Surfing can be an environmental conundrum. It's a lifestyle that teaches us to love the planet and the environment, yet the surfboards we ride are made from toxic materials.
What happens to broken surfboards? Most end up in landfills where they are destined to remain for eternity, never biodegrading. But a lucky few end up in the hands of Ed Lewis and his partner, Kipp Denslow, to be recycled into a handplane made for body surfing.
Lewis and Denslow met in 2009 when they were stay-at-home dads in North County. Denslow was a garage surfboard shaper and Lewis was a very curious neighbor, and they soon struck up a friendship and discussed all things surf-related.
One day a friend stopped by their garage-turned-surf hangout and showed the two something called a handplane. Their friend was really excited and claimed that his discovery made for the most fun he had body surfing in years.
The small wooden board they saw that day struck a chord, and soon they built one in Denslow's garage out of foam and fiberglass. That's when the idea to start a business clicked.
They loved the idea of using old broken boards to make the handplanes, so that became the direction the partners wanted to pursue. Both were longtime eco-surf advocates, and the progression into starting an environmentally friendly body surfing company was the perfect fit for pair.
Once they made their first few handplanes, orders started flowing in. There was an underground body surfing movement happening at the time, and shops like Patagonia in Cardiff jumped at the opportunity to support a local eco-friendly brand.
What is it?
A handplane is a piece of foam or wood that's shaped into a small board that helps the body surfer plane over the surface of the water with more speed. The original handplanes were food trays and sandals.
Where to find them
Address: 2185 San Elijo Ave., Cardiff
Mitch's Surf Shop
Address: 631 Pearl St., La Jolla
Phone: (858) 459-5933
Mitch's Surf Shop
Address: 363 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach
Phone: (858) 481-1354
Address: 974 N. Coast Hwy 101, Leucadia
Phone: (760) 452-7687
Lewis and Denslow decided to call their project Enjoy Handplanes, and even more shops came calling. That early success led Lewis and Denslow to pursue their business full time.
I asked Lewis what made their brand stand out in the marketplace against competitors: "I think our main difference in general is our creativity in the materials we use and the focus on the environment," he said. "We are really intentional about what we use to make our products and how we deal with our own waste while focusing on removing waste from the environment. "
Despite the business's rapid growth, Lewis said they've been able to maintain their commitment to using salvaged surfboards.
"At first it was individuals who found out about us and they would go out of their way to give us their old boards," Lewis said. "I'm a big believer that when you intend to do something good, the universe shows up with all the abundance you need to do that work."
It's that kind of positive energy, paired with a great product and a high caliber business ethic, that has made Enjoy Handplanes wildly popular on coasts around the globe.
Learn more about the handplanes at enjoyhandplanes.com.
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him thoughts about the surfing and fitness worlds to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.