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This is what innovation looks like

February 07 2013 | Waves, Surfing,

I wrote a blog post a few months back about glassing a surfboard in the middle of a party (to drive home a message of sustainability). What I didn't share in that post was far from the glassing process a board captured the attention of, literally, everyone who saw it. It was a Paulownia-encased Firewire.

It looked like one of the boards to the left and I'm not exagerating to say that it stopped everyone in their tracks.

Let me set this up a bit... we've all seen our fair share of plastic and foam floating in the ocean. I've written a few blogs on the simple idea that EPS blanks can be made from recycled tv-packing trash and the fact that the use of non-toxic Super Sap resin for surfboard glassing is "ready for prime time."

Still, the Pawlonia-encased board I saw that evening seemed to nod to all of those concepts and take the dialog a few steps further. It seemed to be a logical extension of what my blogs have been saying... surfers should seek ways to minimize their impact on the environment that that includes the equipment under their feet.

It was heartening to see another entrant in this space, complementing Danny Hess's boards and the hands-on aesthetic connected to Grain surfboards.

Rather than try and encapsulate this innovation I thought I'd reach out to Firewire's CEO Mark Price and have him explain this innovation via a quick interview.

Jim: Your new boards look and feel radically different than pretty much anything I've seen. My experience is that literally every person that sees them stops and walks over to check them out. In a few words can you tell us about the construction?

Mark: Perhaps the biggest difference aside from the overall wood-look, is the fact that, except for very narrow strips of cloth to cover the seams on the rails, there is NO external lamination, just a hotcoat to seal the wood. In addition, by using Entropy Super Sap bio resin for the hot coats and in the sandwich, we've dramatically reduced the toxicity of the small amount of resin we actually use.

J: The second question I found myself asking (after being drawn in visually) is how do they ride? Firewire is known for being perhaps the first company with an alternative/modern construction board used by pros on Tour. Are these wood boards a niche Firewire product or will we see pros on these?

M: That is the best part. They still incorporate sandwich construction and parabolic rail technology so the flex is there, and by removing the external lamination cloth and resin, they are even lighter than our regular boards. Chuy Reyna believes Technograin performance is on par with any tech we offer, and Timmy Reyes just re-ordered his entire quiver in Technograin after riding one. We've also built Filipe Toledo and Michel Bourez boards as well which they'll receive shortly, so we'll see how they like them.

J: Nice. Tell us more about the construction, I found myself wondering how thick that wood is. Also, are these a part of the Sustainable Surf's Ecoboard Project?

M: Yes, they are and we're big fans of what Sustainable Surf is doing. The wood deck skin is actually 3mm thick, so it's is not a thin veneer. As a result it has tremendous structural integrity, and you also do away with all those minor dings and shatters because there is no cloth. Repairing them is a breeze as you can use any epoxy resin and cloth if needed, or even wood putty if its a small ding.

J: Ok, let me ask you a question about the eco-side of this equation. Everything I've heard is wild… from the foam to the paulownia wood deck to the distinctly different approach to glassing. Tell us how that all works together? Was it your goal to have such an emphasis on environmental footprint or did you arrive at that endpoint via another path?

M: We're always trying to make as green a surfboard as possible and still maintain a commercially viable product that also does not sacrifice performance, and costs the same at retail. We believe that for an Eco surfboard to succeeded beyond a cool niche, those parameters must to be met. We actually exceeded our expectations with Technograin and these are only the Version 1.0 recipes. The Paulownia wood is sustainably grown and we're reviewed the suppliers certificates to verify that.  And by removing the exterior cloth and lamination resin while using bio resin hot coats, the toxicity is a fraction of a traditional surfboard. Version 2.0 will have recycled EPS cores, but we're not quite there yet.

J: Great, any last comments or thoughts?

M: I do want to mention Grant Newby, a talented Australian craftsman who first turned us on to the potential of this construction, and our internal R&D and production crew who worked tirelessly to make this tech possible in a production setting. Building one-offs or small quantities is one thing (and not to be discounted), but it also took a tremendous effort to overcome all the issues that arose as we tweaked the original recipe to increase performance and build reasonable quantities. Of course having our own vertical factory was a huge help.

J: Thanks Mark. For more info check out their site here.

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