A better surfboard; the best shaper you can find
Doctors take the hippocratic oath which can be summarized as "do no harm." Patagonia has "do no harm" embedded in their manifesto. Heck, even Google embraces this concept with their unofficial motto of "don't be evil."
Turning to the world of sports, early mountain climbers figured this out as well. They came to the conclusion that if they hammered pitons into the rock face they would alter, perhaps even destroy, the very climbing routes that attracted them.
Surfers should wrestle with similar concepts.
It feels natural for us to engage deeper with environmental issues since we practice our sport IN the elements. This point shouldn't be abstract when a high school surf team requires Hepatitis B shots as a prerequisite for being on the team.
All these points speak to why I'm writing this quick series. We surf in some of the most beautiful and pristine places on the planet and yet we haven't really looked at our equipment and asked some straightforward questions about the materials and the process connected to them.
This is the second post in a series that asks the question "is there a better surfboard out there?" The first post looked at surfboard blank alternatives with lesser environmental impact. As I mentioned in my first post, I don't want to suggest THIS is the best way. Success in my eyes is you asking the question "is there a better surfboard out there... and what does that mean?"
The question of a "better surfboard" can be taken in a myriad of different directions so in order to narrow things down a bit I explored the concept of a recycled EPS blank. But "a better surfboard" isn't simply about a better blank. What good is the best possible surfboard blank without a board shape that answers to your personal needs? Of the three posts in this series, this one is the easiest because it's the most personal… and that's the entire point of this post.
The rest of this post is about what I wanted. I'm guessing what you want is very different than what I want.
I live in North County San Diego. The waves here are, comparably speaking, pretty slow and mushy. It was Peter Cole, North Shore pioneer, that elegantly schooled me on this point… telling me that Swami's was essentially "a mushburger." It's my opinion that short, flat, wide boards work well in North County San Diego conditions. My go-to boards fit this profile , my current fav being a 5'3" Tyler Warren Bar of Soap. I figured something in this realm would be a good place to focus.
Since I wanted to be close to this process and connect with as many stages of the board creation process as possible... the idea of working with a South Orange County shaper (close to where I work) made sense. Timmy Patterson is local and one of the best shapers on the planet. It didn't hurt that I'd been looking at his Pill shape for a few months.
As mentioned above, picking the best shaper you can find, is the key point of this post. I'm literally suggesting you NOT sacrifice… anywhere. If there truly is "a better board" out there it needs to deliver the shape that you love.
The shaping stage of this process is the least "new" part of the process. Timmy essentially shaped the same board he'd shaped many times before, he just did it with an EPS blank made from recycled materials.
A note about this stage, since we are dealing with a second-generation resource, there is more variability in the end product (the recycled EPS product). This is the case because it's technologically very difficult to remanufacture EPS into new EPS. This means that sometimes the shaped blank is less smooth than a virgin EPS blank. However once the blank is glassed, the finished product is just as strong, light, and white as a virgin EPS blank with about half of the lifecycle CO2 footprint of virgin. In the end the user will not be able to tell any difference.
The week Timmy shaped my board was the same week the Trestles contest was running. I mention this to point out that he was super busy as pros were seeking boards from him. This offers yet another vote of confidence towards the larger entire idea connected to working with new, more sustainable materials. A leading shaper was very willing to work with a recycled EPS blank from Marko Foam. In fact this wasn't the first time he's done it. Huge thanks to Timmy who shaped the board for me faster than any I've ever ordered. Check out his boards here.
The overarching point of this blog is that you shouldn't sacrifice… anything… when it comes to the shape you desire and the shaper you want. I know many (most) major shapers are testing out or have embraced alternative blanks such as Marko. Talk to your shaper, work with them and let them know you'd like to minimize the impact of your next board.
Timmy shaped me a 5'8" Pill. It's 2 1/2 inches thick and about 20" wide. Below is a quick video of the Timmy Patterson and Kevin Whilden (Sustainable Surf) looking at the board pre-glassing.