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Making waves: Jon Curtis `23 sculpts his own surfboards

“He pulled out this big piece of foam, and he was like, ‘No one’s using this, maybe you could turn it into some surfboards,’” Jon Curtis `23 recalled from the conversation he had with Associate Professor of Art Bradley Borthwick in the beginning stages of his surfboard building project. 

Curtis took a sculpture class in his first year. In this project, he used XPS foam to make surfboards. 

“I’ve always wanted to make my own boards. That’s always been a dream of mine, especially making more eco-friendly surfboards because the surfboard industry is very wasteful at the moment. A lot of boards are pretty disposable and if they break, you buy a new one,” Curtis said. 

“I thought it would be cool to learn the process that goes into making one and try and figure out some new ways to do it.”

Inspired by his friend who made his own boards out of wood, Curtis played with different materials, settling on a dense foam to use as the base. Starting with a block of foam, he then used basswood that was milled down into a stringer, the wood that is wrenched into the middle of the board giving it an overall curve. 

“Most wood boards are heavier. There are some characteristics like how the board flexes and changes shape that are dependent on the material. There’s aesthetics, how they float [and] how weight is distributed,” Curtis explained.  

Within his work, Curtis made it a priority to explore different alternative materials to make the boards more sustainable. Instead of laminating the board with fiberglass, he wrapped it in a hybrid basalt and hemp cloth weave before using a marine grade epoxy to adhere this cloth to the foam so that it could harden and take the form of a surfboard. 

“This project became a way of turning recycled and more sustainable materials into boards,” Curtis said. 

In between classes, Curtis has made time to work on his project. The sculpting lab has been a place to reflect as well as an outlet outside of his academic work. 

“Over JanPlan, it was really important to me to have a space to reflect on the things happening in my life. This studio is an important place for me to do that because it is a really meditative process,” Curtis said. 

Through the process of sculpting two boards, one taking three months and the other about four weeks, Curtis got to make something for himself and learn valuable skills to apply to his life outside of this project. He also shared insight into the process of starting and maintaining work on a creative project.  

“[I learned to] be so patient just with everything and being super mindful, because when I would rush, I would mess something up. Slowing down and really thinking about what you are doing helps a lot,” Curtis said. 

“Reach out to people doing similar things, ask for feedback and advice, and don’t burn yourself out.”


~ Annie Goldstein ’26

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