There’s a central irony in browsing. The easy disconnect between actor and motion, as Ryan Lynch sees it, comes right down to the boards that we take browsing. “It’s the only sport on the planet where you are literally immersed in nature, submerged in a foreign ecosystem—passing through kelp forests and swimming with otters between waves—yet surfers ride these toxic nightmares,” says Lynch, blunt together with his distaste for reasonable foam surfboards. “The products that take us into this environment are some of the biggest contributors for killing it.”
In early 2018, after six years as an engineer at Tesla, Lynch was burnt out. “We worked in ‘dog years,’ just like a startup,” he recollects. “Everything was fast and furious. I learned a lot, like optimizing production flow and building for a service.” But realizing the necessity to work for himself, Lynch constructed a small tow-behind trailer, satisfied his newlywed spouse that they wanted a honeymoon, and headed south. For six months they meandered on again roads and distant seashores all the way in which to Panama. Lynch then deliberate to return to Santa Cruz, CA, and begin a enterprise that aligned together with his passions—combining woodworking, sustainability, and design with the game he beloved, browsing.
“The surf industry started exclusively with wooden boards, but at a certain point the idea of a good product became something that was cheap, repeatable, and consumable,” Lynch explains of surfboards’ evolution to mass-production, using a petroleum-derived base, specifically polyurethane foam, and extra lately expanded polystyrene foam. “Add to that a few layers of fiberglass, polyester, or epoxy resin and the product becomes a chemical mess that’s leaching micro-plastics into the ocean with every use.”
Lynch went the opposite means, “making eco-friendly boards that didn’t cost a fortune.” To try this, he seemed on the total course of—discovering the appropriate suppliers, chopping down on waste, utilizing higher supplies, and creating a product that will final. “When you do all of the math on a product’s impact, the biggest variable is durability. Most surfers replace their main board every two to three years. Making boards that will last a lifetime has been a goal from the start.” In late 2018, Lynch launched his firm, Timber Surf Co.
His first yr was devoted to raised understanding of hydrodynamics, growing a form and contour set. “I wanted to keep the process in the hands of the craftsman, and not automate any of it,” he says. Despite their complexity, Lynch caught to creating high-end picket boards, hoping to encourage others to look out eco-friendly choices, too. Using wooden was a good begin—it’s natural, considerable, sturdy, biodegradable, and sometimes upcycled or downcycled. And most significantly, it feeds our environment with oxygen. The polyurethane foam that gives the bottom materials for many mass-produced boards, nonetheless, is none of these issues. It is made in a lab, typically outdoors the U.S. and its EPA manufacturing requirements. It is shipped everywhere in the world, zero p.c recyclable, and can actually by no means break down in a landfill. Due to its abundance and infinite nature, it kills animals, reefs, and the ocean itself.
Lynch’s first boards had no foam in any respect, but he discovered the method difficult and laborious, with every board requiring dozens of man-hours to construct. His enterprise began flat, forcing him to rethink the technique inside the first yr.
Today Timber Surf makes use of a mixture of redwood and cork to finish the board exterior, which protects the recyclable polystyrene (EPS) foam on the within (and protects it from leaching something out into the ocean). With accountable sourcing, Lynch claims that no timber are lower down to supply his boards. Using a vacuum-bag course of, he secures the redwood pores and skin and cork pores and skin to the froth, creating a end that’s distinctive and practically unimaginable to copy. He seals it with bio-based epoxy, which makes use of a 35 p.c tree-sap base, chopping down the non-natural content material to a vital diploma.
The give attention to course of and supplies has result in Lynch’s newest Splinter sequence of boards, constructed with an EPS core and picket exterior. This integration retains them reasonably priced with out sacrificing high quality, although takes extra planning. And with sustainability atop the precedence record, Lynch begins with the manufacturing plant itself, the place nearly all of the froth blanks are lower to form on-site. “This allows all of the waste from the board-shaping process to be captured at the source,” Lynch says, “and recycled back into the supply chain, instead of being sent into a landfill.”
Once Timber receives the froth blanks, Lynch pairs it with the appropriate wooden. He’s developed a partnership with a native mill that offers solely in fallen timber. The mill will lower redwood skins to an unbelievable stage of specificity, designed particularly for Lynch’s boards. “The key is that we stay away from wood veneer, which is more paper and glue than wood. We use slab-cut redwood, from trees right here in the Santa Cruz mountains.”
Then comes the tough half, truly shaping the board for efficiency within the water. For these unfamiliar, lots of the design parts could seem to be one other language. “I had to learn all the considerations for each specific model—the outline, wide point, rocker, rocker apex, rail transition, rail apex, center of mass, bottom contours, tail width and shape, fin placement, cant, toe, and array, flex, and more.”
The new Splinter sequence parlayed his objectives of sustainable manufacturing into one thing that scales higher with a value level (starting from $925-$1,450, relying on size/mannequin) that reaches the mainstream surf market. Lynch doubts he’ll ever be a main surfboard maker, although Timber will possible develop massive sufficient to pressure others to vary. “Surfers care about the ocean and I want to give them a better option. I don’t expect to upset any major supply chains, but I do hope to prove that surfers care about their playground.”
The problem on this small-scale, hands-on enterprise mannequin, Lynch says, is that surfboards, even low-cost ones, are extremely underpriced. While most customers don’t have any drawback spending $5,000 on a mountain bike that’s made off-tool in a massive manufacturing facility meeting line, surfboards like these made by Timber are completely by hand and one at a time. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s a fool’s errand to compete with the big brands manufacturing overseas,” he says. “The challenge for us isn’t making eco-friendly boards, it’s making a sustainable business.”
Looking into the long run, Lynch’s imaginative and prescient continues to develop. “A big desire of mine is empowering people to build their own surf-craft, and we are gearing up to do that soon with a shippable do-it-yourself surfboard kit.” DIY kits have lengthy been a staple in paddlesports (see beneath), although are a bit tougher to search out within the surf world, with a few notables on the market at present. “We hope that’ll democratize the landscape a lot.”
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