THERE are few sports that get you closer to the natural environment than surfing.
It is a crucial connection, as all surfers know – get it wrong and it could cost you your life.
The embedded irony is surfboard manufacturing is one of the most toxic in the water sports industry, given the carcinogenic properties of the materials and processes used.
Lennox Head board maker and environmental engineer Andrew Wells has tackled this ethical conundrum head-on and is making waves of the commercial kind with his designs built with plantation and recycled timbers instead of traditional poly foam.
Last week several of Andrew’s creations made the coveted Weekender section of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine that features the hottest new places, products and ideas.
Described as “so beautiful you’ll want to hang them on the wall – until you try them in the surf”, the accolade is just part of a surge of critical acclaim the Grown Surfboards label is garnering.
“Grown is all about turning a positive passion into a productive and ethical business,” he said.
“We love surfing and are passionate about our oceans and preserving them for the next generation of surfers. This love of surfing and responsibility to minimise our impact on the planet evolved into producing hand-made boards from recycled and plantation-grown timber.
“The key thing for me as a shaper is to design boards that are both functional and beautiful. I see them as being functional pieces of art.”
Reviews of his boards evoke images of the halcyon days of surfing when it was considered a counter-culture and more than three surfers on a break was considered crowded.
“I tend to base my designs on the old, classic shapes and then bring in a few modern influences,” he explained.
“You definitely have to take the timber you are using into account when you are designing each board. The timber I use in every board is either plantation-grown or recycled.
“I’ve got pieces of timber in my shed that I have set aside for boards which are still in my head and I won’t get around to building for a while. I want to reduce the impact that (surfboards) have on the environment, which in turn helps to reduce the impact that my surfing has on the environment.
“Unfortunately my boards are still (made) with glass cloth and resin, but as greener alternatives are developed I will look to use them.”
He also plans to develop a range of eco-surf clothing made with organic, natural and recycled fibres.