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The snow may have been causing havoc outside, but it’s the white stuff inside that’s more of an issue for Clare Howdle, as her vanity project enters the final stages…

I never really thought about how much dust one surfboard creates. I suppose I’d never needed to. But standing here in Seed’s workshop, watching as the final resin lap of my little vanity project gets sanded down, I am amazed at how much of the stuff is flying around. It’s everywhere. Coating the surfaces, the posters, the floor, me, Mikey –there’s no escape from the continuous flurry of microscopic powder that’s pluming from the board’s surface.

“It’s funny,” Mikey talks as he sands vigorously, “surfers have this reputation for being environmentally aware. I think a lot of us try our hardest to be green but then surfing itself is a pretty polluting activity, what with the boards, the wetsuits, the sunscreen, wax…”

It’s a frustrating truth. Stood here, brushing the white from my sleeves it’s hard to ignore the toxic edge to surfboard making. Mikey points out that in essence the process and materials haven’t changed much since the ‘70s when significant quanitities of foam boards started coming out of shaping rooms. Which means four decades of foam filled bin bags, vicious chemical resins, and snowdrift upon snowdrift of dust.

Of course, there’s guys like Tom Wegener and companies like Patagonia doing their best to lift the eco-credentials of the sport one paulownia board and merino-lined wetsuit at a time, but it’s still elitist; only for those with enough pounds in their pocket to go green. When it comes to the rest of us, for the time being it’s a case of trying to forget the bad stuff and focus on the good (while making sure we recycle properly, use the car less and buy Fairtrade to counterbalance our wave habit).

So to focus on the good for a moment, I can see that in amongst all this dust there’s a beautiful board almost ready to take flight. Since my last visit, Mikey’s managed to take her from a resin-dripping, crazy cloth covered wannabe, to a striking, bespoke piece of craftsmanship; so close to being surf ready I can almost see the saltwater rolling off her rails.

He continues to scour the resin leash loop into shape as we talk fin boxes, pinlines and other finishing touches – the excitement is back in his eyes after last time when solving the board’s challenges weighed heavy. He’s found the solutions, resolved any issues and come up trumps. I can see he’s pleased with the board; we both are.

The end is in sight and if what I see right now is anything to go by, I’d have to say it looks like it’s going to be a mighty pretty one.

Check out how we got here, with the earlier instalments of The Vanity Project, Part I, II and III

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