When you think of cleaning up the ocean, you might imagine large-scale beach gatherings where trash is picked up and removed, rather than reused. Santa Cruz based surfer Taylor Lane had a bigger idea in mind when he constructed “The Roach Tail” — a surfboard made from 10,000 cigarette butts collected from the California coastline. His creation brought to light an important environmental concern and earned him 1st place in the Vissla and Surfrider Creators & Innovators Upcycle Contest.
Taylor’s idea sprung from participation in a beach cleanup in Northern California, during which he realized cigarettes are the most common form of ocean pollution. After 200 hours of labor, many setbacks, and multiple failures, he successfully constructed The Roach Tail and entered his masterpiece into the Vissla Upcycle Contest, hosted by surfbrand Vissla and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.
“People see this board and they are visually drawn to it, it’s visually disgusting — but awesome in how gross it is,” Lane stated to the O.C. Register. “It just ties together surfing and something we care about — the environment, the ocean, and the health of the ocean.”
The contest challenges surfers to take waste and create something that can be used in the ocean, “converting waste into want.” Applicants create their projects over a three-month period and must document the process in photos or video. This year’s competition publicly recognized 14 finalists at a gala held on October 20 at The Ecology Center, drawing a full house of guests who came to check out the projects.
The winners are deliberated based on detail, creativity, and level of “upcycled-ness”. The second-place award went to François Jaubert, who constructed a surfboard from a wood palette, recycled styrofoam, and smaller pieces of wood. The third-place award went to Shane Swindler who engineered a short board and a trailer to carry it from a discarded stand up paddle board perimeter, wood from a 1913 building, and reused aluminum golf cart wheels. While the top three contestants took home shopping spree prizes, all the entries were recognized for their passion in helping make the ocean a better place.
Plans for The Roach Tail don’t stop here. With the help of filmmaker Ben Judkins, Taylor Lane intends on creating an environmental surf documentary on the making of the board and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to highlight beach pollution from a new angle.