Our world is apparently being swallowed whole by plastic, anything that is bad for the environment is deemed undesirable. Plastic is not bad. Plastic is good, it’s just that we as humans can not be trusted with putting it in the recycling bin and actually making new things out of it. Anywhoooo, everyone is scrambling to make good on our plastic and general toxic misdemeanours. One such shaper and innovator has had these particular ducks in a row since time began. His innovative history within the surf industry has been long and proved. His name is Rouven Brauers but you might know him as Bufo.
My first experience with a piece of Bufo's work was a decade ago in another country. A friend of mine rocked up to stay (as they do when you live near a world class wave) with a blue and slightly transparent board. It kind of looked like it was made of solid blue Colgate toothpaste. He cited it as being almost indestructible and promptly smacked it against the wall to prove a point. There was more, closed cell meant that water was unlikely to penetrate the board even if you did magically manage to ding it. The board was a ‘Bufo’. I never saw another one, maybe it was too advanced for the time, too different, I don’t know. The facts are that 600 got sold worldwide, and the fact that Tom Curren had one as seen in the movie 'One California Day' and Robbie Page won the Australian Championship on them means they had what it took.
The next time I heard the Bufo name was in conjunction with a project that seemed to have real promise again. The Hydroflex boards which boasted a new way of glassing, supposed 3D glassing which meant that the glass almost infused with the blank, creating a stronger and more flexible end product. That project, sadly fell foul to the economics and political factors of expansion and big business. However, before that happened Albee Layer boosted the very first 540 backside double spin and Carissa Moore used one winning the World Championships 2016, so again, these things really did work.
And now… we have Rouven’s (Bufo) latest brainchild. The ‘Hardcork’ surfboard. (Got to be careful how you say that)
In the making for over three years, the idea of Hardcork is to combine the dampening properties of cork with the sheer strength of carbon fabric and eco resins creating a flexible, light and ding resistant surfboard. So why would we be interested in this and why would it be a possible turning point in board manufacturing? What are the eco implications, how does it change the amount of flotation a board might have, the feel of the board in the water? There were so many questions to ask and who better to answer them that Bufo himself.
We caught up with Rouven who was more than happy to answer some of our questions.
SB: Hey Bufo, this new Hardcork tech looks exciting. How did it come into being?
Bufo: In the beginning, I was looking for better dampening properties and shock absorption in a surfboard construction. Starting with normal cork I soon found out that cork has a lack of sheer strength causing separation in between the layers and also delamination. By experimenting, I started to mix cork granules with carbon fabric forming a 3 dimensional structure out of cork and carbon. That material was significantly strong in compression and tension but still keeping the dampening properties of the cork. Discussing these new properties with a Californian friend he came up with the name HARDCORK.
SB: Without giving away any secrets what exactly is Hardcork made from?
Bufo: It all starts with a normal shaped blank. The whole lamination is embedded in Hardcork material. Hardcork is cork, fabrics such as carbon and flax plus eco epoxy resin. Cork is regrowing and totally waterproof making it a perfect sustainable match for maritime applications.
SB: What do you see as the main advantages to the environment for this type of construction?
Bufo: We are aiming a zero waste production. All boards are made in a special vacuum process eliminating the typically used peel ply, bleeder plastic and vacuum fleece. Normally they go straight to the waste.
The quantity of resin is reduced by roughly 60% based on added cork and fabric. The whole process is set up that not a single drop of resin is falling on the ground.
All sanding processes are happening on cork and plant fabrics so the dust is organic.
SB: How will Hardcork change the way the surfboard behaves when surfed?
Bufo: The board is offering better dampening and shock absorption fitting modern surfing perfectly with also aerials and tough landings. Further, they are slightly more flexible enhancing performance.
SB: Do we have to worry about UV affecting the board?
Bufo: Not at all. We all have seen yellow UV damaged blanks but the Hardcork material is even blocking the UV protecting the blank perfectly.
SB: If we got a ding in the board, how do we fix it?
Bufo: Depending on the used blank. On EPS you can use any kind of epoxy resin. On Hardcork - PU poly and epoxy works. We are also working on a Hardcork repair kit making repairs invisible.
SB: Are there any other advantages to Hardcork?
Bufo: First we have highly increased crack resistance (10 times compared to poly resin). You will never see typical spider cracks on one of these boards.
Further layers of pure resin such as top coats are replaced with Hardcork material reducing total board weight significantly (25%). The whole glassing construction is floating on water providing noticeable buoyancy compared to conventional glassing which is heavier than water and sinking more.
SB: How about colours on the board and customisation of the way it looks?
Bufo: Brownish without looking like shit. On a closer look you can see the 3 dimensional structure of cork and carbon. Right now every board is coming with its natural color but airbrushing are tinted resin are possible too.
SB: How and where can anyone get our hands on a Hardcork board?
Bufo: You can order online or visit your shaper at one of the Hardcork facilities:
Germany - Bufo boardsFrance - Kevin Olsen shapes in Hossegor
Portugal -Surfactory Portugal in Porto
SB: How long do they take to make and how much would one cost?
Bufo: It's a special set up vacuum process which is cleaner but more time-consuming. Right now order time is 3-4 weeks. In general, you can speed up production to a minimum 3 days and the boards are 100% cured - ready to surf. The boards are more expensive and start at 999€, but should last at least 2 to 3 times longer. In the end, it's cheaper for the customer and the environment.
SB: Our massive thanks to Bufo with an exclusive first look at this new potentially groundbreaking tech, we are going to see if we can get our hands on one of these and take it for a spin and report back.
If you are interested in testing them out for yourself then get in touch with Kevin Olsen surfboards in Hossegor, France or Surfactory Portugal in Porto, Portugal, or see the master himself in Germany.
It is clear from talking to Rouven over the phone that he does not put his name to something that he does not one hundred percent believe in. Tested and refined are two words that would have been used heavily in the development of these boards and let's face it, the world is crying out for a surfboard tech that is truly sustainable without lagging in performance.