After more than three decades spent refining an eco-alternative to the traditional high performance surfboard, Mike Olson and Lib Tech have officially announced the release of their long-anticipated line of surfboards: Lib Tech Waterboards.
Lib Tech is highly regarded in the snowboard and skateboard industries for its environmental board building practices and original, artistic board designs, but the company's roots are actually in surfing. It is a little-known fact that Mike Olson, co-founder of Lib Tech, generated a large portion of the original funds he used to finance his early snowboard projects by shaping and selling surfboards in the Pacific Northwest in the late 70s and early 80s. Unhappy with the toxicity of the materials used to create surfboards, Olson set out to find alternatives.
Almost every component in the Waterboards, from the fins, fin boxes, (non-rusting) leash plugs, foam, fibers, resin and graphics, is an original design, with many of the components having only been dreamed into existence by Olson himself in the last two years.
If you were to get a ding that penetrated all the layers you wouldn't have to ever take [your board] out of the water...” -- Mike Olson
"If you were to get a ding that penetrated all the layers," says Olson, "you wouldn't have to ever take [your board] out of the water -- which I hate." This, Olson explains, is due in part to the unique layering technology utilized in making the boards.
Instead of fiberglass, Lib Tech uses something called Volcanic Organic Basalt Honeycomb Technology. Basalt is an organic fiber that is damp, impact resistant, and unlike traditional fiberglass, contains no boron and other harmful additives.
Unsatisfied by the limitations of epoxy and the toxicity of polyester, Olson came up with what he refers to as LVR43 High Rebound Matrix, a chemistry of his own design that has higher elongation, extreme ding resistance, and what he refers to as "responsive rebound." Rails are wrapped in rubberized metallic fibers called Elastomatrix Perimeter 2D2D Dampening Web, which give the boards a smooth, chatter-free ride. According to Olson, the Waterboards feel like a polyester board underfoot but have more durability than a Surftech.
Board cores made with materials that won't lose their pop and won't absorb water means less broken boards in landfills. Additionally, the foam core contains up to 50-percent recycled content, using ozone-friendly blowing agents, and 100-percent of the off-cut foam produced while shaping is recycled into new blanks.
The boards come in three shapes: a "fast, short, and wide, low rocker series with a speedy thumb tail and flipped stub nose" meant for slashing and blasting medium-sized waves called the "Ramp," an all around board called the "Bowl," with a "wide, speedy thumb tail, pulled-in nose ... and medium-low rocker," and a pulled nose, squared thumbtail, high performance board called the "Vert."
Each series features concave decks and ergonomic grab rails to aid in duck diving and the modern aerial pursuit. Fin boxes fit both Lib Tech's new M.I.L.F. fin system, and FCS fin systems.
The skepticism that often follows change is something Lib Tech is not unfamiliar with. People first scrutinized Lib Tech's snowboard designs, which have gone on to restructure the entire landscape of snowboard and ski composition. As to how he imagines the Waterboards will be received by the surf industry, Olson said he felt that with the current progressive state of surfing, people's willingness to experiment with high performance alternatives, as well as the general demand for eco-friendly products that it was a good time to introduce his radical new way of shaping.
The first order of Lib Tech Waterboards was hand delivered by Olson last week to Cleanline Surf Shop in Seaside, Oregon, where he first cut his teeth in the surf industry and developed much of his early disenchantment with polyester as a ding repairer. From there they will be available in select West Coast surf shops and online at libtechwaterboarding.com.