Having already plans to climb of Ijen volcano on the following days, we logically added a visit to his shape workshop, Vince Surf Boards, located in the city of Banyuwangi, at the foot of this mountain.
– Blaise: who are you, where are you from?
– Vincent: My name is Vincent Tierny, I’m 55 and coming from the North of France.
– BR: Since when do you live in Indonesia and why did you settle down in Banyuwangi / Java?
– VT: I came for the first time in Indonesia in 1978 as part of a student exchange, staying one year in a family, and then, concerning my settlement in Banyuwangi, it was because it reminded me my good old days in Bali ! (laughs).
– BR: What led you to making surfboards and when did you start ?
– VT: About twenty years ago I left the Thompson company and began to manufacture boats in Indonesia. Following the Asian crisis I unfortunately got bankrupt and switched to eco-tourism in a natural reserve in this country. I finally had to decide whether to stay there for a lifetime or leave to look for a new challenge. I eventually decided to go to Bali where I began to surf as there were no more fishes to catch in spearfishing (laughs), having sworn that I’d never make boats for customers anymore. But I thought I could build wooden surfboards, this I could allow it to myself (laughs), and I started in my garage. The Rip Curl brand saw them and expressed the wish to buy some for their shops. This is how I started in this market about ten years ago.
– VT: Yes, essentially, as well as Stand Up Paddles (SUP). Currently I am busy building my own catamaran boat to organize future boat trips for surfers.
– BR: What types of wood are you using and where do you source it?
– VT: I mainly use balsa that we grow ourselves in the area, on the slopes of the Bromo volcano. A tree is usable after 4 or 5 years. It’s very fast and convenient.
– BR: How many people do you employ?
– VT: It fluctuates between 8 and 20 people depending on orders. Several of our employees work under toll manufacturing contracts.
– BR: Do you consider that you are playing a social role in the area with your business ?
– VT: This is not my first goal, I stopped playing Don Quixote a long time ago (laughs) but I’m happy to offer my staff a better quality of life than the Indonesian standard, which also greatly motivates them.
– BR: How many surfboards do you produce per year?
– VT: We’re at about 150 but should be able to produce more because demand is high; it is also the reason for our move in Banyuwangi. We aim to stabilize around 300 pieces a year.
– VT: First we offer them the models in our range, but we can respond to specific requests by manufacturing customized products.
– BR: In what way can you say that your boards are more ecological than others? Are they 100% « natural »?
– VT: Not 100%, the « fundamentalists » will say that there is still glue and resin, but we believe to have solved the problem at 98%. So please leave us a little time for the remaining 2% (laughs). They are environmentally friendly because the material is biodegradable. We do not use plastic or foam and, above all, they are sustainable. It is not a disposable product, they are supposed to be transmitted to children and grandchildren. I even happened to repair balsa boards that where older than 50 years !
– BR: Where do you export your products?
– VT: Almost everywhere, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Europe in general. We are currently working particularly on the development of Australian and Japanese markets.
– BR: Tell me a little about the Japanese market, which is usually very specific when it comes to skiing and snowboarding.
– VT: The Japanese are tough but love beautiful things and know how to recognize them. They are very sensitive to products made of wood and to details and finishes.
– BR: What’s your favorite model in your range?
– VT: Personally I surf a replica of a shape from Donald Takayama. A longboard 11.2 ! (laughs)
– BR: Thank you Vincent, for having answered my questions during this very informative visit.
Concerning the wood, Vincent is able to control the production of balsa from A to Z and works in self-sufficiency: he brings small balsa plants in pots to the farmers in the region of the Bromo volcano for free and guarantees to buy them 4 or 5 years later when they reach the size needed to be transformed into surfboards.
Furthermore, the company also produces its own wax (anti slip to apply on top of surfboards) from a very ingenious and innovative system and also provides customers with « blanks », the equivalent of a raw foam block for surfboards of conventional construction, which can
allow them to shape by themselves their own balsa board. Vince Surf Boards is to my knowledge the only wooden manufacturer worldwide to offer this extraordinary possibility in various sizes (mini simon-fish-short board-mini malibu-longboard-etc).
It was a real pleasure to meet Vincent and his staff. What a good feeling to find such a purist craftsman of sliding!!!!"
http://www.vince-surfboards.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/woodensurf?fref=ts