Sergi is a surfer, shaper and founder of Flama Surf. Throughout his life wood, nature and sustainability have been a triad that has given meaning to almost everything he has done and does. Currently, he divides his time between two main objectives. The first, to continue improving his techniques and materials to develop more and better ways to produce surfboards. The second, to share his knowledge, giving talks, workshops and trainings so that more and more people begin to question the industry’s production methods and get involved in developing new ones that take care of the planet.
His great quest is to find new materials and new ways of producing that give back to the surf culture a real and deep commitment to nature.
I’ve been surfing since I was very young and I’ve always liked to make things myself. I came from woodworking. I was living in the mountains and making my own furniture and stuff. And I had always had the intention of making myself a surfboard.
On the one hand I knew how difficult it was to make a foam and fiber board in the traditional way and on the other hand I didn’t want to have to deal with all of those polluting and toxic chemicals that are necessary to make those boards. And so it was that one day I discovered there was a wood called paulownia, which is a water-resistant wood, very light, with mechanical properties that made it possible to think of making boards entirely out of wood without the need for laminates or resins.
When I finally managed to find this wood, I spent a whole year looking for a formula to be able to make boards. And so began my adventure with Flama. The first ones were hollow boards, a little heavier than a traditional board, which made it difficult for me to reach the majority of the market. That’s when I started to try a second technology to develop them and then a third and a fourth and even a fifth, always with the will to try to make things as sustainable as possible, trying to reach a target audience. So, I would say that the intention to make a more sustainable product was something that was already inside me.
Throughout this process, my own process of making boards, I have met a lot of people who have the same concern as I do, all of us trying to find solutions in a different way. So much so that we could say there is a small group of anonymous people that from their garages, some as a hobby and others professionally, are providing their alternatives. But the most beautiful, the most important and the most different thing is that all these people are willing to share their experiences and knowledge. They enjoy it, it makes them happy to share their processes and their ideas. So much so, that a few years ago the Wooden Surf Day was held in Australia, a meeting between lovers of wooden boards. Over time it has evolved and now not only involves wood boards but sustainable boards.
I was invited to Australia to participate in some events and to give a talk about my boards and then I started to do these events. We did three in Cantabria, Spain and people came from all over Europe. It was incredible. People came from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, all with their own ideas, with their different alternatives. We gathered more than 80 boards on the beach. And for a day we dedicated ourselves to sharing experiences. That is one of the motivations that led me to take this next step with Flama Circular. Because it is this shared knowledge that I see that can make us evolve. And if this inspires other sectors, so much the better.
In recent years, the surfing community has realized that surfing is a full contact sport with nature and surfers are seen almost as environmentalists but this has not been true for many years. Because all the material we use to practice our sport are petroleum-based products, they are toxic, polluting and hardly recyclable. That is to say that everything that surrounds the sport has absolutely nothing to do with sustainability.
For the last 60 or 70 years, the boards were no longer made of wood and were instead made with petroleum-based materials. The neoprene suits were also made from petroleum and it ended up that very little in surfing was sustainable. That is why during the last few years the need to introduce changes has become more and more visible. The barrier we now have is to raise awareness, people need to become aware of this problem and begin to discover that there are alternatives. Luckily there are many people dedicated to finding solutions. Not only in the world of boards, where I am, but also in the field of clothing, wetsuits, shoes, swimsuits and sunscreens.
Now the barrier we have to overcome is once we are aware of this and once we know that there are alternatives, we have to spread the word about them. Tell them that the alternatives are there, that they are viable, that they are feasible and economical. That they are a reality and we have an industry that we have to fight against. The industry that has always done it the same way, an industry that is barely making any changes.
I have a lot of projects on the table. Right now, I am developing an idea for surf board schools. We have schools scattered all over the world that have grown like mushrooms and are using boards made from materials that are either unrecoverable or very difficult to recover. I am trying to find a way to make surf boards from other leftover boards to make a closed circle. I am trying to find a way to make boards from these leftovers that at the end of their life cycle will be recoverable again. I am also collaborating with the NGO Vanderful, which is carrying out projects in Mozambique and Angola. What I am doing is accompanying them for the birth of surfing that is happening there. In fact, surfing is spreading all over the world. In Africa they are getting the boards from where ever they can, some come from Europe and others are boards that tourists have left behind. And our intention is to collaborate with this NGO and start teaching them how to make them with the materials they have available and to make African boards. We want them to be able to make them themselves, to be autonomous and not depend on this polluting industry that still prevails in Europe, the United States and all over the world.
There are many projects and the idea of Flama Círcular is to create a space in which, based on everyone’s collaboration, we can push any type of project that leads us to greater sustainability of our presence on the planet.