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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Thu, 13 April 2017

Surfboards made from cardboard? Surely that is the eco-friendly answer, and yet they haven't really taken off, ponders Spike despite free "how to" videos and blueprints online.


surfboard-ecoI watched a video from 2014 when Signal Snowboards came up with a project called Cardboard Chaos. They approached a cardboard packaging manufacturer called Earnest to help them make a cardboard surfboard. I thought wow, that's way cool, but over the last three years, why haven't I seen one anywhere? Doesn't seem like they have taken off, so to speak.

Making the board at the cardboard factory did look rather complex and messy, but what part of surfboard shaping is not complex and messy? Perhaps it was the exploratory "early adopter" technique and type of cardboard they used - clunky honeycombed card and normal shaping machines. It did seem like you would need disproportionate amounts of dedication and time to do it this way. Interesting though.

But while doing the Youtube shuffle, as you do, I came across the real deal (photo, right) in a video uploaded to Youtube in December 2016, only months ago. I was absolutely blown away. Not by the music, but how to make a cardboard surfboard in six minutes. Well, not exactly. The shaper who uploaded the video is a Japanese guy with a sense of humour. In fact, it was intensely ironic. Set to trippy Japanese electronic synthesised rhythms, the time lapse video suggests it took him ages to make, but it looks straightforward. Fascinating. This method - from my layman's eye - has nailed down the evolution.  

However, while you're thinking hey slow down with the fast forwarding time lapse, I will never follow how you're doing all of this, you realise at the beginning he gives you the link (www.sheldrake.net) where you can get all the computer files you need to go off and make your own cardboard board, surf card board, card surfboard, cardboard surfboard, whatever.

It's a website run by an American guy Mike Sheldrake, who provides impeccable details in his plans and blueprints for a plethora of board shapes. He does not use a block of honeycombed cardboard that is cut, shaped and glassed, but has developed a core kit where you can save on cash and CO2 emissions by cutting out cardboard ribs that cross hatch perfectly into the shape of your choice (see above photo of one of his designs).

You need sheets of C flute corrugated cardboard and a laser cutter big enough to handle cardboard that is 61cm wide. And you need a LOT of them. Go forth and multiply! http://www.sheldrake.net/surfboards/make.html

The idea of making cardboard surfboards is not new. Tom Morey made a cardboard surfboard in 1966, but it was for an advert for The International Paper Company, "where good ideas grow on trees".

Sheldrake also mentions that George Ward started making paper racing canoes in 1867 and reckons the Pharaoh paddled the Nile on a papyrus SUP in 1,332 BC.

"Many people have come up with cardboard surfcraft concepts over the last few decades. But maybe it took the rise of the Internet and the demise of Clark Foam to usher in the second coming of the age of paper."

He points to several iniatives in the US using paper boards. Come on South Africa, any takers?

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