Things Of Foam And Wood: Polyola Blanks
Raising eyebrows in Europe is a new blank company called Polyola. The French company spent a few years in R&D and are now selling PU blanks with a difference.
For one, the polyol - one of two main ingredients in PU foam - is majority made from recycled materials, it also contains a wooden additive, and the chemical make up leads to a distinctive blank. Just don't call it yellow...
With their blanks coming onto the market, and new improvements - such as recycled isocyanate, which is the other ingredient in PU foam - being promised, Swellnet figured it was time to find out a bit more about Polyola.
We recently spoke to Aristide Schöndienst, one of the two surfers behind Polyola.
Swellnet: How long has the company been established?
Aristide: We legally founded the company in France in 2020. But the idea for Polyola was already born more than five years ago by two surfers who were frustrated about how toxic and polluting the surfboard manufacturing process is.
How do the blanks compare for, say, compression strength to normal PU blanks?
Our unique set of raw materials allows for a light yet very strong and flexible foam and we get super feedback from our team riders such as Miguel Blanco or Vincent Duvignac. The MDI component [MDI is the blowing agent] we use helps with the compression strength and makes for long-lasting foams that don't dent as easily as most other traditional blanks.
Is the yellow colouring due to MDI?
'Yellow' is a complicated word if you talk about blanks and surfboards in general, since most people associate an old board that turned yellow under the sun with it.
To be honest, we have not yet settled on a suitable colour name and are still wavering between 'sand' or 'cream' coloured and a few other alternatives. Suggestions are very welcome! But the natural colour of our blanks comes from the distinctive raw materials we use: our recycled polyol, the wooden additive and the MDI.
What materials are present in the blanks?
PU Blanks are made by mixing two liquids: a polyol and an isocyanate. The polyol we developed is made from approximately 85 % recycled material. The wooden component is an additive that creates a very homogenous density throughout the whole blank and a small cell structure. Together with the MDI it also increases the compression strenght and gives the board a long-lasting lively feel and flex pattern.
We chose these raw materials not only because of their environmental advantages but also because they give us many more advantages to creating high performance, long-lasting surfboard foam.
At the end, the chemistry behind it allows us to liquify our foam again and use as a resource for future blanks.
How have they been received in Europe?
We finished product development at the end of 2020 and started selling them in March 2021 in Europe. Throughout the development period we worked closely with many local shapers and surfers to develop a product for them and to their specifications. As our blanks are not only based on recycled material but also 100 % recyclable we established a new way of working with shapers and factories as we not only deliver them blanks but also take the offcuts from shaping our blanks back and therefore create a circular system. In other words, their shaping waste of Polyola blanks becomes our resource to create their future Polyola blanks.
We are experiencing great interest from and are looking into expanding to overseas in the close future.
Who have been the early adopters of the blanks?
Many have been instrumental and key to developing the blanks and spreading the word. One to mention is definitely Robin Kegel [Gato Heroi], who lives mostly in France and who was one of the first to embrace the colour difference and help us spread the word. He was super impressed with the quality of our blanks and as we didn't have any longboard blanks at the start we collaborated with him as the designer for our two longboard molds.
Also many big factories, in Europe and globally, have reached out and are testing our blanks and we are looking forward to many good things to come in the near future.