In a past life, the tiny bottle caps, wine corks and lobster buoys would have been tossed out in the trash, wasting away in a dump and forgotten about.
Now, they’ve taken on a new purpose — becoming “upcycled” surfboards to ride the ocean waves.
The fifth annual Vissla + Surfrider Creators & Innovators Upcycle Contest, Friday, Oct. 18 at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, brought out designs by board builders from around the globe who found innovative ways to resurrect the material.
“In the large scheme of things, we’re all doing our part to be the best we can be in regards to environmental issues,” said Eric Mehlberg, Vissla marketing manager. “This is just another opportunity to show ways to be creative with reusable resources we have. We want to just give people the opportunity and power to do something that is relatable to them.”
Mehlberg said the first year the surf brand held the contest, it was unclear what kind of participation it would get.
“Right after the first year, we knew we got people’s attention and knew it was something we wanted to move forward with,” he said. “We’ve had entries from all around the world. … It’s engaging a community who wants to make an impact, as well as express their creativity.”
Many of the board makers used debris that is problematic in their parts of the world.
This year’s winner, Korey Nolan, used 47 salvaged New England lobster buoys he found washed up on his coastline in New Hampshire. He also used recycled shipping crate lumber and scrapped aluminum.
Ronald Higgens took second place with a board he built out of reclaimed wood from a 200-year-old house that had fallen near his home in Spain.
The third-place finisher, Yoshinari Noda from Japan, used 100-year-old miso barrels.
Each year, Vissla staff go through hundreds of submissions before picking the 15 or so finalists to be on display at The Ecology Center.
A few creations from California were on display, including one by El Segundo surfer Grayson Daley, who used parts of a broken longboard with a colorful array of 450 bottle caps dotting the board, along with recycled fiberglass. The board’s fins were made from a broken skateboard. And surfboard creator Ryan Devincenzi Melander, from Northern California, used regional discarded items such as wine corks for his twin-fin board.
Another stand-out design came from Gabriele Botta, of Spain, who used 280 old kitchen sponges in his surfboard design.
Past surfboards have been made with items ranging from potato sacks to 10,000 cigarette butts to aluminum cans and coffee cups.