Surfers are typically a green lot but surfboard manufacture can be a toxic business.
Surfer and AUT product design graduate Michael Grobelny has designed a strong, lightweight and eco-friendly wooden surfboard that eliminates the use of polyurethane foam, fibreglass and polyester resin.
Inspired by the Hawaiians who invented surfing with solid wooden surfboards, Grobelny researched a variety of timber looking for something strong, light and sustainable. He settled on paulownia, a fast-growing, locally available wood that is becoming popular in surfboard construction.
In AUT’s product design workshop, Grobelny had use of a CNC (computer numerical controlled) router, which he used to shape the overall form of the surfboard and remove excess material to create an internal honeycomb structure. This buoyant body was then sealed with a bamboo veneer deck before being coated with a biodegradable varnish. The resulting board, weighing 3.3 kilograms and measuring 190 x 50 centimetres, has the skeletal strength and high-performance qualities obtained by synthetic short boards.
Throughout the project Grobelny applied the environmentally-friendly guidelines of the cradle to cradle design framework, which aims to create systems that are not only efficient but virtually waste-free. This meant, for example, that waste sawdust from the routing process was used as agricultural compost.
To ensure a longer lifespan than lightweight synthetic boards, Grobelny chose natural materials with a high resilience.
“The robust nature of the bamboo veneer provided a great natural alternative to resin and fibreglass. Both bamboo and paulownia are extremely fast growing, making them ideal for sustainably designed products, as they are more easily sourced from a sustainably managed natural plantation.”
Grobelny’s wooden surfboard is now a finalist in the IDEA international design awards competition, run by the Industrial Designers Society of America.