Project Case

June 20, 2021

Waste Surfer: A call for action to manufacture surfskate boards with upcycled materials

In Thailand, before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, surfskating became Thailand’s hottest new pastime. With limited supplies and a high demand for new socially-distanced sporting activities, the price for a surfskate board skyrocketed nearly overnight. While a street-ready, complete board might normally be sold for about $400 (USD), local resellers in Thailand quickly took over the market. The result was that the price of a surfskate board from a popular overseas brand could be sold for up to $1,600, more than 400% of the original price.

Utilizing materials that would otherwise go to a landfill to enter the new market with a highly desired product is a strategy which FabCafe Bangkok has a particularly smart positioning. Since 2018, FabCafe has been cultivating a diverse community which is passionate about utilizing and experimenting with plastic waste as a new source for creative materials with the Precious Plastic machines.

The craze in the market for a locally made surfskate board could not be ignored- keep reading to see how FabCafe Bangkok created the Waste Surfer Project to create an eco product with a high market value.

The Waste Surfer Project started as an Earth Day initiative and local call to action from existing FabCafe collaborators to crowdsource the available upcycle-able materials. Who out there is creating substantial waste at their workplace? What is this waste and is it being created on an unintentional yet regular basis?

Since the goal is to enter the market, the experiments had a very specific and tangible goal. Once the materials were identified, a workshop was put into place to bring everyone together to see if it could be transformed into a valuable resource to create a surf skate deck to be sold on the market.

The Waste Surfer workshop was organized by FabCafe Bangkok on April 3rd, 2021, at FabCafe which is located inside the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC), a learning center of design and creative business incubator. Waste Surfer was supported by the Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and Material Connexion Bangkok (also located inside TCDC). Waste Surfer was attended by 43 participants from diverse professional backgrounds, including 12 companies, artists, designers, and academics. The workshop kicked off with an input lecture by Organizer Kalaya Kovidith (FabCafe Co-founder), Asst. Prof. Dr. Prasit Pattananuwat (Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Science) and Fakram Buasai (from FabCafe).



One partner for the Waste Surfer project were from the Ko Kut Island in southern Thailand. Many people commonly associate Thailand with its lush nature and white sandy beaches. However, a common nuisance for the tourist destination is the trash left behind long forgotten by travelers. Cheap foam beach sandals are often bought for a quick beach getaway only to be thrown away shortly thereafter. The foam from the sandals will take more than 500 years if left to disintegrate at a landfill. What if we can take this long lasting material and give it a new life in a surfskate board? Through the experimentation at the Waste Surfer workshop, we found the foam sandals were the best material of all materials for a surfskate board at the workshop!

Another partner was the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) Thailand which regularly collects fishing nets around Thailand which has been collecting abandoned fishing nets from the ocean. According to the EJF, an abundance of fishing nets, which are a major source of pollution and cause substantial harm to marine wildlife, are waiting to be picked up from the ocean. However, the EJF wasn’t sure what would be the most impactful, high-market value product to manufacture with the fishing net waste so making it into a surfskate board was a good fit for both collaborators. 


Once the qualities of the individual materials were evaluated, the surfskate boards were created through a 4 step process:

STEP 1 PREPARE BINDER
First, workshop participants prepared the surfskate deck binder of either a polyester resin or a super latex glue. Each binder required a blending of both a hardener and a binder. The purpose of the binder is to hold the materials together and add a layer of durability and protection to the outside layer of the skate surf board.

STEP 2: PREPARE DECK, APPLY BINDER
Using less than 30mm of layered materials, participants aligned the materials along the mold profile.

After pouring the binder over the first aligned layer, a plastic sheet was then used to spread the binder to cover the entire sheet material. A second layer of material is placed on top, followed by another layer of binder, being careful to layer quickly so the binder can penetrate into the material.

While taking care to remove bubbles in the binder layers, once all layers have been over layed together, participants used a steel or rubber roller to press the new materials evenly.

STEP 3: LAY AND COMPRESS THE DECK

Once the binder has been evenly applied between each layer, an F Clamp is used to cold press the materials together. Depending on the texture of the material, warping, weakening of the materials and the spread of the polyester resin or super latex glue binder may vary. For example, with maple wood, at first the wood becomes slightly warped from the binder application. However, once the F clamp is used to splice the mold, the wood will bend accordingly. The finished product is strong and flexible and can be cut, sanded and drilled to finish the surf skateboard build.

STEP 4: SURFSKATE DECK SHAPING

The final step of the surf skate fabrication process is to shape the resulting compressed deck into the familiar surf skate deck dimensions. Aligning the compressed deck, a wood cutter machine is used to cut the board into a proper shape. Following this, 8 holes are drilled into the nose and tail of the board to later add trucks. Finally, the entire board is sanded with a coarse grained sandpaper.

Materials being transformed into surfskate decks included coffee grounds, sea sponges (luffa), beach sandals, e-waste, carpets from exhibitions and trade shows, abandoned fishing net, reed mats, durian fruit scraps, bottle caps, bubble wrap, cardboard, bottle caps, leather waste and fabric scraps. No material is too small- even rose apple seeds have been utilized as a new upcycled for surf skateboards!

See below for six close up examples of the finished surf skate boards built at the workshop:

The FabCafe Bangkok team continues the search for materials that can be upcycled into a surfskate board! Whether or not the materials will be consistently available as well as the characteristics are being evaluated to judge which materials are best for the project. The team is further challenging themselves to make an accurate estimate of the total carbon footprint of the upcycling process and output in order to make an informed understanding of what is the real impact of their activities.

FabCafe Bangkok is currently looking to collaborate with existing various surf skateboard product manufacturers, surf skate parks and more to diversify the customizable options and explore new territory. For the upcycled board materials, FabCafe is looking for companies, Universities, and other players who would be interested to create new value with their waste materials. Join the Waste Surfer revolution and get in contact through the FabCafe Bangkok Facebook inbox or through email: kalaya@fabcafe.com!

Supported by:
The Waste Surfer project is organized by FabCafe Bangkok with the support of the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC), the Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and Material ConneXion Bangkok.

Author

  • Kelsie Stewart

    FabCafe CCO

    Kelsie joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017 and oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

    Kelsie joined Loftwork and FabCafe in 2017 and oversees the FabCafe Global network. In FabCafes across Asia, Europe and America, Kelsie strategizes and aligns Fab synergies to empower everyone to take the initiative to make and share their ideas with local and global communities. Kelsie is also the Tokyo organizer for the Global Goals Jam (GGJ), a two-day designathon and community which aims to create short term solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. Kelsie has organized sustainability and design thinking workshops in Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

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