Sustainable Surfcraft Project

Kevin Cunningham, of Spirare Surfboards, has embarked on a project to product a series of fine art surfboards out of sustainable and recycled materials. With his strong connection to the ocean and a desire explore the ways to reuse waste found along the beach in his boards, this project is melding beauty and functionality with natural and unnatural materials. In doing so, Kevin is not only be continuing to aid in the further development of wooden construction surfboards that are light, durable, and still a high performance surfing vehicle of fun but he is also helping to breathe new life into a craft that has not changed too much in the last 50 years.

What inspired this idea to use debris and trash to aid in the building of your surfboards?

I’ve always been interested in objects that wash up on the beach. The colors and variety of debris is fascinating. Drift wood has a great look to it and there is just something about a tangle of fishing nets that is appealing to me. I thought these things could be useful for something, and being a surfboard shaper, I thought in terms of surfboards.

How did you get into board building?

I started shaping in 2003, when I was still in college at RISD. I wanted to expand my quiver but couldn’t swing the money to buy new boards. I started to get blanks and shape them myself. Soon after I started looking for a more sustainable way to shape boards.

How do you integrate things like fishing nets and plastics into your board construction?

I plan to integrate the objects I find into the boards by using them for varies applications in the board building process. I plan to use drift wood and plastics into the wooden skins of my boards; ropes and fishing nets will be woven into the skins as well for added strength. Plastic bags and sheets will be pressed and laminated in order to be shaped into fins.

How do these boards hold up compared to your standard PU or “out of the shop” surfboard?

One of my goals in shaping surfboards is to produce a board that will last for a long time without degrading or losing performance characteristics. My wood with recycled EPS frame boards are extremely durable while staying lightweight (comparable to the weight of PU foam). Wood also doesn’t degrade like foam does; it won’t wear out over time.

Tell us a little bit about the honeycomb construction that you use on some of your boards. How did you get the idea to create a core like this? How does it affect the performance of the board?

I came up with the design for the honeycomb core as a solution to the problem of how to make an all wood, sustainable performance oriented board. My background is in architecture and I knew from past experience that honeycomb structures are lightweight and flexible while being extremely strong.

I make the honeycomb from thin bamboo veneers so it is very lightweight and flexible. The boards perform great and have a great spring back in their flex.

Why do you think more shapers are not trying to find alternative methods and materials for board building? Why has it taken us so long to figure out that there is more than one way to construct a board?

I think it goes all the way back to the reasons Hobie Alter and Gruby Clark started making foam boards in the first place; foam is cheap and easy to shape. It’s hard to convince people to try something new when a product like polyurethane foam has been dominating the market for fifty plus years.

How do you educate a group of people who have been riding the same thing for decades to change their ways and ride something new?

Most people have been open to the idea of sustainable surfboards. The feedback I get from the people who ride my boards is always positive; it just takes time for the stoke to trickle down to more and more people.

Do you feel that there is a true “sustainable surfboard”?

I don’t think the true 100% sustainable surfboard exists yet. I try to get as close as possible with my boards, but until I grow my own trees, harvest my own wind or solar power, and walk to the beach to surf I will have to stick with what I am doing now. My goal is to use as many sustainable and recycled products in my boards and to have them last as long as possible.

For more information about Kevin and his surfboards check out, or help support his project at

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