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MEET RYAN HARRIS, A PIONEER IN THE ECO surfBOARD MOVEMENT

MEET RYAN HARRIS, A PIONEER IN THE ECO surfBOARD MOVEMENT

Ryan is the founder of Earth Technologies, the only zero-waste surfboard shaping facility of its kind. His passion for sustainability and surfing is truly inspiring to us, and we feel so lucky that we got to collaborate with him and create a one-of-a-kind surfboard incorporating one of our tie-dye designs. 

Hey Ryan! Can you tell us a little bit about you?

Sure! My name is Ryan Harris and I originally grew up in Portland, Oregon, which is probably one of the more sustainable cities in the US! And here I am, 20 years later, running the first eco-board/surf-board factory in the US and the planet. We’re the only zero-landfill manufacturing waste surfboard factory, and I get to create every day, so I’m stoked!

That’s amazing! Let’s go back to your roots. How did you get into surfing?


That’s amazing! Let’s go back to your roots. How did you get into surfing?

I got into surfing because my college roommate up in Oregon was a surfer, but growing up in Oregon there was little to no surf culture, because it’s big, it’s cold and it’s sharky. So I started doing it, but I wasn’t really serious about it until I moved down here. The first year I moved to California, I became a full-on surfer, and I also started shaping boards.

What made you start making surfboards?

I got into making surfboards because I’m big and I just started destroying my boards. You know when you’re bigger you go harder on your equipment, and I started breaking all of them, and it became a pretty expensive little habit, so I started doing my first repairs. 20 years ago, a buddy told me “Dude you’re decent at this—you should try shaping.” I’m creative, I was born artistic, I learned by myself and started shaping boards for friends at first as a hobby, then a full-time career.

I used to be an airbrush guy at a poly shop, I did all the airbrushes and pin-lines. I went to school, got an expensive-ass degree and used it, and got a job at Nike as a footwear designer. It’s a cool company, but I hated it. I didn’t have the creative freedom I wanted, and ultimately I moved down here! And now I get to surf every day, I am very blessed and fortunate that I get to do what I do for a living, I get to create and surf every day.

Surfing is legit part of my job.To understand and know how my different shapes work in the water, every time I surf I am product testing.

I got into making surfboards because I’m big and I just started destroying my boards. You know when you’re bigger you go harder on your equipment, and I started breaking all of them, and it became a pretty expensive little habit, so I started doing my first repairs. 20 years ago, a buddy told me “Dude you’re decent at this—you should try shaping.” I’m creative, I was born artistic, I learned by myself and started shaping boards for friends at first as a hobby, then a full-time career.

I used to be an airbrush guy at a poly shop, I did all the airbrushes and pin-lines. I went to school, got an expensive-ass degree and used it, and got a job at Nike as a footwear designer. It’s a cool company, but I hated it. I didn’t have the creative freedom I wanted, and ultimately I moved down here! And now I get to surf every day, I am very blessed and fortunate that I get to do what I do for a living, I get to create and surf every day.

Surfing is legit part of my job.To understand and know how my different shapes work in the water, every time I surf I am product testing.

What do you do with all the waste from your surfboards?

To understand Ryan’s passion for reducing waste and sustainability, we’ve got to tell you something. Most surfboards are extremely bad for the environment. They’re made from polyurethane foam, which is toxic and not recyclable, and they’re coated generously with toxic polyurethane resin.

One of the things you’re looking at is waste (picture above). Did you know that double the weight of the finished product is the amount of waste generated to create the board? So if your average surfboard weighs 6 pounds, 12 pounds of non-recyclable waste is going straight into the landfill.

So, I had that number, and I knew how many boards I was doing a year, so I just did some simple math and thought to myself “that is unacceptable for an eco-board company that’s trying to do better”. We can showcase sustainable materials all day long, but the angle is to reduce our waste as much as possible.

I invented a zero-waste system: everything in here goes through a high-intensity plastic shredder, and we up-cycle it. We use EPS (expanded polystyrene) for our boards, 100% recyclable, and bio-epoxy resin. So we became zero-landfill manufacturing and zero manufacturing waste! What’s cool is that when we track the boards and keep the waste from that board, and we up-cycle it into one-of-a-kind wax combs, coasters, and succulent planters.

