today. Between this and using crystal clear epoxy and bomber layups, our boards are burly but are very light. Not as light as the imported pop-out you can find on Isle 11 at Sprawlmart, but so light that I constantly have to remind people in the shop to be careful. Otherwise they grab the board and, thinking that they are going to be lifting a log, they ram it solidly up into the ceiling. Sheepishly.
I have no clue what the volumes of our boards are. Our shapes are typically a little thicker with a little fuller rail than many of the other boards that you see in the water. This has less to do with the fact that we shape in wood and more to do with the idea that I like to build cheaters. Cheaters are boards that ride so well and so easy and grab you so many waves, that you feel like you are cheating. The rest of the world can feel like they are "progressing" by sitting neck deep in the lineup on their quad-fin skimboard. Don't think I am not stoked to have them out there - I use that poor guy as my bouy marker so I know where to sit when I come back from my 50th wave of the session.
For 42 Surfboards, sustainability is the only morally acceptable option. We are not doing what we are doing because some marketing consultant told us that it would sell. This is what is right. And this is what we do.
The surfers that agree have made us the single largest builder of wood surfboards in the world. Every month we build more boards than we did the month before. And every month those boards take the place of more foam boards out in the line-up. People ask me from time to time if we are afraid of the giant pop-out builders in Thailand stealing our niche. Worried? No way! If anything, I hope they try. As a start though, they would have to do it without using pirated lumber out of Burma. That's what their accountants would try to get them to do.
You see, in order to do what we do, you have to mean it. Even if it costs more to do it that way. Our customers know that when we build our boards like we do, we mean it. And if the giant suppliers of cookier cutter boards suddenly change their tune and want to become environmentally conscious, and they mean it, I won't feel ripped off. I'll be stoked! That would be fantastic.
Nobody can smell a fraud better than surfers though. So if someone goes claiming to be green, they better be serious. Or they better prepare to be roasted by the most unappologetic group I have ever had the pleasure of being part of.
If you have any other questions Claire, let me know and I'll get back with you later this weekend.
All the best,