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A Surf Board Made from Dunkin' Cups? What?

Coffee Cup Collective is always excited when we find local people who care about the environment and coffee cups as much as we do! Korey Nolan is one of those people. Many of you may be familiar with him and his surfboard made from Styrofoam Dunkin’ cups. Korey embodies the mission of our company and many others working to educate and change the culture of waste, convenience, and single-use products.


His love for the environment and surfing was united when he decided to enter into contest called the Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest.


Last year, I was inspired by a contest called the Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest. It is a competition sparked by Vissla, a surfwear brand, asking via Instagram for people worldwide to create a form of surfcraft from waste. They typically post an inspirational clip about upcycling and ask people to participate by designing, building, then posting their creation with the hashtag #creatorscontest to be thrown in the collective hat of the competition.


I had entered in 2017 with a longboard fin made from scrap acrylic and bamboo, but did not make it as a finalist. In anticipation of the 2018 event, I began contemplating how I could really elevate my entry to something more impressive and unique. I began to envision something that represented New England, and driving around near home one day, inspiration blew by my car window in the form of a foam cup from Dunkin'.



It was apparent to me that this expanded polystyrene(EPS) foam material would be ideal for a surfboard, as EPS foam is a commonly used core blank material in a surfboard. I spent the next 10 months devising how I would create the board, and more importantly, how I would collect enough cups to incorporate into one complete surfboard.


Here’s where it gets nerdy: I was able to use my learned knowledge of snowboard crafting to build a heated compression mold that would allow me to adhere all of the cups together into the desired shape. I was also able to collect enough cups between my own searching and donations from friends and family to wind up with a collection of nearly 1,000. I ended up building a coffee cup surfboard blank using 700 cups and a piece of salvaged bamboo from

my snowboard builds. I shaped the blank into a style of surfboard called a mini-simmons. It's a 5' 9 1/2" board with twin fins that are made from used drinking straws and bio resin. I coated the board with fiberglass and the same bio resin, not unlike a more traditionally constructed surfboard.


Upon completing the board, I uploaded a video clip and some images to my Instagram account with the appropriate hashtag and was met with a wave of praise and support I could never have expected. It also landed me a spot as a finalist in Vissla's contest, which meant I needed to bring my board to California to participate in their finalist's gala in October of 2018.


My board took 2nd place and after the contest, my board and the other finalist's crafts were featured on Surfline, Surfer Magazine, local California newspapers, and more. It wasn't until March of 2019 that a writer for the Boston Globe reached out to me about an article.


I set out to build a board to insight a question of necessity. I ended up building something that represented New England, but also projected a message of a true problem of waste. I estimated that Dunkin' sells enough coffee for me to have enough material for a new board every twelve seconds or so. However, now they are phasing out their cups for a new, double-walled paper option that is waterproofed with a plastic membrane, rendering the cups unrecyclable by nearly all facilities. I never intended to create a manufacturing process for second-hand cups, I don't believe upcycling these sorts of materials is the long-term solution we should be seeking. These new paper cups undermine that as a possibility at this point as well.


Now, the board sits in my board rack among my other wavecraft. I take it out from time to time, and encourage others to have a go at it. It's fully functional, and a lot of fun. I've brought it to elementary schools to discuss single-use waste. I hope to continue to use it to inspire others and catch waves for many years to come.


I have since entered the contest again with a board made from mostly lobster buoys. This time, I was selected as a finalist and won! I hope this board can bring attention to another severe issue of plastic debris, because fishing gear accounts for nearly half of all ocean plastic. I feel this is an issue that must be discussed and resolved if we wish to bring resolution to the plastic crisis. If we choke out our oceans with plastics, reefs will die, and all other life will follow in a domino effect.


Korey is a super cool and inspirational guy who lives in Hampton Falls, NH with his two children and wife. Although currently in NH, Korey is originally from Plymouth, MA.


Besides making awesome surfboards, he is a Graphic Designer for a local sign shop. In his free time he is a craftsman of snowboards and surfboard fins in his garage, often the feature of his Instagram posts. The fins he produces are different then many other because they have a unique construction that hinges dominantly on environmental impact and questioning convention. He explained, “The best part of these pursuits is time spent using and testing them. I surf year round at home, and spend as much time snowboarding in the winter as possible with my wife and kids.”


Korey truly loves the environment whether he is snowboarding, surfing, or just enjoying the outdoors he knows it is all possible as a result of the Earth. He explained, “I am alive, and would like to remain alive as long as possible! Life as we know it is solely dependent on the health of our forests and especially oceans.”


Korey Nolan is an inspiration to everyone and we are very appreciative that he supports our company and our mission to make it sustainable and convenient to take your local coffee with you wherever you go.

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