Farmer uses lemongrass ‘foam’ to produce eco-friendly boards
By Marty McCarthy Sunday, 19th March 2017
A Gold Coast farmer has dropped in on the surfboard manufacturing industry, by growing lemongrass and turning it into foam to make eco-friendly surfboards.
It’s part of a push by backyard board markers to design innovative boards that are not only enjoyable to ride, but also have a low impact on the environment.
“People have tried different techniques over the years. I’m not alone making different or alternative boards, but I don’t think anyone has tried lemongrass,” Meg McDougall from the Gold Coast, said.
She has been growing the grass for the past five years at Rocky Point, north of the Gold Coast, and only recently began making mini surfboard prototypes with it.
The vascular system of the lemongrass plant has a foam-like structure, that floats when processed and waterproofed.
“The potential of lemongrass as a surfboard is that it is super light and super strong, the whole plant is used from the outside to the inside,” Ms McDougall said.
A full-sized model will be built in the coming weeks by a Currumbin surfboard making company, and Ms McDougal hopes it will prove popular amongst environmentally conscious surfers.
“I think a lot of people understand there are millions of surfboards made each year and we need to be responsible for the environmental impact of those surfboards,” Ms McDougall said.
Gold Coast farmer Meg McDougall is processing her fields of lemongrass into eco-friendly surfboards. (Photo: Marty McCarthy)
Tom Wegener, who did a PhD on the surfboard industry at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said backyard inventors provided a point of difference in an industry under threat by cheap mass-produced imports from Asia.
“There’s quite a few boards coming from China, Korea, Taiwan and when they are made like that you are losing the high art aspect, the individuality,” he said.
“The industry is dependent on innovation all the time.”
“That innovation comes from the people in the backyards and the garages who are creating news ways of surfing and surfboards.”
Mr Wegener is urging more surfing enthusiasts to try their hand at board making, using whatever material they can find.
“Australia is very user-friendly for entrepreneurs. We have that drive, but mostly we have the value system that values innovation,” he said.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of little manufacturers in Australia, and those little manufacturers are creating what we will be riding tomorrow and keeping it vibrant.”
Teacher and amateur board maker, Adam Baldwin from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, has taken up the challenge, and is turning waste material destined for the dump into boards.
“Anything I can take and turn it useful is got to be better than it sitting in the bottom of a dirt pile somewhere,” he said.
Mr Baldwin said the environmentally-friendly boards he makes are also more durable, meaning they can last longer than mass-produced boards from overseas.
“The surfboards that are produced commercially at the moment usually have a lifespan of between four to eight months if they are a high-performance board, and that’s a hell of a lot of rubbish,” he said.
“But if you can make the changes now, not only will you capture early adopters and people that are environmentally conscious, but in the future you will capture everybody.”
Mr Baldwin wants to see more pro surfers use eco-friendly made boards.
“If the world champion is riding something that is eco sustainable there’s more of a chance regular people are going to buy them.”
The vascular system of the lemongrass plant is lightweight and can float. (Photo: Marty McCarthy)
//Marty McCarthy and Jonathan Hair
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