All those cheap, horrid bodyboards that are discarded across UK beaches during the summer months are a blight. Luckily, there are organisations who go around trying to pick up all that stuff -- but if people would just take it home in the first place, we wouldn't be left with hundreds of these things once the summer months end.
But we've not heard of someone repurposing them into a surfboard before... introducing best buds Dominic Langdon (Natural Selection Surf Co) and Niall Jones (Benthos Surf Co) who have joined forces to make a board that harnesses multiple waste streams from across the UK's Cornwall.
They used upcycled foam from polystyrene bodyboards, yeah, those cheap and nasty ones that we’re sadly seeing far too many of chucked in the bin after a few uses. And the fins and plugs are made from recycled fishing nets, once used in the Atlantic ocean.
We chatted to the guys to find out more about their board dubbed ‘The Daytime Robber’, how they went about making it and how the upcycled materials perform versus conventional surf hardware.
So what made you guys want to make this board?
DL: We're always chatting about weird and wonderful ideas for how to build boards, and always developing ideas on materials or things you could find in a pile of "rubbish". Now just felt like a good time to put our words into action and build this beast.
NJ: As a young man I loved watching creators coming up with wacky takes on surfboards, especially when they were made from random waste. I always loved seeing how the waste would dictate to the creator how the board would look, feel, and surf.
With Dom being a shaper and me being a sustainable product designer, recently moving in surf hardware, we wanted to pull together our worlds of wisdom and create something to inspire us through this strange time.
Sounds like you were both on the same page with it all then! How did you go about making it?
DL: Two kooks bickering, laughing, and mowing foam. Our building process was kind of dictated by the secondhand materials we used. I couldn't just build the board as I've done hundreds of times before. It was more that we had to build whatever the materials allowed us to...and then smile and enjoy the creative process.
NJ: Yep. Beers, sweat and tears. There were certainly some funny moments in the build. Especially when we tried to fill one of the body board leash plug holes with resin...the concentrated heat just melted the surrounding foam. Hence why there is a bigger circle of foam on the back of the board. A lovely reminder of those funny ‘oh shit’ moments.
And every part of the board is made from recycled materials? Where did you source everything from?
DL: The blanks came from six broken bodyboards we found in a local skip. Skip diving for gold! All the fibreglass we used to laminate the board came from years and years of offcuts working as a board builder. And Niall’s green hardware goodness is from recycled marine nylon.
NJ: Indeed. The upcycled fishing nets were once used at the hake fisheries in West of the Lizard in Cornwall, and they’ve been transformed in 3D printable filament. I designed the plugs and fins on CAD and had them 3D printed for the board.
And actually the stainless-steel components were salvaged from a local welding site too. We really wanted this board to be as functional as any other board so we went out of our way to find those little details that would seriously add to the longevity of the build.
What was the inspiration for the shape and size?
DL: Our vision was small and square to accommodate our bodyboard blank. But along the way there were a few adjustments and "let it be" moments because of the quality of foam we were using. It’s all good though. It certainly surfs and has a lot of character so we cannot ask for more.
Why'd you call it the ‘Daytime Robber'?
NJ: Long story short. We were looking for some greenery to decorate our workshop and found a tree advertised on marketplace for free. The deal was, we remove the tree from her garden, we can have it.
So on the first day of the board construction we went go and get this tree. We strapped it to the tow bar and within twenty minutes we had it out of the ground and in the back of the van. On our way home we joked that we are just daytime robbers. Then bam! The board’s name was born. We love it though as it can say different things to different people’s imagination. The board build certainly robbed us of some days too… and when the swell is in, I’m sure it will rob of us of more!
How does it surf?
DL: She rides into the barrel effortlessly, then tears up big open walls with max turbo speed... Nah, in all honesty we have only been able to surf it in half a foot slop so couldn't tell you exactly yet. You can see how she goes in those conditions on the video though.
NJ: It’s an incredibly flat board. We’ve got plans to try it out in all sorts of conditions and we’re confident it will work well. Watch this space.
How hard was it to shape recycled bodyboard foam vs conventional foam?
DL: Most parts were pretty much the same quality, so it was nice to shape. There were definitely a few areas that had been damaged which made things slightly more challenging. Directly upcycling bodyboard foam does have its pros and cons...but we never expected it to be perfect and adapted the design to the foam when necessary.
...same question for the fins.
NJ: I’ve been trialling the fins on different boards and without fibreglass or a proper injection moulded manufacturing process (which isn’t yet in place) they are super loose. I’m refining the process over the next few months, with a kickstarter (coming soon) to help fund it.
What does the future hold for Benthos Surf Co and Natural Selection?
DL: Collectively, a lot more collaborations developing eco-conscious surf products. It would be amazing to get all the recycled plastic products out on the market for other board builders to use! For myself (Natural Selection Surf Co) I’ll be continuing to develop high performance eco surfboards and teaching others how to build boards this way on my construction courses.
NJ: I’m putting all my energy into my new start up Benthos Surf Co. The plan is to make this hardware as accessible as possible, especially for Cornish shapers and riders, with the idea to grow further afield over time.
It’s crazy to think we will be shaping and riding with plastic hardware that once served a very different purpose - and has been manufactured in Cornwall. I love the message this board and these products carry. They’re a constant reminder of how much plastic already exists and its potential damaging impact on our natural environment. They show we can still have a good time surfing but do our bit to reduce this impact.