We’ve all heard about Surfing Santa, now maybe it will only be a matter of time before the man in red surfs his way into the southern most continent on a surfboard made of wool.
Wool will replace fibreglass in revolutionary new surfboards that will hit the Australian market next year, under the Firewire Surfboards brand ‘Woolight’.
The redefined art of making surfboards with the use of wool over fibreglass from start to finish came from New Zealand surfboard manufacturer, Paul Barron.
Mr Barron, from Tauranga in the country’s north Island, had the idea for his wool surfboards after he spilled resin on his woollen jersey.
His company, Barron Surfboards, then developed the technology with The New Zealand Merino Company.
"I had a jersey on, spilled some resin on it, and suddenly, light bulb moment, try wool,” Mr Barron said.
"At first it didn't work, but I spent two or three years perfecting it, and the rest is history.
"I wanted to make a New Zealand surfboard from start to finish."
He said the light bulb moment works because all surfboards need fibre for tensile strength, and a binding agent such as epoxy resin for hardness.
But why use fibreglass for strength, when there is plenty of fibre growing on the backs of New Zealand's 27 million sheep, thought Mr Barron.
“It’s an amazing fibre and performs just as good, if not better than fibreglass,” Mr Barron said.
Mr Barron's design was taken up by the Firewire Surfboards company, which manufactures surfboards near San Diego, California.
Chief executive Mark Price, said his company had long sought to reduce the environmental impact of its surfboards during manufacture.
Mr Price said the performance characteristics meet or exceed fibreglass.
"The weight of the board is comparable, the flex characteristics are comparable, the strength to weight ratio is comparable,” Mr Price said.
"But for me, when I paddle out and ride the waves with this natural fibre under my feet, I just feel a bit special and a bit more connected back to the natural world."
But Mr Price said it was the connections back to the farms where the sheep are run and wool is produced was extremely important.
“To see the passion in which farmers run their organisations and the way the sheep live and the way they are cared for, it gives us a connection of the raw supply chain which is often lost with the other raw materials we use,” he said.
Hadleigh Smith, Market Development Manager, The New Zealand Merino Company, said he is enthusiastic to what composite wool can do.
“Surfboards are only the tip of the iceberg – there are so many more opportunities,” Mr Smith said.
Running in wool
Merino wool is also being used in apparel more suited to drier ground.
Studies have shown wool can help us to move faster, more lightly and stay cool during peak performance so it is no wonder wool has become an ingredient in runner’s wardrobes worldwide, in the form of shoes.
Knitted wool sneakers by Adidas, Allbirds, Zegna, have taken the active world by storm, providing new levels of comfort and functionality by crafting them from Merino wool.
Milled in Italy, assembled in Korea, and adhering to strict ethical and sustainability standards, Allbirds runners are simple in design, free of logos and unnecessary details, and have been dubbed the most comfortable runners in the world.
The innovative running shoe taps in to the natural properties of wool, including natural elasticity, breathability and the all-important resistance to odour.
Adidas Senior Director of Running Apparel and Customisation Craig Vanderoef calls Ultra BOOST the greatest wool-made running shoe ever.
The state-of-the-art ARAMIS testing system was used to measure the movement and expansion of a runner’s foot and ensure Ultra BOOST provides a full adaptive running experience.
Italian luxury brand Ermenegildo Zegna’s best-selling sneaker is the Sprinter 300, a shoe made from its patented TechMerino fabric.
Zegna notes that the material ensures that the wearer’s feet never become too hot or cold, thanks to its breathability.