Activist Spotlight: Meet Tom Wegener, Surfboard Shaper and Surfrider Ambassador
We are excited to introduce you to our next Surfrider Ambassador, Tom Wegener! Tom has been making and shaping surfboards for 12 years now.
What are your major accomplishments & career highlights?
The accomplishment I am most proud of is the invention of my green surfboard factory in 2002. I had found that paulownia wood was amazing for surfboards because it is light, easy to work, grown on Australian plantations and does not absorb salt water. I decided to drop my manufacturing of foam and fibre glass boards and only make hollow paulownia wood boards. I had almost no waste with these boards and almost no toxic materials. The wood shavings and saw dust went into the gardens. It was nice to create a green surfboard paradigm and I am very honoured to see many hundreds of surfboard makers around the world using paulownia.
What will you do in 2017 to make a positive impact?
I have recently published a book, Surfboard Artisans For The Love, which explains how surf culture embraces innovation and new genres of surfing. It explores how surfers have a set of values at their core which understand the importance of surfing in their lives. It shapes their identity – and there is nothing more important than this. Money is something that comes as a secondary value and surfboard artisans often have a difficult time fitting into a modern business paradigm; however their worldview has created an amazingly resilient industry which has largely rebuffed the threads from globalization. I hope my book will help surfers understand their amazing surf culture.
What are 3 words your friends would use to describe you?
Persistence, persistence and persistence.
The most amazing place I've travelled to is…
I have twice been to the Tupira surf camp in remote Papua New Guinea, where I build wood surfboards with the locals. The elders of the community decided that the trickle of foam surfboards into their village was displacing their traditional wood surfboards. I went there to help them rekindle their value of their locally made surf craft as well as pass on all that I had learned. They are now making some very innovative boards from the locally grown and abundant balsa wood.
Why do you love Surfrider?
I love how Surfrider weaves our love of surfing with our love of our environment. The two become our cultural fabric. It creates a worldview which highly values our environment and the enjoyment of surfing. The Surfrider meetings and activities bring us together to create and reinforce this bond. The beach clean ups and the local events are amazing, but I feel that Surfrider’s influence and strength will soon be tested as the business and governmental bodies seem to be focused on short term gains without considering long term consequences. For example, Surfrider will be influential in pushing for cleaner sewage treatment as coastal town bulge. I love how Surfrider fosters our values, worldview and identity. It passes on to the next generation an understanding of the importance of actively maintaining our beautiful surf environment.