Surfing vet Gary Linden recently teamed up with Jose Cuervo in La Rojena, Mexico—the liquor company’s home base—to create the world’s first 100% agave surfboard. T+L sat down with the long-time shaper to discuss the project and what it means for the future of sustainable boards.
Why make a surfboard entirely out of agave?
I created the surfboard to bring awareness to the lack of sustainability in action sports and to demonstrate that it's possible to use natural materials and a nontoxic process to create products that are better for the shaper, the rider, and the environment.
Can it perform as well as a standard board?
This was the first 100% agave board ever created, a prototype. High performance was not the immediate goal, but it can perform in the water and sets a strong baseline standard for future development.
What makes standard surfboard materials so harmful to the environment?
Surfboards are petroleum-based products, which are not sustainable. The chemicals used to work with plastics and glass strands are toxic and dangerous.
What is the future of sustainable surfboard design? Are there other materials that shapers could adopt?
Balsawood is the best material for surfboard cores, as it’s extremely strong and grows fast. However, it still needs to be sealed with traditional fiberglass and a resin lamination process. The future is in the experimental stage, but I'm excited to continue working with natural materials and I hope to inspire many shapers to do the same.
Jim Philip and Thomas Scott have shaped boards with agave too. Do you see it ever becoming mainstream?
While agave is porous and difficult to work with, we hope to encourage shapers to use this and other all-natural materials for creating surfboards. Agave may not see widespread adoption, but some companies such as Otter and Driftwood make wooden boards. Arctic Foam is starting to use algae-based polyol instead of the oil-based product. The 100% agave board demonstrates that an all-natural board is possible.
What's the single biggest obstacle in converting surfers to sustainable boards?
All-natural surfboards take longer to make and have a higher price point. The materials are not always as light weight, which means they aren't as high performance as a fiberglass surfboard. As the industry moves in a more sustainable direction, there will be more opportunity for people to purchase all-natural boards.
Did you make this board with Jose Cuervo as a one-time project to raise awareness or do you have a larger plan going forward?
This board is part of an ongoing process to uncover some of multiple uses of the agave plant. The things we learn from trying to build a waterproof, light surfboard have already translated to other projects and will continue in that line.
Nate Storey is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.