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People use wool for all types of merchandise: clothes, insulation, carpeting, blankets, technical clothes and on, and on. We will add “surfboard” to that ever-growing record, now that Firewire Surfboards is bringing to market a peculiar concept from New Zealand surfboard shaper Paul Barron that replaces the fiberglass material of a board with ovine fiber. The know-how known as Woolight, and Firewire is manufacturing a restricted preliminary amount to check the market acceptance, all of them within the firm’s hottest form, the Rob Machado Seaside.
Woolight’s origins are humble: almost ten years in the past Barron spilled resin on a sweater of his, however as an alternative of the resin dripping off as he anticipated it to, it settled into the smooth materials. A cerebral mild bulb clicked on, and he set to work. Years later, Barron introduced the idea to Firewire, a surf firm (owned partially by Kelly Slater) that has a popularity for utilizing non-traditional processes to make surfboards. In its first board design, which debuted in 2006, Firewire eliminated the wooden stringer from the center of a board’s foam core and positioned it as an alternative parabolically across the outer fringe of to create a extra torsional flex sample.
Using wool continues that custom of innovation, but in addition hits on one other situation that plagues the surf business: sustainability. “Individuals with concepts round sustainability who can’t commercialize it for any variety of causes strategy us on a regular basis asking if we need to deliver it to market,” Firewire CEO Mark Worth says. “Paul was conscious of all of the issues we’ve achieved and are doing, and he approached us two and a half, three years in the past. We have been simply excited by it. It’s a pure fiber that grows, so to talk, in a really environmentally-friendly means.”
The varieties of boards on a regular basis surfers experience have sometimes been dictated by what skilled surfers have beneath their ft. The surf business performs closely on advertising what lower than one % of the browsing inhabitants can truly do on a wave, and surfers may be cussed to undertake one thing totally different with out seeing it in motion. However the one factor that has stayed constant because the conception of professional browsing within the 1970s is the supplies used to make surfboards.
Surfboard development has remained principally unchanged because the introduction of fiberglass and polyurethane (PU) after World Conflict II. The 1960s and 70s, a time colloquially known as the Shortboard Revolution, noticed board designs get shorter than the previous 10-foot planks in order that they might develop into far more maneuverable. There have been measurement and form developments since then, however that polyurethane foam core and fiberglass-fabric-with-resin development continues to be what floats surfers over waves across the globe in the present day.
Surf corporations have solely lately begun to discover using new supplies. Carbon fiber, recycled timber, cork and bio-resins are starting to make their method into extra outstanding shapes. In lots of situations although, totally different supplies present totally different driving experiences on a wave, and for creatures of behavior like surfers, modifications might not all the time produce the specified attribute in a surfboard. For surfboard producers trying to transfer away from the poisonous resins and the massive carbon footprints related to petroleum-derived polyurethane surfboard blanks, that stubbornness creates a troublesome hurdle.
Firewire has all the time approached surfboard making in another way although. The corporate makes use of sandwich development on all its boards, together with the Woolight board. Sandwich development begins with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core coated by a high-density aerospace composite deck pores and skin, which reinforces sturdiness. That is then wrapped with deck sandwich material, which is usually manufactured from epoxy and resin however, within the Woolight’s case, is wool. That is then sealed via exterior lamination with an entropy bio-epoxy resin to create the exhausting outer shell.
To switch the bread in that sandwich with wool, Firewire went to Barron’s house: New Zealand. The corporate partnered with a co-op of sheep farms within the nation that’s overseen by New Zealand Merino, an organization that has helped manufacturers like Allbirds and Smartwool to get the supplies they want ethically. Worth and the Firewire staff visited the farms and located it was vastly totally different from the normal sheep farm: “The normal sheep farming business is fairly ugly,” Worth stated, relating to the shearing course of. “Most manufacturing unit farms depend on a system whereby when shearing sheep, in the event that they kill or maim a sure proportion of them, however get it completed quicker, that’s simply the price of doing enterprise.”
To vary that paradigm, New Zealand Merino enacts limits on the variety of sheep per hectare and what number of animals could be sheared per hour to make sure animal welfare, duty and land conservation. New Zealand Merino additionally audits the farms each six months to ensure farms are persistently assembly its moral requirements.
When Firewire receives the wool, it’s minimally processed and fairly uncooked, not woven like a sweater. To use the wool to the surfboard, Firewire makes use of proprietary manufacturing unit processes that embrace a vacuum-sealing method for the outside lamination process. The vacuum bagging technique permits for the thinnest quantity of resin whereas nonetheless providing the very best strength-to-weight ratio potential. Firewire makes use of bio-epoxy resin on this course of, together with the wool and EPS foam. The recipe qualifies the Woolight board for an ECOBOARD Degree One score from Sustainable Surf, which is an unbiased, third-party “eco-label” for surfboards which have turn out to be the usual within the business.
“General, using pure supplies in surfboards is an effective factor,” Sustainable Surf Cofounder Kevin Whilden says. “Particularly if it doesn’t have an effect on different qualities comparable to surfboard efficiency, look, really feel and sturdiness.”
For the previous few months, I’ve been browsing certainly one of these Woolight boards at my native seashore breaks in New York and New Jersey. Winter has been reworking into spring, and water temperatures have been lifting from the 30s to the 40s and now to the 50s, however the additional millimeters of neoprene hasn’t hindered how the board paddles.
