From software to surfing
Transitioning between using his analytical and technical skills and surfing the waves of the New England coast is natural for Net Atlantic senior software engineer Mark Cruickshank.
He started surfing about 10 years ago, and it quickly became a passion. Now he has turned that passion into a side business, which – playing on his last name – he calls Crooked Blanks.
Love of surfing – and the environment – spark a business idea
Although they were originally made from wood, most surfboards today are made from polyurethane foam. This has been a cause for concern for Mark, who is eco-conscious by nature, because polyurethane foam is not recyclable. While foam boards are readily accessible, inexpensive, and lightweight, they dent and will fall apart after a few years of use. And professional surfers can go through 6 or more boards in a year. This adds up to an environmental problem that Mark is intent on solving.
“As a surfer, you’re working with the environment,” he said, “so you have a natural respect for nature.”
He wanted to use a surfboard that would not be harmful to the environment – or to the people who make them – but the cost of a wooden board was prohibitive, so he decided to make his own.
After trying his hand at it for a while, he found it challenging to get the quality of a professionally-made board on his own, so he started looking for a way to make eco-friendly boards that were shaped professionally. He soon discovered that what he wanted didn’t exist in the market, and Crooked Blanks was born.
What is a blank?
A blank closely resembles a final surfboard. It’s built based on customer specs for the final board, and shipped to a professional shaper for fine-tuning and finishing. Traditionally, blanks are made from foam, but Mark began crafting hollow-core blanks out of sustainable Paulownia wood, which takes only seven years to grow, and can grow back up to 10 times after it’s been cut down.
As a rule, wood boards have been very labor intensive to make. However, Mark figured out a way to cut down the labor and time involved, and now offers wood blanks that are as easy to shape as foam ones.
“Whether I’m using my hands or my analytical skills,” says Mark, “it’s all problem-solving.”
The benefits of a wood surfboard
Wooden boards can last a lifetime or longer – people can hand them down from one generation to the next – and of course they are kind to the environment. In keeping with his eco-friendly focus, Mark donates $5 for every board sold to the Boston Natural Areas Network.
What’s on the horizon
Although breaking into this specialized market has its challenges, Mark is confident that his business will continue to grow over time.
The majority of his orders have come in through word of mouth, and he’s gaining traction through his online marketing efforts. He plans to get the word out by attending trade shows and other events, as well as continuing to build his online following.