Green rides

Ocean Green's EcoFoils are made with balsa wood.

Ocean Green's EcoFoils are made with balsa wood.

Trying to explain the Zen-like aspects of surfing to a non-surfer is usually a pointless, if not embarrassing, exercise. All too often you end up walking right into the “far-out, hippie-surfer-dude” stereotype.

Rather than explaining “the stoke”, it’s really something you have to experience. And once you do, you come to realize that surfing is, in essence, a spiritual activity. In some inexplicable way it brings you closer to the earth (non-surfers, feel free to chuckle at this point).

Once “the stoke” has been experienced a few times, most surfers get hooked, and their perspective on life changes. They become less materially conscious, and more environmentally conscious. Suddenly, the earth becomes something to be respected and protected.

Granted, surfers have a long way to go before they’re karmically balanced. Most of us still use gas-powered cars to get to surf spots; and some of us drive a little too fast getting there.

We also use equipment that isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, particularly surfboards. There are, however, people trying to change this. One such person is Stuart Thomson, founder of Ocean Green Surfboards.

According to his company website, “Ocean Green is the only manufacturer in the world developing boards made entirely from natural materials that provide a real alternative to existing products in terms of both price and performance.” recently interviewed Thomson about his surfboard company, which is based in Nicaragua and the U.K. (Cornwall). Why did you decide to start this venture?

Stuart Thomson: I founded Ocean Green Surfboards with the idea of producing as green a surfboard as possible that is affordable and performs.

Being an environmentalist, it always annoyed me how unsound the materials were in a board. And I knew that a lot was happening below the surface on developing combinations of new and old alternatives, (but) not necessarily in the surfing industry. On your website, you feature basically two types of boards, BioFoils and EcoFoils. The EcoFoils appear to have a wood finish, and the BioFoils have more of a traditional fiberglass finish. Could you please explain the difference?

Stuart Thomson: The EcoFoils are hollow balsa blanks, covered in organic cotton cloth and standard resin. The BioFoils are biofoam blanks (20 percent bio-derived), covered with organic hemp cloth and standard resin. How did you decide on Nicaragua as the place to manufacture your boards?

Stuart Thomson: A fantastic accumulation of coincidences. Having decided to go with hollow balsa boards (no biofoam was available four years ago), I hooked up with an old friend and colleague, Graham Nicholson, a modern manufacturing and IT solutions guru, to crack the weight issue.

Graham is married to a Nicaraguan and was having a house built there, the architect of which also owns a timber/furniture business with contacts in the indigenous lumber industry that could supply balsa from managed forests. And the rest – with a lot of effort – fell into place. How much do the boards cost?

Stuart Thomson: In Nicaragua, the EcoFoils range from $550 to $1,100; in the U.K. prices range from £550 to £1,100. The BioFoils (available in the U.K. only) are £400 to £750. How would someone on the East Coast of Canada get an Ocean Green surfboard?

Stuart Thomson: At present we are concentrating sales in Nicaragua and the U.K. We hope to develop distribution in North America in the near future. The best option for a dweller in Eastern Canada would be to holiday in San Juan del Sur or maybe Morgans Rock (Nicaragua) and buy one to take home! Overall, how is your venture doing and what are your plans for the future?

Stuart Thomson: We are currently at a very interesting point. The production of boards is underway and expanding in the workshop. The full range of EcoFoils is available in Nicaragua, and with continued growth, we’ll be in the U.S. by the end of the year.

A small number of EcoFoils are available in the U.K. Again, in the latter half of the year, we’ll see full availability. The BioFoils range is only in the U.K.

We are still looking to improve the green content of our boards and have plans to make the first fully bio-performance boards by the end of the year, initially in the U.K. Where do you surf?

Stuart Thomson: Newquay area, North coast Cornwall. Southwest Nicaragua, when I can get there.

Ocean Green Surfboards come in a range of different shapes and sizes. For more information, check out the Ocean Green website.

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