Marcelo Matos: Costa Quality

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Marcelo Matos: Costa Quality

All-Ocean Surfboards
Matos Surf Shop, Tamarindo & Playa Grande

My primary experiences at the ocean really informed the rest of my entire life.  I had no idea at the time, but my limited access to information and raw material was a blessing and it stimulated my creativity and resourcefulness.

When I was growing up in Uruguay, we were so far removed from any “surf industry” or surfboard builders.  We had seen surfing and we had a crude understanding of boat construction, but we didn’t really have access to materials.  We did, however, spend tons of time at the beach and, of course, children are very creative so it wasn’t long until we figured out how to ride waves.  We once made a skim board out of the top of a wine barrel. We just sanded the bottom edges to make it glide and prevent it from catching on the sand.

We’d often find styrofoam on the beach.  It would wash up, perhaps from bobbers on fishing nets, or ice chest, or who knows where.  We had the idea to collect it and glue it all together to build a surfboard blank.  During the months long process of doing this, I sent a letter to a surfboard shaper in Florida who’s address I’d found in a surf magazine.  I explained what I was doing with the foam blank and asked him a few basic questions about surfboard construction.  5 months later I received a letter back.  He gave me his phone number and offered to answer any questions over the phone.  It was very generous of him, but I didn’t have money to make a long distance phone call! I knew a woman in town who had a telephone so I negotiated a deal to mow her lawn for 1 year in exchange for a 5 minute phone call!  Then, I had to find a translator to translate my phone conversation!  Forget about the improvising required to shape that board, it required ingenuity just to orchestrate this phone call!

Anyway, I finally got the shaper on the phone and he did provide a good general outline for the process of shaping and glassing the board, but it’s impossible to convey everything in a 5 minute conversation.  Further, we didn’t really have access to the materials and the tools that he was talking about.  Plus, some things got lost in translation.  For example, he referred to fiberglass cloth simply as “cloth”.  We understood that to mean “cloth”, like what a t-shirt is made from.  So we cut up old t-shirts and covered the shaped foam blank in t-shirts then covered the t-shirts in resin!

But he also didn’t specify to use epoxy resin on the EPS foam.  So when we poured the polyester resin, it melted the EPS!  I did, however, notice that it didn’t melt the glue that was holding the foam together, so we made another blank, covered it in t-shirts, then we did an entire layer of glue, to seal the blank.  We poured the resin over the glue and that hardened properly.

We knew that some surfers used 1 fin, some 2, some 3, and we’d even seen 4.  So we just assumed that more was better.  We put 6 fins on that board, all lined up, side-by-side.  But we didn’t adhere the fins properly, so it never really ever had all 6 fins in at once.  We also used a shower mat for traction, and then eventually candle wax.  That board was an absolute disaster!

It was however, the impetus for SurfCycled.  Once I was getting settled in here in Costa Rica, there were always so many broken or damaged boards, just laying around unused.  I remember reading that, in the 60s and 70s as surfing transitioned out of the longboard era, nearly every famous shaper told stories about striping down old longboards to make shorter, more maneuverable boards.  I thought, why aren’t people doing that today?  We have, seemingly, endless inventory of discarded boards, and modern design and surfing allows for smaller and smaller surfboards to be ridden; a 6’0” can be shaped down into a 5’5”, for example.

Our objective with SurfCycled is to extend the lifespan of the products and materials that we generate as consumers.  These are boards that end up in the trash, but often, it’s just the exterior layers that are damaged or sometimes just yellowed.  We’ve found that with some simple re-shaping and some fresh fiberglass and resin, our SurfCycled boards have incredible pop and life, the same as a brand new board.

The other incredible discovery through this improvisation is that we’ve pushed preconceived design barriers.  This tiny little 4’10” seemed unsurfable when we built it.  Everyone thought it too small, too fat, but it works incredibly!  And I’m not the only who thinks so.  It’s become a community board.  Everyone rides it and we’ve had customers actually order custom boards, attempting to recreate it.  I think that some of the magic in SurfCycled comes from the fact that these boards have had previous lives.  They are reincarnated and the good karma from the environment has provided some really memorable boards and surf experiences.

Marcelo Matos’ boards are available through his 2 surf shops, in Playa Grande and Tamarindo. Learn more at, and @SurfCycled @MatosSurfShop