There is a lot to be said for determination. If more of us had it, the world might be a different place, maybe not better, but definitely different. In reality, about 1.8% (exact figure) of the global population has the personal make-up to meet the Surf Bunker definition of ‘determined’. Just so we are clear, this is the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition :
1. having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it.
"Alina was determined to be heard"
intent on, bent on, set on, dead set on, insistent on, fixed on, resolved on/to, firm about, committed to, hell-bent on; More
◦ possessing or displaying resolve.
"Helen was a determined little girl"
An example of determined might be our own legend, Kelly Slater, who grew up in small wave Florida but was determined to be a World Champion. No mean feat, but he did it eleven times and that to me spells out determined with a capital D. It is about one such individual (not a world champ surfer) and her dream that I now wish to recite a little verse if you will indulge me.
Louise Dever was, in her own words, an ‘accountant's arsehole’ working with figures and from an office possibly not even overlooking the ocean. Fast forward to today and she has made one of the most daring leaps into the unknown and it was all because of surfing and how it made her feel.
Eco Surf Supplies is Lou’s new business and it brings with it a message we all need to hear. The surfboard manufacturing industry needs to change (yes, that old chestnut again) but the big business model will not allow for this, not until all the ducks are neatly arranged on the mantlepiece. In short, there are too many jobs at stake, too much to change and too much money for those involved to lose. Same old story of banknotes, greed and the planet footing the final and inevitable bill.
So what is the big idea behind Lou’s new business?
Eco Surf Supplies was founded on the idea of getting Flax technology Notox surfboards sourced, produced and sold in Australia. Now, we know a little bit about Notox flax surfboards, if you need to catch up, there is a link to the article we did about them here. If you are an avid enough reader of Surf Bunker you will no doubt know that these puppies are the way forward, but they are currently made in one place, France (which is in Europe). For those of you not ‘au fait’ with the relevant placement of France as to Australia on the globe, I can inform you that it might be impossible to get further away.
The one huge factor (if we are going down the eco-warrior path) is that shipping surfboards this distance is about eighty-seven times (actual figure) more harmful to the environment than the carcinogens released while making the old PU board in the first place. The former quite literally dwarfs the latter. Here is a little graph for you to mull over.
So, Lou’s big idea has been to take the Notox construction, and through huge personal risk, a lot of vision and drinking some very expensive coffee, bring the manufacture of said boards to Australia, thus negating the transport pollution, and at the same time building a super eco friendly board that really surfs well.
Again, if you are an avid reader of Surf Bunker you will know we have fully tested and reviewed The Green One (surfboard) from Notox and Matt’s findings can be found here. I caught up with Lou for a chat via the old etherweb and after speaking to her felt myself even more inspired, and determined (funny how that happens) here is some of what was said.
SB: Hey Lou, great to talk, what made you decide to quit the rat race and get involved in the surf industry?
Lou: Being in the finance industry and seeing the pension age increasing every year (sorry boring accounting talk, stay with me), I thought that if I am going to be working til I am 80 years old, it better be bloody well fun!
SB: From concept to now, how hard has it been, how long has it been and have you met any interesting people along the way?
Lou: I spend all of my spare time learning a new trade, surfing. Which isn't so bad. This means watching a lot of surfing footage of some very easy on the eye humans. So it hasn't been too hard. I took 2017 off from work and studied full time so I could couple my International Business degree assessments with my new found interest of surfing research. The only hard part about starting a new business and studying full time is having no money. So not really very smart - thank goodness for 'The Big Sister Bank' and 'Thanks Mum For The Spare Room While I Rent My Apartment Out' and 'The Friends Who Feel Sorry For Me Cos I Don't Have A Car Rides'. The thought sparked in February 2017 when there were a few shifts in the accounting work that frustrated the hell out of me and I decided, now is the time to change.
Someone once said to me when I was 19 "the sooner you do it, the sooner you get ahead". I've never forgotten that. Along with being a big fan of the inspiring story of the 1962 epic historical drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence and his Seven Pillars of Wisdom autobiography, I decided no feat was too great for someone like me in this opportunistic world with so much support from every corner. Interesting people, hmmm yes, The Financial Institution. I've realised how much debt I will get into and the bank will keep giving me more. Debt is now my friend! Jokes aside, I have met some very clever people along the way. I couldn't possibly mention all of them here.
SB: I know you see the eco part of this as more of a necessity for any new business, what made you zero in on Notox and what they were doing?
Lou: Notox is the perfect man. A bit nerd (Pierre), a bit of brawn (Benoit), a bit of wisdom (Laurent) & some easy on the eye extra's (Olivier ;-p ). Pierre has a PHD in Robotics and the others have worked in the industry shaping for legends like Maurice Cole, for Pukas in Spain, have made over three thousand boards and currently shape all the Stretch boards for Europe. The most appealing thing about Notox was they cared firstly about themselves. I remember when the midwife told me on my way out the door with my first baby, "if you don't look after yourself first you can't look after others (meaning the baby)". And that's what Notox are doing, looking after their health first and then the rest follows. With that said though, they still work hard. I was there for a few days when it was 40 + degrees and these fellas were working all day through the heat. And they can. Because they are fit and healthy. And from what I've seen, they always set their confidence intervals at 99%, and nothing less. If it is any less than it is simply WRONG and must be reworked. Success is the only option for the Notox brand. That is why I believe in their culture, their product and their work ethic.
SB: How difficult has it been getting people to work with you on building the Notox boards in Aus?
Lou: For most people it is something new and different, and that scares a lot of people off. But I don't take it personally. I remember the first time I saw one in person, not knowing what it was I thought it was ugly. I judged it straight up. Just like you do when you go to the pub, you think the ugly guy is no good and the cute guy is the bee's knees. But 99% of the time you're wrong and it's the other way around. So all I ask of people is to stop being so judgemental, like I was, and just hear us out.
SB: Is it true you have shaping legend Mitch Surman shaping all the blanks? How did that happen?
Lou: oui c'est ca! I'd looked into and met up with a few different shapers. But no one quite ticked ALL OF THE BOXES. So I kept asking around until eventually, I went back to one of my many surf coaches, Cardi, and he simply said "Mitch Surman - MS Surfboards". I didn't ask any questions and went straight to Facebook Messenger and sent MS Surfboards a message "Would you be interested in making Flax Surfboards?", His almost immediate reply was "yeah sure". The rest is history.
SB: If you want more detail on Mitch, check the article we did with him earlier here.
SB: Any advice you would give yourself before you started the journey to Eco Surf Supplies?
Lou: I can not think of a single thing I would have done differently. I never regret anything. I like the challenges and the sufferings. I would even go as far as saying I like the feeling of potentially failing. That way I can celebrate every little win.
SB: A huge thanks to Lou who gave up her time for this chat at a hectic time in her life. There really is no way else to put this. If you believe you can do something, like really believe, then nothing will stop you. Lou is the epitome of determination and has a truly awe-inspiring vision that will make a real difference to the surf industry and the horrible mess it leaves in its wake.
With a small update to this article, Lou has had such success with the sales of NOTOX surfboards in Australia that she has now moved all the flax surfboard business over to another site. If you want to get some prices and info on NOTOX flax in Australia, check out the new site here. Eco Surf Supplies is still offering all other things for the eco surf at their homepage here.
For Lou and Eco Surf Supplies, it's not if they will succeed but when.