Ever since the 1950s, when surfboard construction materials transitioned from redwood and balsa to foam and fibreglass, the toxic nature of surfboard manufacturing has been one of surfing’s biggest adverse environmental impacts.
Having met Vinny O’Halloran a few years back now down at our local surf break in Wexford we have kept in touch and not for the first time experienced his generosity; having practically gifted us with some exquisite wooden single fins he heard of our recent escapades in beekeeping he kindly let go of one of his hives to help us grow our own colony. Having almost survived their first winter they have us completely hooked.
Bees (Honey Bees) are the most studied species on the planet after humans. They are one of the only species, if not the only species that sets a selfless example to mankind on organised society. A beekeeper himself, Vinny’s motivation is not unlike that of the bees; an altruistic designer with a generous, busy and calm character.
Driven primarily by environmental consciousness and sustainability he has spent the best part of six years experimenting with local wood from wind-fallen trees or trees scheduled for felling or removal, developed his own monocoque setup, and is building boards that will help us all surf more sustainably
“I started out just interested in greener boards, once I stumbled on the monocoque setup was amazed how well it work; I was hooked on the quality of the ride , how it performed – I realised then that wood is the perfect material for surfboard construction. I’m continuously learning from the wood , from nature , and seeking ways to improve on the construction techniques . I’m especially interested in shapes other than the generic shortboard/longboard and 3 fins.
Made from a wide range of Irish Hardwoods, the boards will truly last a lifetime. They can sustain plenty of hardship at sea and only get better with age. Unlike their synthetic counterparts that deteriorate with every ding, these beautifully engineered boards develop character like fine furniture and can be sanded down and brought back to their original finish; an heirloom and an example of finely honed craftsmanship that takes pride of place in the gaff, in between sets.
Pioneering a technique like this takes time and patience. In crafting the boards, Vinny states: “there was no instruction manual or easy solution” every wood species has specific characteristics and qualities such as weight, strength, durability, visual characteristics, workability, and stability, to name a few. The only way to know how each wood type and shapes will work, is trial and error. As a result, he has developed an instinctive understanding of wood and its performance in the water over a slow and steady six years.
The surfboards are uniquely of a ‘monocoque’ construction which means there is no frame or eps inside. Parabolic rails for strength allow varied flex into the board depending on the rail size and selected species of wood. The beauty of using wood for this purpose is that it never loses its flex characteristics; (think of an archery bow). The seamless synergy of these two components creates a surfboard that is a joy to use and actually enriches the whole experience of surfing.
“Vinny does use epoxy too , and also some boards will be finished in epoxy he explains – researching the greener epoxies namely ‘resin research’ at the moment , best resin on the market for many reasons .
He is experimenting with beeswax (sourced from his own hives), carnauba wax, tung oil combinations to good effect; ‘This is the direction I want to go; but with these cleaner natural finishes the surfer will have to take care of their board’
Find out a little more about Vinny’s boards here