Korey Nolan and the Dunkin Donuts surfboard

As citizens of a big city like Paris we are exposed to an unbearable amount of pollution on a daily basis. We are also conscious that all this crap in the streets isn’t totally normal and it gets worse when dumped into the oceans. With their Creators Contest, Vissla encourages people around the world to make any kind of floating object out of some stuff that would end otherwise end up in a landfill. Or in the oceans. Since surfboards are not really the most environmentally friendly objects, this is an excellent initiative.
I’ve been blown away by Korey Nolan’s entry to the contest, a surfboard made with 700 Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cups, and we exchanged a few texts earlier this week.

Here is our conversation :

Wrecked: Hi Korey, ready for a few questions?

Korey Nolan: Hey Aurélien! Absolutely, I’m at work now.

W: Where do you work?

KN: I’m a graphic designer at a sign shop. 

W: Now it makes sense. I understand where you got the sign you used to shape an alaia.

KN: Yes! That’s next for me to finish. It’s partially shaped. I cut the profile and cleaned off the paint with the router at work.

W: Nice!
So that would be your second selfshaped surfboard?

KN: Exactly. I’m modeling it off of a Bluegill by Jon Wegener.

W: What got you into the Dunkin Donuts surfboard?

KN: I entered the Creator’s Contest last year and made a fin out of waste materials from the sign shop, and though I didn’t make it as a finalist, I was hooked on the concept. I knew I needed to come up with something bigger with substantial meaning. Dunkin Donuts is a huge part of being from New England. The vast supply of foam cups littering the streets and filling our landfills was a perfect opportunity, I just needed to devise a plan to incorporate them into a shapable blank.

W: Did you collect used cups? How many drinks did you have to order? It must have taken a long time to collect. Did you have any help?

KN: I collected only used cups. None of them were ordered by myself, I took a vow to myself to stop using single-use cups as much as possible after starting to collect for this project. In November of 2017, I asked on Instagram and Facebook for my friends to collect any foam coffee cups they may acquire and set them aside for me. I specifically requested that they not make order more for the sake of this project. They did not know it was for eventually building a surfboard with. Shockingly, most of the cups came from less than 5 people, and I collected 1,100 by June.
Note: I definitely still drank my fair share of coffee over the past year, but now I travel with a reusable cup and steel straw.

W: Wow! Have you considered getting reusable cups for your friends who help this project?
Have you made any other changes in your life to be more environmentally conscious?

KN: I actually already have reusable cups for those who have helped me the most, I just haven’t yet gotten to give them to them. I try to be conscious about the things I use and the impact I impose on the environment. I want to leave this earth a better place for my daughter. I eat a plant based diet and try to opt for goods with less packaging. I also try to be more aware of where the things I buy come from. It’s not always possible, but a little research is worth it.

W: Can you talk us through the fabrication process of the Dunkin Donuts board?

KN: I started by cutting the sides of the cup into 4 pieces that look like French terracotta roof tiles. I then began to play with layup patterns and glue options until discovering that I’d need a 2 part epoxy that chemically cured, since the cups seal against each other so well. A simple Gorilla Glue or Elmer’s wouldn’t do the trick. I ended up using Entropy CPM compression epoxy, that is a great environmentally friendly option for snowboard building. It can be heat cured in under an hour, which is what I ended up doing with the help of a silicone heat blanket from my pneumatic snowboard press. To make this happen, I also needed to create a mold to use to compress the cups into a shapable blank. I used a waste piece of MDF from the sign shop, and CNC routed the 4’x8′ panel of wood into individual ribs for a 1’x6′ mold that would include the final rocker profile of the surfboard. I used this mold twice to create a left and right blank of foam to which I glued a snowboard waste bamboo stringer between. I spent a few days constructing the mold and preparing the materials needed to execute this step. I then tackled the most time consuming step of the build; hand laying the cups chunks into the mold and brushing each one with epoxy. I was able to lay down 4 layers of 70 cup chunks at once, then compress and heat the mold before the resin began to kick on its own. This was all only possible with the much appreciated assistance of my wife, Becky. It took a total of 10 pressings, 5 for each half of the blank. In the end I had a 2’x6’x3″ blank of foam and epoxy, with the correct rocker built into the layup. After this, I glued in my stringer, and began the shaping process. I did this in a fairly traditional manner; leveled the blank with a planer, traced my outline and cut it, then shaped it with a planer, sureform, sandpaper, etc.

W: Why did you chose to shape a Mini Simmons?

KN: I thought it kind of looked like a cup. Also, they paddle well and I needed something that would still work even though I’d be adding so much weight with epoxy. The cups are very buoyant, but epoxy is not.
Additionally, I’ve always wanted one.

W: It’s a good addition to a quiver.

KN: Absolutely.

W: How heavy is the board by the way?

KN: 15.4 lbs (6,9kg).

: I’m guessing you tried it by now. Does it work well? Is there anything that you would do differently if you were to do it again?

KN: It works great! I’ve had some awesome rides on it. It’s the shortest board I’ve really spent time with, so it had a bit of a learning curve. If I were to do it again, I would find a way to press it with my pneumatic snowboard press, to really get rid of excess epoxy and seal up some cavities I found while shaping. Otherwise, I am beyond satisfied with its success.
You’d never know it was so heavy once you’re on it in the water.

W: Are there any other shaping projects that you would like to take on in the future?

KN: Oh yes. I have the alaia to finish, but beyond that, I’ve been collecting pallet wood from work to eventually create a hollow 16 foot toothpick eventually. I also have a project that focuses on fins called Hydrophile that is in its infancy that I’ll be continuing to develop.
Actually building snowboards is what got me to this point in surfcraft, so I’ll be doing that as well. Primal snowboards is my “brand” but it’s still more of a super hobby right now.

W: Is there much crossover between building snowboards and shaping surfboards?

KN: Yes and no. Design wise, I take a lot of inspiration from surfcraft. My favorite snowboard is 2 layers of bamboo with a layer of basalt fiber laminated between them. I then wrapped the whole board with fiberglass and epoxy after shaping just like a surfboard. So, no plastic base or metal edges. I just rub on some hemp based snowboard wax and it works great! I tried to create a hybrid between snowboard, skateboard, and surfboard construction and I feel pretty confident in my methods and creations.

W: Have you made skateboards too?

KN: I haven’t made skateboards, but I used to paint blanks pretty often.

W: Cool! I look forward to seeing your future creations and wish you the best with the Creators Contest.
Have you entered any other contest by the way?

KN: Thanks Aurelien! Thank you for reaching out. I haven’t entered any other surfcraft contests, no, but I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for them in the future!

W: Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope your boss doesn’t mind you were texting for a while.

KN: Haha! I don’t think so! Thanks again.


Check out Korey’s Instagram to follow his salty adventures and creations : @koreytnolan
© all photos courtesy of Korey Nolan