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Shapers’ Challenge

Surfboard shaping room

Surfboard shaper sweeping surfboard shaping room for Shapers' Challenge

It’s all fine and dandy for me to be going off about waste in the world and Hong Kong’s dismal record of waste management. But as the saying goes, you “gotta walk the talk”. So a few weeks ago I started scheming about a system for materials and waste management in surfboard production with an ultimate “holy grail” goal of 1%. That means for every pound of finished surfboard production, the amount of waste created is limited to 0.16 ounces. For all you metric folks, that means 10 grams of waste for every kilogram of surfboard. Am I nuts? Yes I am. Is this system actually possible? At first glance, it seems not likely. But, with careful techniques, a passion to do your best, and a resourcefulness to find uses for everything that doesn’t end up in your surfboards (I.e. recycling), I think it’s doable.

So what is the limit we are talking about? Well if for example the net weight of a finished surfboard is equal to 7 lbs (3.2 Kg), that means there is a maximum limit of 1.12 ounces (32 grams) in waste. And just to clarify, NET weight means less any leash, tail pad, fins, etc. that you slap on top of the board. We can include the fin boxes in the net weight. I will give you that one since they’re “below glass”.

There are several strategies you can take. Scrap wood from stringers can go to your chipper or wood recycler. Scrap EPS foam can go to your local EPS recycler who also normally will take your foam dust. Metal and wood from your paint brushes can be separated and recycled. But one of the biggest issues faced here is what do you do with left-over resin or resin that spills onto the floor. That waste counts for significant weight and so I think it is the biggest challenge to hitting the 1% mark. But I am working on that one.

So here’s my pledge. Every single surfboard that I hand-shape from this day forward will include a number on the bottom near the tail. That number will reflect the percentage of waste created during the production of that surfboard. The lower the number, the more valuable to the environment the production of that surfboard was and the better my techniques. In the beginning, I am certain the result will be terrible. But I know with the proper controls I have learnt in my manufacturing background, it will only get better.

And so, I challenge every other surfboard shaper in the world to do the same in their production. This is the Shapers’ Challenge. If you are a surfboard shaper and would like to join this challenge and/or collaborate with me in developing this system of production (it ain’t perfect yet), please get in touch.

It’s time for all of us to declare war on waste.

Here’s a crazy thought. Imagine if companies worldwide were obligated to include a figure on every single product they manufactured that reflects the percentage of waste in the production of their goods. That would truly put responsibility back onto the corporates for ensuring their goods are being produced in the best interests of the planet at heart. That really would be an amazing thing!