What’s So Good About Wood? Part I
One of the memories that stands out most for Nick Holden, former organiser of the World Belly Board Championships, is just how many of the hundreds of boards present each year had been passed down through multiple generations.
“You’d get chatting to people,” he explained, “and they’d say ‘Oh we didn’t even know we still had it, my sister just unearthed it from the attic. It was our dad’s and he got it off his dad.’ And I’d say, ‘Wow, so that’s got to be from the ‘50s!’ And they’d say, ‘Oh yeh, it’s from the ‘50s!”
Contrast this with the mountains of polystyrene bodyboards that fill beach car park bins across the country on every summer’s day and it’s easy to see at a glance why we think that wood really is that good.
Image via Ocean Recovery Project
However, to look a little deeper at the life cycle of our favourite raw material reveals benefits for people and planet along every step of the way, starting from the day each tree begins its life as a little sapling, right up to the moment it becomes one of our boards. Here, we’re going to take you through that process from start to finish.
Where does our wood come from?
Currently, all of our boards are made from Baltic Birch plywood, sourced from sustainably managed forests across Latvia, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania by a company called Latvijas Finieris.
We chose them because of their longstanding dedication to quality and environmental principles, which are independently certified by the world’s leading (and most snappily named) sustainable forest management schemes; the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.) These labels equate to rigorous standards, which cover everything from preserving biodiversity to upholding workers’ rights. Plus, the quality of the plywood is far superior to many of the other brands we tried.
Latvijas Finieris is also committed to continually investing in new technologies that reduce their impact on the environment. Most recently, they developed a renewable bio-adhesive for use in a new, even more eco plywood, which we’ve been testing rigorously over the last few months and plan to incorporate into our rage by the end of 2022.
When it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change, scientists agree that preserving existing forests is critical. Sustainable management seeks to do just that, planting trees at the same rate they are felled, to ensure the forest never shrinks.
While carbon sequestration is the forest’s most publicised superpower – and one we’ll explore in more depth a little later – it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. They also purify the air, protect against erosion, filter our water, create habitats for plants and animals and provide the opportunity for safe and secure jobs for rural communities.
Although it may seem paradoxical, many conservation experts believe that purchasing products made from sustainably sourced wood is the best way to secure the future of the world’s forests, as Kathy Abusow, President & CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, explains:
“Supporting well-managed forests means they will continue to be perceived as having value, which means they are more likely to remain as forests and not suffer from deforestation.”
By choosing products with an FSC, PEFC or SFI certification, you’re sending a message about how you want your woodland to be managed and ensuring it continues to thrive for years to come.
Why Birch Plywood?
Birch is a fast-growing tree native to Northern Europe. The trunks are harvested, softened and then cut into thin sheets using a sort of giant pencil sharpener. These veneers are then stacked on top of each other at right angles, compressed and glued, making the final sheets both flexible and super strong (pound for pound, plywood is stronger than steel in static bending strength!) Of course, this is perfect for our purposes, allowing us to make boards that mould to the curve of the wave while being ridden, but are almost unsnappable – and therefore likely to last a lifetime or more.
Overall, ply production creates far less wood wastage when compared with traditional lumber practices, as every part of the trunk is utilised. Plus, according to Latvijas Finieris all the loose bits, sawdust and shavings left behind during cutting are recovered for use in other products or recycled to create heat.
In What's So Good About Wood? Part II, we'll look at the carbon footprint of a Dick Pearce bellyboard versus others on the market and run you through what happens when the wood arrives at our workshop. Read it here.