The TAKK Interview: Korey Nolan, Dunkin’ Board

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TAKK’s newest Ambassador, Korey Nolan, is a board shaper from New Hampshire who created a surfboard out of 700 Dunkin’ Donuts disposable coffee cups to highlight the environmental problems of non-bio degradable Styrofoam. In this interview we ask Korey about the inspiration for the project, his day job and what’s coming next.

Even before the Dunkin’ board you were creating fins out of acrylic waste. What triggered the decision to create products out of waste?

Three years ago, I started a pursuit in designing and creating my own snowboards with an ecological consideration of materials. I saved off-cut bamboo and basalt fiber material thinking I could put it to good use eventually. After seeing some inspiration on lumber fins on Instagram, I decided to take a stab at creating a few of my own from snowboard waste. It was Vissla’s contest that ignited the desire in me to take it a step further. I first entered their contest in 2017 with a fin made from bamboo and acrylic scraps. When I saw the finalists’ epic entries to that year’s contest, I knew I had to step it up for the next year.

You also shaped the Dunkin’ board yourself - how would you describe your style?

I aspire to spend more time shaping. I am overwhelmed by the experimentation that is taking place in surfboard design these days and I want to really explore. People are taking materials options and construction methods to new levels, while some focus heavily on just new hull contours. My style for now is steeped heavily in trying to emulate what others have done, so I can better understand why it may work or not work depending on the situation. I appreciate a type of surfing that is more dictated by style and the energy of the wave itself, allowing the board to work with the ocean and the surfer simultaneously.

Korey collected nearly 1000 cups from friends and family and used over 700 to make the Dunkin' Board

Korey shaped the board himself

Tell us about the Dunkin’ board’s dimensions and design.

I named the Dunkin’ board Yewwlatta: a combination of “Yeww!” and one of Dunkin’s frozen beverages, the coolatta. It’s a 5’9 1/2” Mini Simmons, with a hullish entry to a single concave out the back, and twin keel fins made of discarded drinking straws. I felt that the full and parallel outline of a Simmons alluded to the idea of a cup, it also packs a ton of volume into a small package. I knew volume would be my friend as I would be fighting buoyancy with epoxy used to hold the blank together, and mushy New England surf.

What was the inspiration for the board?

I love living in New England. During ski season, I can snowboard in the morning on a Sunday, and if the forecast and family life permits, surf in the evening after I get home. Dunkin’ Donuts is one of those ubiquitously New England things. There’s one at every intersection in nearly every state. Seeing their foam cups tumbling down the side of the road brought me the inspiration I needed for my next entry to Vissla’s contest. I started researching how much waste the chain produced, and was floored to learn that they sold 30 cups of coffee per second, meaning that I could potentially have the 700 cups needed to make a new board every 23.3 seconds.

We read that you are not making the boards to order, as that encourages the use of the waste, is that correct?

Absolutely. I believe that re-purposing materials that exist is a great thing, but if I were to start making blanks from cups for production, I too would be relying on something we should be more focused on eliminating from waste streams. Every single particle of EPS ever made is still out there somewhere. It hasn’t existed for long enough for us to even know when it breaks down.

Can you describe the process for other shapers in other countries who might want to highlight the issue?

​All you need is 700 foam cups, 3 gallons of glue, and 2 months of late nights and weekends! I used a compression molding method that I borrowed from my self-taught knowledge of snowboard making. I essentially pressed several layers of cup quadrants together in a mold that mirrored the rocker I was looking for in the final product. I also implemented a heat blanket I use in snowboard making to flash cure the epoxy in a shorter time. I pressed my blank in 2 halves, then glued it up along a stringer made from scrap bamboo I had from my snowboard builds. From that point it was essentially shaping and glassing the board as one would normally do, with a few anticipated hiccups along the way.

Korey used disposable plastic straws for the fins

The Dunkin’ is heavier than a normal board - how does it ride?

