Korey Nolan's Vissla Upcycle Contest Entry

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Korey Nolan is a designer and maker from based in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. We caught up with him recently to learn about the Vissla Upcycle Contest and his process of fabricating a custom surfboard using recycled Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cups.

CVR: What’s your name/where are you from/who are you?

I am Korey Nolan, I currently live in Hampton Falls, NH, but I grew up in Plymouth, MA. I am a Graphic Designer by day, but my passion lies in the projects I conjure at home in my spare time. Be it creating snowboards, surfcraft, working on my home, etc. In broad terms, I'm a surfer and snowboarder looking for a more personal way to enjoy and intertwine both.

CVR: Can you give us a brief overview of the Vissla Upcycle contest?

This was the 4th year of the Vissla Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest, where they challenge people via Instagram to create want from waste for the purpose of enjoying surfing and raising awareness for the detriment of waste, pollution, and alternative means of construction.

CVR: What motivated you to build a surfboard out of recycled styrofoam cups?

This was my second time entering the contest. I was heavily inspired by Taylor Lane's cigarette core surfboard that he created and won with last year. I wanted to raise awareness to the overwhelming amount of waste, as well as embody something that defines New England. Dunkin' Donuts cups are not only prevalent and iconic, but an ideal source of flotation for a surfboard. We, as a society, are trained to accept the convenience of disposable products as they're whisked away to a landfill or processing facility out of site and mind. If I asked you to make a disposable single-use foam cup,you'd undoubtedly be confounded by the task, and bewildered by the willingness to toss it away. We need to work together toward cleaner, more renewable, and less disposable products for everything we use, not just coffee cups.

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CVR: How challenging was the process, compared to traditional board?

So far as I know, the process I developed has not been done, but it was inspired by the process of snowboard making by using a heated mold, and horizontally laminating quarters of the coffee cups into a large foam blank. That was technically challenging, but this was the first board I have shaped. I opted to approach the process as you would with a traditional foam blank, with a saw, planer, sureform, sandpaper, etc. Laminating and glassing on fins were also challenging, but with the help of YouTube, Instagram, and the expertise of Johnny Borbone, I was able to pull it off.

CVR: I’m sure everyone’s wondering, how does it ride?

This was the first Mini-Simmons, and by far the shortest board I've ridden. I'm still figuring out the trick to it, but it paddles fantastic, and handles incredibly smooth. I've had some phenomenal rides on it in anything from knee to chest high, and I've let a few people give it a go as well. I had to pry it away from a friend in California who was absolutely ripping it. It was his first experience on a mini-simmons as well, and it opened his eyes to a new world of board shapes. It's 15.4 pounds, so about double the weight of a board of similar size in traditional construction due to the amount of epoxy necessary to bind it together. I'd say this aspect of the board somehow works for it's geometry and adds to the momentum and fluidity of its performance.

CVR: What responsibility do you think surfers and athletes have in terms of environmental conservation?

I believe that environmental conservation and ecology are used as an effective marketing tactic, much like "cage free" eggs, where labels are used to promote the via a hollow conduit of ecology. There's endless ways to be environmentally conscious that are cheap, easy, and effective. Things we can do daily to make small changes that lead to big impact. Future generations of surfers, snowboarders, and humans in general are facing a grim truth of global warming that could prevent us from enjoying the activities we love and the ability to live a normal life. Environmental conservation is imperative for everyone.

CVR: Any future projects in mind that you’re excited about?

I have several projects that I've set in limbo to finish the Yewwlatta board for Vissla.

Winter is right around the corner, and I aim to dive back into snowboard building for my mega hobby, Primal Snowboards(@primalsnowboards). I have plans on perfecting an edgeless, baseless, bamboo and basalt model that I have high hopes for. It's a culmination of concepts inspired by Powder Jet and early Spring Break boards that borrow construction methods from skateboards, surfboards, and snowboards.

I also have a Wegener Bluegill inspired alaia project I need to wrap up using an old urethane foam sign from my job at a sign shop, as well as several fin collaborative works with various people I've met via the magic of Instagram. There are naysayers out there that frown on what Instagram and social media have done to surf culture, but without it, I'd have had far fewer opportunities to engage with people worldwide. It's incredibly effective to spread inspiration and knowledge between creative and determined individuals looking to leave a mark somewhere.

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Giles Van Gruisen