Master shaper Tom Wegener called Adam Baldwin “his hero” in honour of the recycled rubbish surfboard prototype he invented. Using scraps “raided” from an architectural moulding company, the long time surfer and shaper from the Queensland Sunshine Coast was able to shape a series of surfboards he says go as good as anything he’s bought from a major label. The self-described “surf obsessed Swellian school teacher” spoke to Tracks about his dream of turning trash into surfboards for a living and what it would take to get there.

Tracks Magazine: Most obvious question first, how does it go?

Adam Baldwin: I’ve surfed it twice and it went like a rocket. It was based on another design I’ve got - a groveller which is a 5’3 by 21’ round-tail nugget of a thing, which is good for when the waves are under nipple height. I played around with this one, kept the same round-tail and made it 5’6 by 19’ and I reckon it’s probably the best board I’ve made and I’ve made around 27 boards.

What inspired this?

I’ve always been a bit of a hippie. In an idealistic way I want people to realise that it doesn’t have to be the same old same old.

The boards I make out of rubbish don’t surf any worse than boards I make out of new materials and make from scratch. Except for the fact it is a long process, I don’t see why it can’t be done on a commercial basis. There’s people out there that use these exotic, friendly EPS blanks, which have got anywhere from 30% to 70% recycled EPS in them but they’ve still been produced through an industrial process. They’re still made from new so there’s a still a crap load of toxins going in them. Whereas I’m finding stuff that’s going to be melted down and chucked in the landfill somewhere and making something out of it that goes really well. If the top shapers would make a commitment to do 10% initially of their builds out of recycled stuff it would be a relatively easy thing to scale it up and I don’t see why they couldn’t sell it for another 30% (mark up).

 

What can you reveal about the construction process?

Adam: Without giving too much away, I get long rectangular prisms of foam, I glue them together with secret sauce, clamp them all together ghetto-style in my front garage. With this one I had a file I took to my machinist and got the foam rough-cut to one of my designs, another bit of secret sauce on the outside to seal it, hand-finished it being super careful around the glue lines, glassed it under a demountable building at school after the kids went home over a couple of days. I did stuff with recycled leggie and fin plugs so a little bit of fiddling with that as well.

Any interest from companies or shapers to work with you?

Only interest from my mate who has Factory Surfboards and he froths on them. Vissla has also shown a bit of confidence in me. I entered it in the first Vissla ‘Upcycle’ contest and it got shipped to California and won Most Functional Craft. It looked like a real surfboard. They had ones made out of cardboard and stuff. Mine had the parabolic stringers and a tail-block made out of agave which I got out of the dunes at Curramundi. Once I got into that and got some recognition I got some confidence. I donated that one to a charity for needy kids and it sold for 900$. At that point I was hooked

 

Are you hoping to take this to the marketplace?

In a dreamworld yes I would love to but I would still have to fulfil my commitment as a surf-obsessed school teacher. I’d be happy to work with someone and consult cos I have lots of ideas. I had (legendary shaper) Tom Wegner come and talk to the kids at school and he was frothing on what I’ve been doing, he refers to me as the Mad Scientist and told the kids I was one of his heroes for making stuff out of recycled material. My jaw nearly fell on the ground.I would have to do it through someone already big and established. - Jed Smith