September 23, 2014

Pinguino Surfboards adds DIY to the Finnish surf scene

Pauli Hakala's (left) and Olli Juutila's goal is to reduce the ecological footprint of the making of a surfboard.
Pauli Hakala's (left) and Olli Juutila's goal is to reduce the ecological footprint of the making of a surfboard.
Pinguino Surfboards

Pinguino Surfboards is constantly on the hunt for ways of creating better surfboards in terms of quality, style and environment. The two-man project has grown into a stock company and its boards surf the waves of several seas around the world.

In Ericeira, Portugal travellers can soon grab a Finnish surfboard from the corner of a hostel and jump into the sea. The rent is not paid in traditional currency, but in the form of feedback: how could the board be improved?

The messages are carefully read in Tampere, Finland. Then Pauli Hakala and Olli Juutila figure out how to make a good surfboard even better. In addition to making unique surfboards the duo also organise workshops, where anyone can come and create a surfboard of their liking.

Initially Hakala started dreaming of making a surfboard just for himself. Together with his friend Juho Haimakainen the two lads ended up gathering so many materials that they had more than enough for sharing them with others. Pinguino Surfboards was registered in January 2013, and now custom-made surfboards are ordered by not only individual surfers, but also travel agencies.

The ownership is shared between five friends, but the main responsibility lays on the shoulders of Hakala and Juutila. Their enthusiasm to learn more increases board by board. One goal is to reduce the ecological footprint of the making of a surfboard. Hakala deems polystyrene, the material used for the core of the board, relatively eco-friendly, but using glass fibre for hardening the board less so. Replacing glass fibre with other types of fibre would make the board less toxic for both the maker and the sea.

Pinguinos have already tested flax fabric. Another alternative is hemp, but according to Hakala and Juutila it’s hard to get hold of in Finland. The core could be strengthened with wood, which is abundant in Pinguino’s homeland. The environmental effects of epoxy could be reduced by using its plant-based version, although it’s more expensive and less available.

The ultimate dream is to create a surfboard that’s so natural that it could, at least in theory, be eaten. There are surfboards that have been shaped from mycelium, the vegetative form of a fungus.

Experiences serve as a form of currency

Despite being a stock company, Pinguino Surfboards doesn’t look for profit; all owners are good friends with each other, and they make a living from things other than surfboards. Hence money doesn’t dictate their surfboard business, and smiles and shared moments count as a part of payment. Although a surfboard made in a workshop uses up at least the same amount of materials and double the time as one made to order, a d-i-y one costs the customers less.

The makers know the tricks for avoiding unpleasant encounters with the maritime wildlife: Using stripes in the design is a way of keeping the sharks away.

The makers know the tricks for avoiding unpleasant encounters with the maritime wildlife: Using stripes in the design is a way of keeping the sharks away.

Pinguino Surfboards / Good News from Finland

“Moneywise that’s utterly stupid, but we like seeing others learning and enjoying the process. We see the feeling we get out of this as profit, too,” Hakala points out.

When extra money comes in, it’s used for maintaining premises, developing products and organising events. Next Hakala is going to spend a couple of months in New Zealand testing some boards, and Juutila will stay behind and take care of the workshops. At some point Pinguino Surfboards will get its own space in a showroom in Helsinki.

Whilst travelling the world, Hakala has noticed Finn-surfers get plenty of help and friendly welcomes. They’re looking for partners for finding new materials and spreading the word.

“Finland isn’t famous for surfing, and as we’re not seen as competitors, people tend to be encouraging and helpful. A Finnish surfboard is somewhat exotic,” says Hakala.

In addition to exotic, Pinguino boards are also unique. Everyone can design their boards the way they want. One father wanted four pictures to be printed onto his surfboard, each drawn by one of his children. One of them drew a shark eating a surfer.

The makers know the tricks for avoiding unpleasant encounters with the maritime wildlife.

“In the eye of a shark, a human on a surfboard looks like a seal. Using stripes in the design is a way of keeping the sharks away.”

Pinguinos' ultimate dream is to create a surfboard that’s so natural that it could, at least in theory, be eaten.

Pinguinos’ ultimate dream is to create a surfboard that’s so natural that it could, at least in theory, be eaten.

Pinguino Surfboards / Good News from Finland

Text: Anne Salomäki

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