Corran Addison makes vacuum-bagged ``eco'' surfboards with polystyrene foam cores made in part of recycled PS, and skins of vinegar-bleached bamboo.
``End users love it,'' Addison, president of 2Imagine Inc., said at the Action Sports Retailer trade show, held Sept. 4-6 in San Diego. ``Now, it is a proven concept.''
However, there is a weak link: epoxy resins.
Currently, the Montreal firm is working to develop a potentially biodegradable epoxy resin made from unsaturated vegetable oils.
2Imagine began developing its strong, recyclable eco boards in 2006. Addison and others resolved key issues, finding ways to achieve consistent extrusion of PS cores, eliminating outgassing by not using virgin PS, keeping the PS from adopting an unacceptable pink tone and changing brown bamboo into a useful material.
Recycled PS does not need to outgas, Addison said. Industry-standard blown core uses virgin PS that requires holes so the gas can escape from the surfboard.
Bamboo's natural color, fiber weight and weaving capability were among the challenges, but solving them proved ecologically superior to using fiberglass cloth, which is treated with toxic chemicals such as chromium, Addison said. He noted that bamboo is renewable, absorbs greenhouse gasses and produces oxygen, in each case at higher levels than an equivalent stand of trees.
2Imagine vacuum-bags the boards and sucks out the extra resin with a bleeder.
A 9-foot-long stand-up-paddle, or SUP, board retails for $900, compared with $1,200-$1,300 for comparable competing products, Addison said.
The firm sells boards in lengths of 5 feet, 4 inches to 11 feet, 6 inches, with some models not adhering fully to the eco formula for materials. Addison said some traditions are difficult to change in the surfboard market.
While 2Imagine has surfers listening to its message, the firm's big hurdle is with conservative, risk-adverse shop operators.
Addison is contemplating whether to sell the eco boards through large distribution networks. ``We are undecided,'' he said.
Addison also has a history with kayaks. Representing South Africa, he was a finalist in slalom kayaking at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Prior to his surfboard work, Addison designed and promoted kayaks for Perception Kayaks Inc., Prijon GmbH and Kayaks Voodoo Inc., now operating as Riot Kayaks Inc.
Meanwhile, Hobie Designs in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., has decreased the weight of its SUP.
``It was 32 pounds in a previous iteration,'' said Mark Johnson, general manager of Hobie Design's SUP division. ``During 2007, we did research and development to refine the SUP shape and make it functional for everyone. Now, the SUPs weigh 25-27 pounds.''
The all-terrain-ride model, which stands at 10 feet, 6 inches, weighs 25 pounds. Longer versions are slightly heavier. The SUPs cost $1,500-$1,700.
The 1-pound-density expanded PS foam core is shaped with three-dimensional software and includes a plastic, maintenance-free vent that is molded in the U.S. and sent to China for integration with the final product. The design calls for five layers of cloth impregnated with epoxy resin.
Nielsen Business Media Inc. of New York produces the Action Sports Retailer trade show. The trade show staff is based in San Juan Capistrano.