The board is around 15 lbs total, so nearly twice the weight of a traditionally constructed board. Even so, it paddles very nicely and the added weight smooths out the glide a bit when there’s chop on the face. I still have lots to learn about how it functions, and what it is capable of, I feel.

The Dunkin' board is about 15lbs heavier than an average board but handles well in the water

As much as we want to convert everyone to more eco-conscious ways of living, it’s clear that people don’t change until they are ready. If you could ask everyone to change one habit today, what would that be?

Eat less animals. Consider the origin of your meal, from the creature’s life taken to the ecological impact of harvesting it.

The surf community is ahead of the curve in terms of environmental awareness. Do you agree with this statement and, if so, are there any initiatives you think our readers should know about?

I still consider myself sort of an outsider in terms of the surf community, based on being in New Hampshire’s small community, and level of experience. However, looking at the community from my vantage, there are few sports in the world that rely so heavily on nature for it to be truly enjoyed. Shapers and surfers have taken great strides to improve equipment to further enjoy surfing, and sometimes that comes at the expense of environmental consideration. Most boards labeled as “eco” start with an EPS core. The very same material the Dunkin’ board is comprised of, and the very same material countless governments are striving to ban in single-use form. This brings the term “greenwashing” into the surf community very quickly. It’s a common marketing term used to sell things like “no added hormones” in milk and recyclable symbols on plastic bags that no one in your state will recycle.

Last but not least, please tell us about your exciting new project….

Shortly after I finished the Dunkin’ board, my daughter and I were at a cleanup at a local beach just after a decent storm. We had a five gallon bucket that we nearly filled within 20 minutes. As I was collecting, I began to notice that a majority of what we found was debris from fishing gear. Particularly, lobstering gear. We found bits of line, plastic coatings from metal traps, claw bands, bait bags, and most importantly, buoys. This was the fodder I needed to begin planning my next build and how it could be used to shed light on a major waste issue often overlooked. Lobstering is extremely important to New England’s economy and culture, so I wanted to be sure I wasn’t overreacting about what we found on the beach that day. I began to research how many lobster pots were in the ocean, and if there were any reports on what were lost. What I found was shocking, and I knew I had to pursue this build. Maine fishermen lose 30,000 lobster pot rigs every year. That includes, pots, bait, line, weights, buoys, and anything that crawls in the trap. Many of these buoys wash up on the shore and are collected as decorations, or turned into the Department of Marine Resources to be returned to the fishermen. I would imagine that the rest of the pot rig is lost to the sea, in most cases however.

I spent nearly 6 months total between collection and construction of what would become a surfboard made of 47 scavenged lobster buoys, salvaged lumber from crates, brightwork form my father in law’s old boat, mahogany decking scraps, and aluminum from a local brewery’s sign. It’s a 7’ pintail based off of a Donald Takayama scorpion, since lobsters are sort of like sea scorpions. It’s primary fin setup is as a quad I shaped to look like lobster claws made from mahogany and aluminum. I assembled it in a way that leaves the colorful surface of the buoys exposed, and the closed cell foam they’re made from allowed me to leave the board unglassed. It’s very much like a soft-top and it doesn’t even need wax.

I submitted the board to Vissla’s contest via Instagram in early September. Shortly after, they invited me and 17 others worldwide to bring our crafts to their finalists gala in California. I flew out with my board a few days earlier and had some great sessions on it in Cardiff and Carlsbad before the gala. The event is at a beautiful working farm called the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. The finalist’s boards are displayed in a repurposed shipping container turned art gallery for an evening. At the end of the night, Vissla’s judges announce the winning crafts, and very proudly, they announced mine as the champion this year. This contest inspires people to question convention and has changed my perspective on consumption through my own entries. I plan on entering again, but the right idea just hasn’t hit me yet.

Find out more about the Vissla contest here:

Some of the photographs in this post were taken by photographer Aaron McNulty and can be viewed at:

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