When it comes to efficiency, I haven’t observed any indicators that it’s an irregular surfboard that features lesser than a standard PU one. The truth is, it’s an extremely progressive board that rises to the extent of efficiency I want in within the totally different circumstances that I typically encounter within the Northeast. That could be primarily because of the form of the board itself (the browsing I love to do matches naturally with a progressive fish that has a double vee concave), however the truth that the supplies match these ranges is a testomony to wool’s means to switch fiberglass within the lamination course of.
Throughout my first session with it, I rode the board on a blustery New Jersey day with few surfers round, one of many early waves I caught introduced an extended, clear wall about shoulder excessive. After an preliminary verify flip, I wrapped a roundhouse cutback. These strikes are typically just a little drawn out, however to my shock, I used to be again within the whitewater of the wave a lot prior to I anticipated and was capable of bounce off it and redirect again down the road of the righthand wave quick sufficient to maintain driving for a pair extra strikes down the road.
The board proved that it handles properly within the barrel and permits for finesse, drive and full management, returning power all through turns and numerous maneuvers. That a surfboard can come out of a transfer with out dropping velocity is important, and on this the Woolight board shined, retaining all velocity (and at occasions producing extra out of a transfer) to proceed down the road of a wave.
Whereas paddling, I typically seemed down on the board and acknowledged particular person wool fibers in its cloudy blue floor. It was an actual, bodily reminder that Woolight is totally different, one thing new. However on a wave, with the board beneath my ft, the place the place efficiency is extra essential than appearances, I didn’t take into consideration the wool in any respect. I couldn’t really feel any distinction; the board gives the standard flex patterns and driving capabilities you’d discover in any common surfboard. So, to reply the query on each skeptical surfer’s thoughts, does the Woolight board surf any in another way from a traditional one? No, and finally, that’s the purpose.
The Good: Buoyancy, efficiency and sturdiness aren’t affected by the alternative of fiberglass with wool. Merely put, the Woolight surfboard rides precisely like a daily fiberglass surfboard. In accordance with the compression testing that Firewire carried out in its manufacturing unit, it discovered the sturdiness and tensile power of wool to be similar to fiberglass too. That is aided by the sandwich development deck pores and skin, which additionally helps maintain the deck of the surfboard much less vulnerable to heel marks and divots that are likely to occur instantly with fiberglass. After 4 months of testing, I didn’t discover any heel marks or dings.
Who It’s For: Surfers on the lookout for a sustainable various to the poisonous boards which are the present business norm.
Watch Out For: Should you’re in search of an eco-friendly surfboard there are options with smaller carbon footprints, however the Degree One ECOBOARD score continues to be commendable. Whereas utilizing the bio-epoxy resin is a large plus for the board, the EPS core retains it from qualifying for the Gold Degree. Plus, the wool doesn’t scale back the carbon footprint as a lot as you’d assume as a result of sheep emit methane, a potent greenhouse fuel.
As Sustainable Surf Cofounder Kevin Whilden advised us, “Wool truly has a few ten-times larger carbon footprint than fiberglass. Firewire definitely did their homework in sourcing wool from a really sustainable sheep ranching operation, which helps that area people. Nevertheless, I feel it was a little bit of a shock that a pure materials like wool has a better footprint than an inorganic materials like fiberglass. That’s a counter-intuitive end result, and it speaks to the significance of conducting formal lifecycle evaluation when deciding which supplies are extra sustainable.” Then again, fiberglass isn’t a renewable materials, and its software in a board is way extra poisonous than wool.
On the efficiency aspect, lets’ word that Firewire’s Seaside mannequin is the one form Woolight is presently obtainable in. The Seaside comes with a quad fin setup, in contrast to most conventional surfboards today that provide the flexibility of 5 fin packing containers to permit for driving the board as a thruster or a quad. As somebody who rides a lot of twin fin setups, I opted to journey the Seaside Woolight with a twinzer setup (two smaller knub fins in entrance and two greater twin fins within the again). Whereas this board may lack a stabilizing middle fin, it nonetheless gives versatility in case you get artistic.
Options: One direct various to Woolight is Misplaced Surfboards’s C4 Know-how, which makes use of cork in an analogous sandwich development. Firewire’s personal Timbertek, which makes use of sustainably-grown Paulownia wooden deck skins, can also be up there, and has a Gold Degree ECOBOARD score. Different corporations like Grain Surfboards and Agave Surfboards use wooden as the key materials of their boards. The ECOBOARD Challenge presents a complete record of corporations that provide sustainably-built surfboards, which you’ll be able to view right here. Virtually all sustainably-built boards value $700 or extra.
Verdict: Early indicators present that wool may be a direct alternative for fiberglass, with potential to broaden far past surfboards. Woolight, or one thing prefer it, may be used wherever fiberglass is current, like in boats, housing, cars and extra.
That futuristic and probably game-changing premise is rather a lot to wrap your head round, however take all that away, and Firewire’s Seaside Woolight surfboard handily proves that wool, whether or not it modifications manufacturing or not, can produce a surfboard that competes with the perfect of them. The Woolight board isn’t fairly the greenest surfboard you should purchase, however it serves as a potent instance of how surfboard makers can change their occupied with the supplies they work with, with out sacrificing something that surfers need from a board.
Key Specs: Firewire Seaside Woolight Surfboard
Ridden Dimensions: 5’2” x 20” x 2 5/16”
Ridden Quantity: 26.5L
Firewire Surfboards offered this product for evaluate.
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