Where are Sanctum surfboards made
The shed in the garden of a three-party house in the Milbertshofen district of Munich resembles a small operating theater: the walls have a turquoise-green paint, in the middle there is an elongated work table, brightly lit. The face masks that Alexander and Sebastian Schwainberger wear in them also support this impression. But the protection does not serve the well-being of the patient. Rather, it is the two brothers who need to be protected here. Because making surfboards is pretty poisonous; also the sustainable and ecological variant that the siblings produce here in their garden shed on the outskirts of Munich.
"Shape-Room" is what Alexander and Sebastian Schwainberger, 28 and 31 years old, call this front, operating room-like part of the shed. Here is shaped, i.e. the basic shape of the later surfboard is formed by hand on the work table. The two brothers work on the so-called blanks with sandpaper and planes. These prototypes made of the plastics PU and EPS form the actual float. The dust is harmful to health. But that is the only part of the boards made in Milbertshofen that is also used in conventional surfboards. For everything else, the brothers have found their own, more environmentally friendly organic alternatives. Even the "blanks" are now made from recycled material. But: "It's still not healthy," says Alexander Schwainberger. The planing is dusty. Therefore the respiratory protection.
The 28-year-old goes into detail quickly, explains the materials, their properties and what results from them for their boards. His brother Sebastian Schwainberger, who is three years older than him, works as an employed architect in an office, Alexander Schwainberger is a CAD designer at a BMW supplier. But only for three days a week. Because the completely handmade surfboards, which you have been manufacturing and selling with Chris Jach for two years under the name "Wau-Eco-Boards", are selling better and better. Sebastian Schwainberger would also like to reduce his architect's working hours in the future. "Making surfboards is more fun," says Alexander Schwainberger.
But it's not all about fun. "Wau" stands for "World Around Us". Alexander and Sebastian Schwainberger have a claim that goes far beyond the mere hedonism of a fun sport. Conventional industrial surfboards are as environmentally harmful as many products of the globalized consumer society; both in terms of the manufacture and disposal of the materials as well as the production chain. "Most boards are made in Thailand or China," explains Alexander Schwainberger, "without breathing masks."
With their small workshop, however, the two brothers meet the criteria that are currently being mentioned again and again when it comes to how consumption can be made more ecologically compatible: regionally and sustainably. You can see that on the boards. Instead of all conceivable neon colors and eye-catching designs, all Wau boards look similar. The surface is made of brown bamboo, and instead of gleaming white glass fiber, they use sustainable dark brown flax fiber to hold them together. This results in surfboards with a wholegrain aesthetic.
The idea was born out of necessity
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important sales argument for brands too; especially in surfing, which is practiced in harmony with nature. Alexander and Sebastian Schwainberger are pioneers with their boards - at least in Munich they are the only ones who make such boards. For this they were honored by the "Sustainable Surf" organization based in the US state of California, which is committed to sustainable surfing and waste avoidance. Since then, the Wau surfboards have been officially listed there as eco boards.
As a market idea, it is still a little daring to manufacture such high-quality surfboards in Munich of all places. The price for one is between 500 and 700 euros, depending on the version. And of course: There is a veritable surfing scene here thanks to the Eisbach wave mentioned in every travel guide. But the offer in Munich (in addition to the two spots on the Eisbach, you can still surf in Thalkirchen and on an artificial wave in Taufkirchen) is modest compared to places on the French Atlantic coast or in Portugal. Where there are thousands of waves to be surfed in the sea. Where there is something like surf tourism.
"We don't want to become millionaires with the surfboards," says Sebastian Schwainberger, "just like in Munich," he says, laughs and taps his forehead. On the other hand, your small business is growing. They made 100 to 150 boards in two years, all on request. In addition, there is repair work that they offer for boards. "There was a jump this summer," says Alexander Schwainberger. But it is also clear to him that this will definitely be followed by a lull in winter. "Then the time comes to experiment."
Trying out is also necessary. This is how they develop the surfboards. With the specialist knowledge of materials and materials of Alexander Schwainberger and his brother's understanding of architecture. They thought up flat fiber instead of glass fiber and the bamboo reinforcement as well as additional reinforcement with basalt fiber. "This is equivalent to carbon fiber, but a natural and renewable raw material," explains Alexander Schwainberger. For river boards, i.e. those that the Munich Eisbach surfers also ride, the boards need additional reinforcement because of the stones. Just like the wax with which surfers rub the finished board so that it does not slip in the water: Instead of artificial wax, they offer one made from beeswax from Munich beekeepers. "You could eat that if you want," says Sebastian Schwainberger. Accordingly, it is harmless if it dissolves in the sea.
And that's always a little bit about surfing: Ideally, surfers practice their sport in harmony with nature. With the sea. With the fish. It seems absurd to get pollutants off the board into the water. Munich's surfers also have another ecological problem. You have to fly to reach surf spots. Or drive pretty far. The siblings have converted a bus for this and only want to go to France and Portugal and in winter to Italy to surf.
But they don't have much time for their sport: "We build more boards than we actually get to surf," says Sebastian Schwainberger. At the beginning, your idealism was not the number one priority. More the lack of money when studying. Instead of buying expensive boards, they started building them themselves. On the other hand, the sustainability of plank construction is currently all the stronger. At each production step, they explain where the material comes from, how environmentally friendly it is and how it can be disposed of or recycled. For example, they make robust bags from fleece strips that absorb excess synthetic resin. And the unused remains of the "blanks" are passed on to the architecture faculty of the Technical University of Munich for model making.
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