Swell idea: Wood-based surfboards win Down Under impact award


In Australia, Emile Theau has won the inaugural Generation Impact Incubator Award for his surfboard enterprise using fast-growing paulownia wood. 

Designed in partnership with environmental scientist Alastair Pilley, the boards are 95% biodegradable.  “Most wooden boards today still use foam and fiberglass with no sustainable advantage,” Theau tells GearJunkie. “It’s clear that we need an affordable, sustainable alternate; it’s been too long that sustainable alternatives come at a financial disadvantage.” 

Inspired by their love of the ocean and surfing, Theau and Pilley would go on to found Sine Surf in 2020 to manufacture and sell their boards.  Paulownia trees grow quickly and are light enough for watersports. The pair’s production process also keeps the boards’ price low, maximizing sales—as well as the carbon sequestration impact of their innovation.

The award is sponsored by Ocean Impact Organisation and HP Australia and provides Sine Surf with $40,000 to grow production.