Original article published 7 May, 2021
[5 minute read]
Remember the name. Mario Ferminio has created arguably the world's first 100% vegetable-based resin that can be used to laminate a modern surfboard. Mario has decades of experience in making surfboards and has recently spent three years developing his new wonder-resin.
When we crossed paths (albeit on the internet), this was too good an opportunity to miss, so we chatted with Mario to hear more about his background, his views on sustainability and of course, the vegetable resin.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and personal interests?
I was born in the city of Laguna Santa Catarina and today I live in Florianópolis. In 1985, I started shaping polyurethane blanks [PU], and then in the years from 1989 to 1991, I learned everything about epoxy in France. Upon returning to Brazil, I lived in Guarujá [São Paulo], because at the time it was the best surf city in Brazil. While there, I worked with the best professional surfers of that time, surfing with epoxy surfboards.
In 2005 I decided to return to Santa Catarina, where I built a factory which, in my opinion, was a world-first in surfing. We gave an ecological end to the waste of the surfboards and developed an ecologically-sound manufacturing process. In 2007 I decided to make an ecological manifesto during the world surfing championship in Hossegor, France. With all this going on, I witnessed a surfing market that was totally detached from my purpose and values, so in 2012 I stopped making epoxy surfboards. Between 1989 and 2012 I can say that I made more than 10,000 epoxy surfboards.
"I realize that professional surfers are the main opinion makers. What they think and use, the market accepts – and it is with their help that we can change the use of toxic resins to ecological ones."
How did you first create your 100% vegetable resin for surfboards? We respect that you might not want to reveal all your secrets...
In 2005, when the Clark Foam PU blank factory closed in California for environmental reasons, there was an article on the ‘Waves’ website, where I talked about my EPS epoxy process that was less harmful to the environment. So, I got a call from a person that was developing a natural resin, but it wasn’t a finished product. In 2012, when I stopped making epoxy boards, I invented a recycling process with wood, I managed to get a green patent. In 2017 I bought some of that [aforementioned] natural resin to apply on wood, but I saw a strong opportunity to laminate a surfboard. However, it took me three years to find the answers to the problems presented to me, including finding and testing the right materials, and then developing the appropriate mixture to stabilize it.
Are you hoping to introduce your resin to the wider, mainstream audience of surfboard manufacturers?
Yes, I hope so. I think this needs to be done in a way that does not get out of control, so we do not lose the quality of the product, as we are dealing with an ecological raw material. The best way to expand would be to set up laminating companies in every point of the world. This way, all shapers would have access to this technology, as it would be impossible to teach to everyone in the world because of the various processes.
Have you done any testing on your resin for performance, sun damage, etc?
In all my boards I have looked for perfection in understanding the materials well, and with vegetable resin it was no different. It was three years dedicated to finding answers to the problems that the vegetable resin presented me, until validating it for the market. I have already tested and proved that the resin has great resistance to the sun – and an amazing thing that I ensured, is that it performs in water just like a PU board.
What is your ideal dream scenario for your resin, and do you have a plan to achieve this?
As this is global, I think it would be perfect to start everything in the country of surf, Australia. I am open to the idea of starting a lamination company in that country and later expand to other countries.
Any final thoughts on surfing and sustainability, the future of surfing or any wise words that you'd like to share?
I realize that professional surfers are the main opinion makers, what they think and use, the market accepts – and it is with their help that we can change the use of toxic resins to ecological ones. Surfing as a sport is wonderful, but it needs to evolve a lot in its ecological awareness. I am happy to know that the first surfboard in the world made with 100% vegetable resin was made with my hands. Surfing is life, and our future will depend on actions like this.
Thank you, Mario, and keep up the inspirational work.