Shaping under his “Iconoclast” label, Mike Wallace, of Moss Beach, has a penchant for thinking outside the box in terms of surfboard design. His Instagram, @surf_iconoclast, boasts dozens of original boards, each one tailored to a specific individual’s design and aesthetic preferences.
After building boards for Coastside surfers for 15 years, Wallace has found a design approach that has him “fired up.”
The traditional process of making a surfboard is riddled with toxins and waste products. The combination of polyurethane foam and loads of petroleum-based materials is not ideal for humans nor the environment. Carving a board by hand or by machine usually releases plastic bits that “just deteriorate into smaller versions of itself,” according to Wallace.
But creating a board with an environmentally sound structure is not just costly, certain aspects — like weight and flexibility — can compromise performance, something most surfers aren’t willing to sacrifice. From his shaping bay, he’s looking to change surfers’ perceptions of these types of boards. Wallace, a former coach for the Half Moon Bay High School surf team, wants people to see that there is a way to create an environmentally sensitive board that is just as good as, if not better than, the average board.
“The Holy Grail for me is getting the materials as eco-friendly as possible without sacrificing on the performance aspect,” Wallace said.
As of last week, Wallace has done just that. He shaped his latest model, the “Eco Warrior,” into three lengths so far: 7 feet, 8 inches; 6 feet, 8 inches; and 6 feet, 4 inches. The boards use a combination of materials spanning the Pacific Ocean.
The blank, or foam that makes up the board, is algae-based, created in a lab with Arctic Foam and researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Arctic Foam, based in San Clemente, provides blanks for some of the most well-known surfboard shapers in the world. Wallace believes that eventually these blanks will be under the feet of both top-tier pros and average Joes.
Wallace used an all-natural combination of flax-basalt woven fiberglass, which he said can be up to 50 percent stronger and lighter than
traditional fiberglass. He sourced the material from an Australian company. The flax, which is common in the textile industry, meshes well with basalt, a type of volcanic rock. The fin boxes are composed of recycled plastic from a 3D printer, while the fins are bamboo-based. The finishing touch comes in the form of a bio-based resin, which was done by Santa Cruz’s Vince Broglio.
“The idea is to bring the best materials, performance and design together in one package that doesn’t leave you concerned about what your footprint on the environment is,” Wallace said.
Wallace is a student of history and his boards encompass modern technology and designs while drawing inspiration from the past. The idea for an end-to-end bio-based board began with a trip to Australia and New Zealand several years ago.
In Australia, Wallace met one of his shaping icons, 79-year-old George Greenough, a Santa Barbara-raised shaper working in the 1970s. Wallace also met Dave Rastovich, a professional Australian surfer who was still getting a lot of performance from his own environmentally sourced board over the last five years, a long time in surfboard years.
Wallace planned to debut the boards at an annual Boardroom Show in Santa Del Mar in May. Like everything else, it was canceled, so Wallace went public with his models.
He’s already received some interest in customized longboards and mid-lengths. Wallace is the first to admit he’s not the first, nor will he be the last to conceptualize and build a board with environmentally oriented materials.
“It’s not 100 percent,” Wallace said of his design. “But it’s about as eco-friendly as it gets right now.”
This version corrects original location of the Boardroom Show and the university partnership to include the University of California, San Diego.