Tucked away in a boat yard near Falmouth in Cornwall amongst fish sellers and a second hand boat business that seams to almost be tidal with the ebb and flow of all sorts of boats and nautical hard wear, is where you will find Glass Tiger.
Glass Tiger make wooden hybrid surfboards, Mark Roberts is the shaper and designer and owner of this unique brand.
Mark landed on the Cornish shore is earnest in 1998 after finishing 3D design at Newcastle college and quickly found work and a sense of belonging in Cornwalls many boat yards.
He took on a small unit at Islington boat yard and started shaping.
‘At first, I just wanted to shape – that was the important bit. Just shaping some simple uncomplicated boards that worked for me and my friends was all that mattered’, Mark says.
‘I was just using the usual materials, polyester resin and polyurethane foam because this is what I could get hold of and were also the materials I’d use every day on the boats, so I was used to working with them, all be it on a different scale.
About 5 years ago I started to take an interest in different construction methods for 2 reasons, the first was to construct a better more durable surfboard and the other was to use more sustainable materials.
A big influence at this time was Burt from Sunover surfboards who has been at the fore front of developing the sandwich construction surfboard with parabolic rails.
His ideas have really bought this construction method to the mainstream with the likes of FireWire, using his concept to mass produce boards.
My method of production is not a million miles from how Burt and now many other company’s produce their boards, but the direction I have taken Glass Tiger now produces boards that are very unique.
Its long been an ambition of mine to make boards that are externally unglassed. Just the idea of an unglassed surfboard makes most surfers shiver and understandably so, because since the advent of foam, glass has been its siamese twin.
But by using wood over foam it gives me options, two options in-fact.
The first is to glass the blank with eco resin, and then bond the veneer and rail planks to this, then to simply seal the wood with an oil based marine varnish, and the second is to bond the wood veneers and rail planks to the blank directly and then, do a light epoxy glass finish.
Both methods produce an unbelievably strong board, with a great strength to weight ratio.
Both boards are glassed, one internally the other externally.
The difference between the two boards is the finish. The oil varnish board is designed to be easily maintained. Small scratches and dings are simply fixed with varnish or oil based flexible filler, while bigger dings are fixed in a more usual way.
The board with the external epoxy glass is designed to be as durable and as maintenance free as any surf board could be. Epoxy over hard wood is an almost bullet proof combination, while still maintaining a light responsive board.
The woods I use are typically mahogany for the skins of the board on lighter models and denser woods such as walnut of cherry on many of the long boards.
The rail material I currently use is a beautiful locally sourced sweet chestnut, which has a great strength to weight ratio, and a light creamy colour.
One of my favourite jobs is selecting the timber, for the rail planks. I actually choose the log and have it sliced right there for me, before taking it away to season on the roof of my container.
Each board takes about 40 – 50 working hours to make, while a part of this is because of the build method, a big part of this is also because I’m a custom board builder.’
Glass Tiger is as much an evolving project as much as a business, and I’ve met some great people along the way so far, Guys like Mikey, Phil and Rob from ‘Loose-fit’, Rob at ‘Shop on the beach’ and all the local shapers here in Cornwall such as Rob Lion, Steve Croft, and Tim Stafford, all charging a head with some really interesting shapes.
If I haven’t stressed it already, one thing that motivates more than anything is to make boards that are as environmentally sensitive as possible, I think that the surfboard industry as a whole needs to take a good look at its self and ask what can be done to lessen its impact on the environment, and take some positive steps to make change happen.
Make sure to visit Glass Tiger to check out their complete range of surfboards