The Hague-based SurfLab is writing history by transforming the surfing industry to become more sustainability-minded. “What I have learned in life so far is that, really, you can do anything as long as you commit to it,” SurfLab founder Julian Van Vliet states with pride.
As a surfing fanatic, Julian noticed that many surfboards weren’t used for a very long time. One after the other would break and end up being thrown away. He felt that, with surfing being so dependent on nature, it wasn’t right for it to be so wasteful. This inspired him to commit to building sustainable surfboards.
When Julian first set out on his mission, he soon discovered that building surfboards requires real craftsmanship. And craftsmanship is time-consuming. In order to speed up production, he took to building a machine that shapes the boards – and succeeded. “The machine is open source. Anyone can build it and use it,” Julian says.
With the help of other surfers, Julian started SurfLab last summer and plans to inspire surfers and shapers around the world with their sustainable surfboards and raw materials.
SurfLab uses an unusual type of foam that is completely biological. “Technically, if you would bury the board in the ground, it would start decomposing,” Julian says. After the foam has been shaped, something is needed to seal the outside. It needs a coating to keep the water out. “Traditionally, very dirty chemicals called polyesters are used to this end,” he says, “but I was determined to find a sustainable alternative.”
Ultimately, he found one. “Today, I use an epoxy to seal off the outside of the board.” Strictly speaking, it may not be considered sustainable, “It’s only 20% biologically produced, but for the time being it’s the most sustainable product in the market,” he says. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
With their sustainable approach towards production, SurfLab wants to change the board sports industry and beyond.