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Kun_tiqi: sustainable surfboards made of balsa wood.

A turquoise Mercedes-Benz 508 D is parked on a road with the sea in the background

Durable, environmentally conscious and made with skilled workmanship: Stefan Weckert’s company, Kun_tiqi, manufactures wooden surfboards in northern Spain. With his 508 D, he is always searching for the perfect wave.

Planing, sanding, fine tuning: Craftsmanship for the environment.

Cantabria, northern Spain: The floor of Stefan’s workshop is covered in wooden filings and chips. He carefully examines the wooden surfboard lying on the workbench in front of him. Once he has finished shaping the board and created the grooves for the rails, he begins with the lamination process. Stefan gives the surfboard final polish. With his company, Kun_tiqi, he has adopted an environmentally friendly path: “Surfriders who care” is the motto that he has chosen. His philosophy: boards made of renewable and environmentally friendly materials.

  • Stefan surfing
  • A balsa wood surfboard with the Kun_tiqi logo
  • The 508 D parks in front of a backdrop of pine trees with the sea in the background
  • Stefan stands on the beach with his balsa wood surfboard under his arm

From a business administrator to founding an ecological surfboard label.

Stefan grew up in the Bavarian-Swabian town of Donauwörth. Surfing has always played a role in his life. He spent ten months as a windsurfing teacher in Fuerteventura. Then he studied business administration in northern Germany. He first discovered ecological surfboards during an internship in Ecuador. “The contact with Ecuadorian shapers gave me an opportunity to gain experience with shaping and laminating.” He used his thesis to write about marketing ecological wooden surfboards in Europe. “In Spain I was able to laminate my first surfboards at a surfboard workshop and simultaneously gain further experience. Shaping wooden surfboards was something that I learned by doing.”

Stefan working on a surfboard, seen through the open door of his workshop

According to Stefan, a good shaper is distinguished by a good sense of proportion and skilful hands.

Immersing in nature, in the truest sense of the word.

For Stefan, sustainability ecological responsibility and surfing are inseparable. Why? “Because surfers enjoy nature and can only live their passion for surfing if the oceans are intact.” He became aware of the issue during his internship in Ecuador. “I was looking for a surfboard so that I could spend the weekend at the coast, surfing. At this time, the largest surfboard factory in the USA had been closed by the Environmental Protection Agency.” As a consequence, there was no material for new boards in Ecuador. The market for used boards was cleaned out overnight. “For the first time, surfers, including me, became aware of just how toxic surfboards are.” The passionate surfer discovered the shapers, who have been manufacturing surfboards out of balsa wood since the 1960s. This type of wood grows there in vast quantities. “I was inspired the first time I tested a balsa surfboard. Then I had the idea of manufacturing ecological surfboards and marketing these in Europe.”

The unpredictability of surfing fascinates me: no wave is the same, no day is like another.
Stefan examines a wooden surfboard

By using renewable, biodegradable material, Kun_tiqi contributes to reducing the pollution of the world’s oceans.

Durable, natural and fair: Surfriders who care.

Balsa wood is the lightest form of wood and was already used for transport rafts in South America about one thousand years before the Inca Empire. This is also the origin of the name Kun_tiqi: The Sun King, Kun tiqsi Viracocha, is a legendary figure in South America. When his people had to leave the continent, they used rafts made of balsa wood to flee.

The balsa wood used by Kun_tiqi comes from a family-owned company on the coast of Ecuador. The main advantage: balsa wood grows rapidly. The trees reach a height of up to 10 m within 3 to 4 years. According to Stefan, surfing on wooden boards has other benefits: “They are manufactured without producing toxic waste and the boards are durable and robust. In addition, they are more stable when surfing because the wood absorbs the irregularities of the waves very well.”

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The art of shaping – four steps for a sustainable balsa wood surfboard:

  1. Plantation: Sowing the balsa seeds in a greenhouse in Ecuador. In three or four years the trees are large enough to be felled. Cutting them to blocks makes them easier to process.
  2. Producing the blanks: In the tropical climate, the blocks need two or three months to dry. The lightest are made into hollow blanks. After cutting they are glued together to form the sandwich.
  3. Shaping: In the next step, the blanks are shaped. First, the surface is planed until it is smooth. Then the board can be cut out and shaped with the planer. The final touches are made with a hand planer and sander.
  4. Laminating: The boards are laminated with organic resin. A UV catalyst is added to the linseed oil, which hardens the resin under ultraviolet light in the space of only a few minutes. Because the wood is already crack and pressure resistant, it only needs one layer of fibreglass. Last of all, two more layers of organic resin ensure the stability and durability of the board.

Persistence pays off.

Stefan faced a number of hurdles before his label became successfully established. Searching for a workshop was no easy task. “I rode from yard to yard and asked them all.” Stefan’s tactic: never give up. His persistence ultimately paid off. In the beginning he had to work a second job to keep his business afloat. Especially during the off-season. “That was incredibly hard work. Especially while building up Kun_tiqi at the same time, which demanded a lot of time and energy.” Stefan often doubted whether he should continue because the finances were often difficult, and he faced the risk of going out of business for a number of years. “My belief that I had to do something against environmental pollution of polyester surfboards, the support from my girlfriend and, above all, the positive feedback from our customers was what kept me going.”

The logo of Kun_tiqi and the eco-surfing shop on the wall of a house with the 508 D in the background

Kun_tiqi would like to give every surfer the chance to make a contribution to the environment.

Stacked surfboards on a wall rack in the workshop

The production process takes five days – six times as long as conventional foam boards.

A wooden surfboard manually fastened onto a workbench

When working with balsa wood it is essential to ensure that it is only sanded and planed in the direction of the fibres.

A finished surfboard positioned horizontally in the middle of a workshop

Caution is essential when shaping the board to avoid sanding down to the hollow chambers.

Wooden surfboards in different sizes in the surf shop

The shapes from Kun_tiqi range from high performance short boards to classic nose riders.

The turquoise 508 D parked in front of a wooden fence on the coast

The spacious van is ideal for transporting surfboards.

The rear hatch of a 508 D with the Kun_tiqi logo

Stefan values the reliability and durability of his 508 D.

Stefan walks along the beach with a surfboard under his arm

For Stefan, surfing means feeling the power of nature.

Photos: Matthias Straub

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