The idea

RG: ‘I had attempted to teach successive girlfriends how to surf and I realized that people’s negative experiences came from either their board hitting them or someone else’s board hitting them. I started looking at soft tops as a customer and realized there weren’t many good ones: the branding was gauche and I could tell a lot of the boards hadn’t been shaped by surfers – they were just big pieces of foam. I’d always been interested in surfboard design and I invested in some shaping equipment. I started mucking around with a designer in New Zealand to see whether the fins could be made from recycled plastic. We realized there was potential to make boards from plastic. I came to Sydney in 2017, talked to Tom and he was like: “We’ve got to do this.”’


RG: ‘I wasn’t aware of any suppliers of recycled plastic, what the costs were or the process involved. There wasn’t really a pathway for us to follow. We had made some boards with virgin plastics, so we knew the composition of the boards and how they were constructed. Then it was a matter of swapping those out.’

TH: ‘We did it back to front. We researched the materials that we wanted to use and we broke down the board as a whole to see what technology or materials were available to replace sustainably. The whole board is not able to be made sustainably with current technology. To remain competitive, it was even harder because recycled materials were three times more expensive to purchase.’


TH: ‘We were all working full-time jobs and pooled our money in – some of us had a bit more than others. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme – or even a get-rich scheme. It’s about us putting our money towards something we hope will disrupt for the better an industry that’s given us so much. It’s been a lot more money than we thought – a credit to our ignorance and confidence at the start.’

Sourcing materials

RG: ‘One of the biggest hurdles was finding a supplier for the high-density plastic (HDP). I was watching a documentary on Netflix [A Plastic Ocean] and at the end it featured an organization called Plastic Bank, which has recycling centers in the coastal areas of developing nations. They basically turn the plastic waste into pellets, which can then be turned into products. Before we worked out if we could work with this plastic, we just bought it.’ 

TH: ‘They kept on trying to sell us 10, 12 or 14 containers a month. We had to beg them to give us just 10 tons of recycled HDP, which we worked out would last us probably four or five years.’


TH: ‘We visited four factories in China and found one whose facilities were state of the art and whose mission was in line with ours. It was hard to persuade them – they’ve got a million-dollar machine and didn’t want to test a new product on it. The first runs were completely warped because it melts in a completely different way to virgin plastics. Luckily, through the Plastic Bank, we were introduced to an incredible plastic melt-flow expert – a guy who works for Microsoft who gave us his time and expertise for free.’

RG: ‘We were blissfully ignorant until we were committed and had to find ways through it.’


TH: ‘A lot of people told us to go high, but we were worried that we would be pricing ourselves out of a very saturated and competitive market. So we went low and adjusted our prices once we realized we had a strong customer following and people respected our mission. We never wanted to bang people on the head with the green angle. We wanted to make a beautiful product that outperformed everyone else.’

Getting the word out

RG: ‘We had a little pop-up store over a summer in Bondi Beach that got the word out locally. We engaged a marketing company and ended up spending a bit too much money. We do that ourselves now and get the same results. We did some advertising campaigns on Google and social media, but it wasn’t too difficult to get the word out – it was pretty organic.’ 


TH: ‘We were lucky to have a couple of people who didn’t necessarily work in surfing, but worked in industries that were symbiotic to surfing, such as coffee or clothing. Tommy’s partner Claire had a bunch of great stores that she suggested we target. I visited them and they were golden – we got about 10 stores right off the bat. One big client was like: “I’ve told every single manufacturer I don’t want them, but I’m going to take you guys because you’re finally doing what I think the industry should be doing.”’ 

This article was first published in Courier issue 42, August/September 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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