Interviewing Sergio Costa and Paulo de Sousa, the names behind Sliver Eco Surfboards
Inspiring us with their ecodesigned wooden surfboards and high performance accessories from the beautiful island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Paulo de Sousa, owner and head of production and design and Sérgio Costa, co-owner and head of marketing and communication, are taking the traditional concept of surfboard manufacturing up a notch, introducing certified sustainable raw materials and a responsible manufacturing process that is committed to the environment. Sliver Eco Surfboards develops a range of exclusive, high quality products that are having a great reception by the specialized public.
Without a doubt the surfing community -in its great majority- has always been considered a group with strong ecological conscience and a great respect for the environment. Why do you this this is so? Could it be that practicing an outdoors activity, surrounded by nature, offers a more ecological and more environmentally friendly outlook?
Sérgio Costa (SC): There is no doubt that this awareness has been growing over the years, mainly among the surfer community. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that the practice of surfing ends up being a perfect symbiosis between the human being and the environment. As much as we may want, we will never be able to give back to the environment what it has given us. We take natural resources for granted and forget the importance of preserving them, the simple possibility of breathing fresh air, enjoying the sunshine and a clean ocean is seen by many as granted and we forget that if we do not respect or care for our planet we can suffer serious consequences in the future. In relation to our specific community, it has grown exponentially in recent years, and this growth brought good things and other not so good things. The needs of this market are now different, although the process of surfboard manufacturing has not changed for some years. The growth in the number of surfers around the world has led to tons of toxic waste being left in our oceans every year. The number of surfers has grown, the number of surfboards produced annually has increased, but the techniques and materials used in its production have not changed in the last decades. It is necessary to stop and find greener solutions to the current needs. It is necessary to adapt the techniques and materials used in the production of surfing goods so that this impact can be minimized. There is much to be done, but fortunately, more and more, surf brands and consumers are aware of the importance of providing eco-friendly and environmentally friendly solution.
In your constant process of research and development, you have chosen to work with a very special and relatively unknown wood, the paulownia. Could you explain the reasoning behind this choice?
Paulo de Sousa (PS): After I built my first hollow wooden surfboard, back in 2013, out of pine and red cedar I realized that this could only work with a lighter kind of wood. I knew that Balsa wood was one of the lightest on the planet but after researching a bit further I discovered the Paulownia Tomentosa which is a super tree and it's timber has amazing characteristics. Paulownia trees can survive in adverse conditions including dry land, it can absorb more CO2 and produce more O2 then the average tree. It's timber is very resistant, flexible and extremely light. They also grow much faster than most trees making it perfect for sustainable growth. In some regions of Asia the people consider it a sacred tree. It also has the advantage of not being toxic, allowing you to work with it without any risk to your lungs, eyes and skin which is not the case with Balsa. So, to answer your question, after learning all of the above the choice was quite obvious, I had to find a provider for Paulownia.
You yourself make very clear that your suppliers are certified sustainable logging companies. Are all of your products made with this certified wood? Are there any suppliers closer to your production center that could help reduce your ecological footprint?
(SC): All of our surfboards are manufactured with 100% certified Paulownia Wood. Using certified raw materials in all our products is fundamental, essentially for two reasons. Firstly, because it gives us the certainty and assurance that we are in fact using materials that follow all the requirements to be of excellent quality, ecological and sustainable. On the other hand, we are offering insurance to the end consumer that they are buying an organic product and therefore are buying a product with environmental awareness and concern. I believe that it is also important to change consumer habits and that the consumers, when choosing which product to buy, are aware of the importance of their decision. For this, it is also necessary to offer more transparency and more detailed information about the product, namely the materials used, their origin and certification. Only in this way will we make the consumer to make conscious decisions in the act of buying, and thus opt for ecological, sustainable products that reduce the environmental impact.
Speaking of the product itself: wood surfboards. What advantages does this type of board offer (other that environmental commitment)? Compared to more traditional fiber boards, does it offer the same technical performance?
From a manufacturing point of view – the fact that the wood is imported from Asia, and the work that has to be put into building the board - Is it more expensive to build a wooden boards than a fiber board? And is it equally competitive in terms of final price?
(PS): It definitely requires more labor and overall it's more expensive to manufacture a wooden surfboard which reflects on the final price but I think that the consumers understand what they are paying for. When you pay a bit more for a product that you know will last 10 times more, when that product is made almost exclusively with ecological materials and on top of it it's unique, exclusive and gorgeous, you know you're up for a great deal.
Regarding the progress of your company, how do you evaluate your success so far? What future challenges do you face in the next few years?
(SC): In 2013, inspired by the natural beauty of Lanzarote and driven by the dream of building a totally ecological surfboard using wood as raw material, Paulo de Sousa closed himself in his workshop and developed techniques and appealing shapes with the same performance of a conventional surfboard. Today Sliver Eco Surfboards is a solid design. Although at an early stage, it offers an alternative to the market and comes to help resolve the impact caused by the toxic material that so many surf products contain. We have successfully created an ecological, quality product with good performance. The surfers who try out our surfboards love them. The feedback has been 100% positive and this makes us feel that we are on the right track. We are very proud of the products we have developed and are very happy to be able to collaborate in some way for a better world. Our biggest challenge right now is to reach out to as many people as possible and put as many ecological surfboards as possible onto the oceans.