Kun_tiqi: sustainable surfboards in balsa wood.

Durable, environmentally responsible and made with great dexterity: in his company Kun_tiqi in northern Spain, Stefan Weckert makes wooden surfboards. With his 508 D, he's always on the lookout for the perfect wave.    

Handcrafted work which is kind on the environment.

Cantabria, northern Spain: the floor of Stefan's workshop is strewn with seemingly endless amounts of wood shavings. He carefully checks the wooden surfboard which is lying on the workbench in front of him. After the board has been shaped and the curvature of the rails has been created, the next step is laminating. Stefan gives the wave-rider its finishing touches. With his company, Kun_tiqi, he's opted to take the environmentally friendly route: "Surfriders who care" is the company's slogan which is emblazoned on their flags. His approach is to create boards from renewable and environmentally friendly raw materials.

From management expert to the founding of an ecological surfboard brand.

Stefan grew up in Donauwörth on the border between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in southern Germany. Despite this, surfing was part of his life from an early age: for example he already spent ten months working as a windsurfing instructor on Fuerteventura. Then he studied business administration in northern Germany. His first encounter with ecological surfboards came during a work placement in Ecuador. "My contact with the shapers in Ecuador allowed me to gain experience in shaping and laminating." He used his thesis in order to write about the marketing of ecological wooden surfboards in Europe. "Here in Spain, I was then able to laminate my first boards in a surfboard workshop as well as gaining other valuable experience at the same time. I learned how to shape wooden surfboards simply by 'learning by doing'."

Diving into nature – literally.

For Stefan, the topics of sustainability, ecological responsibility and surfing are inseparable. Why? "We surfers truly enjoy nature and we can only carry out our passion if the seas are undamaged." His awareness of this point was aroused during his work placement in Ecuador. "In order to surf on the coast at the weekends, I was looking for a surfboard. At the time, the biggest manufacturer of surfboards in the USA had been forced to close by the environmental authorities." As a result, there was no material in Ecuador for making new boards. Accordingly, the used board market was also cleared out in rapid succession. "It was also the first time that us surfers became aware of just how toxic the boards are." The passionate surfer met up with shapers who had been making surfboards since the 1960s from balsa wood – a type of wood which grows locally in huge quantities. "Since testing the first balsa wood surfboard, I was won over and then had the idea of manufacturing ecological surfboards and selling them on the European market."

The power of the waves.

"What fascinates me about surfing is its unpredictive nature: no two waves are the same, no day resembles another."

Durable, natural and fair: surfriders who care.

Balsa wood is the lightest type of wood and was already in use a thousand years before the Inca empire and was used for transport floats in South America. And that's also the reason behind the name Kun_tiqi: the sun king Kun tiqsi Viracocha is a historical figure in South America. As his tribe had to leave behind the continent, he used floats in balsa wood to flee. The balsa wood which Kun_tiqi uses comes from a family-run business from the coastal region of Ecuador. A major advantage is that balsa wood grows fast. Within three to four years, the plant can grow to a height of up to ten metres. The wave-riders in wood offer further advantages: "During manufacturing, there are no toxic substances produced and the boards are durable and robust. Plus, they offer more stability when surfing because the wood absorbs the unevenness of the waves especially well."

The art of shaping – in 4 steps to a sustainable balsa wood wave-rider:

  1.    Plantation: sowing of balsa seed in the greenhouse in Ecuador. After three to four years, the trees are big enough to fell. By cutting them into blocks, they can be worked on more easily.
  2.    Preparation of the blanks: in the tropical climate, the blocks need two to three months to dry. The lightest ones will be worked into a hollow blank. After cutting to size, crosspieces are used to form a sandwich which is then glued together. 
  3.    Shaping: the next step sees the shaper bring the blank into shape. As part of this, the surface is initially planed so that it is smooth. Then the board can be sawn to size and shaped with the plane. Finishing touches are made with the hand plane and sanding board.
  4.    Laminating: the boards are laminated with ecological resin. A UV-catalyst is added to the linseed oil which then allows the resin to be hardened within a few minutes using ultra-violet light. As the wood is already breakage and pressure resistant, a single layer of fibre-glass mat is sufficient. The final stage is the addition of two further layers of the ecological resin to ensure the stability and durability of the board. 

Perseverance pays.

Until his label became successfully established, Stefan had to overcome a number of hurdles. For example, the search for a suitable workshop was anything but easy. "I rode on my bicycle from yard to yard and simply asked around." Stefan's method: never give up. But his perseverance eventually paid. At first, he had to keep himself financially afloat with additional jobs on the side – especially outside of the summer season. "That was really tough. Especially with trying to establish Kun_tiqi at the same time – that cost a lot of time and energy." Stefan often toyed with the idea of stopping, because there were often times when his finances were tight and he feared for his existence for a number of years. "But my belief in the need to do something against pollution caused by polyester surfboards, as well as the support I got from my girlfriend and, above all, the positive feedback which came from my customers helped me to weather the storm."

Spacious right into the last corner.

The van is perfectly suited for transporting surfboards from A to B.    

Quality from the outset.

The balsa wood used comes from a family-run business in the coastal region of Ecuador.

Photos:

Matthias Straub

More links to discover:

Kun_tiqi Surfboards - @Facebook, @Instagram

The conversions shown were made by independent third-party providers. The providers and the conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The photos in no way serve as an evaluation by Mercedes-Benz of the provider and/or conversions in question.

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