Five minutes with Pete Anderson

Renowned New Zealand surfboard shaper Pete Anderson has dedicated his entire working life to creating the perfect board, but knows he can never be satisfied with a craft manufactured from toxic materials, he tells Good

There are many handcrafted wooden surfboards on the market and these wooden boards are biodegradable and in many ways, sustainable. What inspired you to work on your own version of a more eco-friendly surfboard?

You can find out more about Pete’s quest to build an eco-friendly surfboard in the newly published book, Surfers: A Kiwi Lifestyle by Jo Caird and Paul George.  

“Wooden boards just don’t have the flexibility, the flotation or the performance characteristics of high performance shortboards made from other materials, and my business is in creating high performance boards. What I struggle with the most in this line of work is the products that I have to use.  They are less than environmentally friendly – and that’s a conflict with my own beliefs of looking after the environment.   High-performance surfboards are made from a poly urethane foam core, covered in a non-recyclable cloth and 3 to 4 litres of polyester resin which is a relatively toxic process.”

You’ve been shaping boards for more than 20 years and have a loyal following. What motivates you to keep innovating?

“I like shaping for the guys that charge [surf well]. But we make a lot of different types of boards here and I enjoy the design challenges that this involves; some surfers have been with us since the mid-1980s and we’re still fine tuning their boards and helping them surf better. It’s definitely a buzz. It sounds selfish but I have always just wanted to make a better board for myself, and I feel like all my customers have come along on the journey with me to make that ‘better board’. In doing so, we all get more enjoyment out of it.”

How do you create a more sustainable shortboard without using wood?

“At the moment we can build a 50 per cent eco which is a long way from being perfect but we have to start somewhere. It will be manufactured from a recyclable EPS inner core, covered with a basalt cloth and finished with a plant-based resin giving the board its required strength. The fins are made from recycled plastic.”

You’ve said your ultimate goal is to create a performance surfboard that’s fully biodegradable so that at the end of its life it can be used as mulch on the home garden. How important is this to your customers?

“Surfing is a pretty pure sport and most surfers don’t like to acknowledge that their board is going to end up in landfill. That’s why we’ve started now to innovate something because it’ll take quite a few years to get it to the point that I want it to be at. Its success will depend on how many people will be open to it and willing to buy them because a lot of these materials still need to be developed.”

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