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I Surfed A Board Made From 10,000 Cigarettes

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I Surfed A Board Made From 10,000 Cigarettes

Last evening Vissla presented the finalists of its Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest, a summer-long competition wherein participants are pushed to design a functional, upcycled surf craft. For those who don’t shop at the farmers' market, upcycling is when rich white people go dumpster diving to find a trendy use for previously discarded items. It's basically cultural appropriation of the homeless but also a decidedly positive movement. Trash is treasure and so forth. 

Normally I couldn’t be fussed going alllll the way to San Juan Capistrano for some hippy dippy hookah fest. But as fate would have it my buddy Ben Judkins was in town, partially to help film the Holy Grail board test (coming soon!) and partially to attend the Vissla comp, as Ben’s video entry for his friend’s upcycled surfboard was one of the finalists in the event. 

The show featured crafts of all makes and models, from flyscreen single fins to cork-based headstones. The talk of the spirit circle, though, was a 5'4 twin-fin with a cigarette butt core. According to its creator, Taylor Lane, there were roughly 10,000 darts vacuum-sealed within the board’s construction. The filters were visible throughout the deck, bottom and fins of the board, even creating a dimply texture throughout the glassing and resin.

Named for the near-whole joint laminated into the board’s back third, Taylor’s Roach Tail is the product of 200+ hours of manual labor and likely tens of cases of lung cancer.

After the crowd had stuffed itself with grass-fed kale and kombucha, it was time for Vissla to announce the winners. As third and second accepted their goodie bags, whispers around the kumbaya grew louder. The cigarette board, said one of the eleven fortune tellers in attendance, the cigarette board will weeeeen…

“But there was one piece,” Paul Naude, Vissla’s founder and tonight’s chief elder, announced to the crowd, “that we simply couldn’t look past. It has such a basic yet poignant message, that for once the entire judging panel came to a consensus. The winner of the 2017 Vissla Creators Contest is… Taylor Lane with the Roach Tail!” 

Cheers, moon dances, and sacrificial offerings ensued. A red-haired man had done something great and that was more than enough reason to celebrate. 

After the award was accepted, Taylor, like any true champion, made time to kiss the hands and shake the babies. Toward the end of his victory lap I approached Taylor with an idea: Let me ride dart-butt vessel tomorrow, and I’ll write about it for Stab. A win-win. 

After a failed first attempt, Taylor tore apart his masterpiece and started nearly from scratch. Then finally, after 200 pain-staking hours, the Roach Tail was ready to shred.

The next day Taylor met me at a nearby reef and handed over the 17-pound (yep, you read that right) Roach Tail. I wondered how this board would be able to float, let alone surf. Taylor assured me I would not be left to drown like Jack Dawson, nor Jack Sparrow, and so I paddled out.

My first wave was humbling. Unable to coax the dart-butt vessel off the bottom, I instead caught a rail and flew over the lip. But little by little, wave by wave, I learned how to steer the ship (hint: slow and steady) and even completed a cutback or two. I was happy to discover that while it was nearly impossible to turn, the Roach Tail had incredible speed through flat sections. That credit is probably due to Steve Lis, whose 1970s twin-fins inspired Taylor’s design.  

So the board did work, if barely. I probably wouldn’t ride it for fun, but there is something to be said about the visceral appeal of Taylor’s artistry.

When I got out of the water, a guy stopped to ask me, “Did you make that?”

“No,” I said. “but my buddy did!”

“That’s amazing. Did all of those cigarettes come from the beach? How many are even in there?”

“Yes, sadly. I’m told it’s over 10,000.”

“Man, that is something.”

...Ain’t it, though?

The moral of the story is don’t flick your butts, people. Or else we’ll all be forced to ride 17-pound surfboards.


Click here to help fund Taylor and Ben's documentary on the Cigarette Surfboard.  

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