Have you ever made a surfboard with fabric before?

We’ve done it with some really old stiff Hawaiian shirts or polyester. This is a stretchy fabric, it doesn’t move, so it’s easier to use. 

Now we are trying to reduce any wrinkles or folds so it lays flat. We don’t want any wrinkles or bubbles, because those can get sand, which is going to reveal the white foam behind it. 

How would you describe your relationship with the ocean?

I would be psycho without it probably. Saltwater therapy is a real thing, and I try to get in the water every day, and I absolutely love it. I am very fortunate to get to do what I love for a living. And part of that is educating people about sustainability, what not to buy and how to reduce our carbon footprint.That’s one of my missions. Making the surfboard industry more eco-friendly one board at a time, but also educating people about sustainability. Make our planet better for the next generation.

That’s amazing! Let’s go back to your roots. How did you get into surfing?

I got into surfing because my college roommate up in Oregon was a surfer, but growing up in Oregon there was little to no surf culture, because it’s big, it’s cold and it’s sharky. So I started doing it, but I wasn’t really serious about it until I moved down here. The first year I moved to California, I became a full-on surfer, and I also started shaping boards.

What do you do with all the waste from your surfboards?

To understand Ryan’s passion for reducing waste and sustainability, we’ve got to tell you something. Most surfboards are extremely bad for the environment. They’re made from polyurethane foam, which is toxic and not recyclable, and they’re coated generously with toxic polyurethane resin.

One of the things you’re looking at is waste (picture above). Did you know that double the weight of the finished product is the amount of waste generated to create the board? So if your average surfboard weighs 6 pounds, 12 pounds of non-recyclable waste is going straight into the landfill.

So, I had that number, and I knew how many boards I was doing a year, so I just did some simple math and thought to myself “that is unacceptable for an eco-board company that’s trying to do better”. We can showcase sustainable materials all day long, but the angle is to reduce our waste as much as possible.

I invented a zero-waste system: everything in here goes through a high-intensity plastic shredder, and we up-cycle it. We use EPS (expanded polystyrene) for our boards, 100% recyclable, and bio-epoxy resin. So we became zero-landfill manufacturing and zero manufacturing waste! What’s cool is that when we track the boards and keep the waste from that board, and we up-cycle it into one-of-a-kind wax combs, coasters, and succulent planters.

Yoga is sacred to me. I’m always trying to make enough space for my own daily yoga practice which I don’t show on social media, so that I can fully be present and surrender my ego. I feel like in this time and age we often forget the true principles of yoga and only see these mesmerizing poses, and the ego keeps feeding off of that. So right now, what I’m trying to do is coming back to reason why I started yoga in the first place, because it made me feel good and helped me to relax, and not to get into any advanced poses at all. 

How long does it take you to make one board?

That’s an interesting question because I don’t ever do one board at a time, we do batches. If it’s clear and simple, adding no color, it takes 2-3 days. The color boards and the more artsy boards take about a week. But usually 3-7 days. That’s also a lot of time spent with cure times. The board needs to dry completely before the next step. 

As a member of the black community who frames and shapes surfboards, how has that shaped your perspective?

I am a bit of a unique person in my space, there’s not a lot of surfboard manufacturers that look like me, so I do have a very unique perspective.

For me, is just important to live by example, let more people that look like me know “hey, do your thing, don’t perceive that there’s not that many of us doing this thing as a barrier,” and take it as an inspiration I guess.

How do you think that the surf community can support black surfers and artists?

Diversify, specifically what I mean by that is, listen, listen, listen to what we have to say. Big corporate brands bring on more diversity!

The BLM movement that happened last summer was a wake-up call, and a lot of people, black people that were maybe scared to share stories and talk, have started to talk and it is worth listening to those stories and learn. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Do some research, the educated consumer is a growing population, and it’s powerful. Let the brands you love know that they can do better, they can reduce their carbon footprint, there are better sustainable options out there, so seek them out and call them out! And if you see something, speak up! Because silence is complacency.

Thank you Ryan for your time! We love your work and admire your passion and endeavor to leave the world a better place. Check out Ryan's company, Earth Technologies here!

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