Notox: a business combining surfing with sustainable development

11 July 2023

  • Tech
  • Linen

In the Basque region of southwestern France, Notox manufactures a unique type of surfboard. In this niche business, the brand’s eco-designed boards are made with flax fibre, opening up the spectrum of effective alternative solutions to reconciling the need for agility with environmental awareness.

Notox manufactures linen surfboards
copyright Notox

The Notox story

Notox planches de surf en lin composite copyright Notox

Everything started in 2005 when two surfing enthusiasts, Pierre Pomiers and Benoît Rameix, both employees in an industrial robotics company, became friends.

They realised that surfboard production is extremely energy intensive and decided to launch a project in order to put their values into action by using a more sustainable process.

Even as non-professionals, we had already begun to consider such issues as workplace health, the life cycle of materials, and waste disposal. But we needed to figure out how to translate our project into action, so we left our jobs to embark on an adventure.” says Pierre Pomiers.

Their concept? Offering surfers custom-made surfboards aligned with their nature-oriented approach, made using ethical production methods to reduce the environmental impact.

After winning the Bpifrance (Banque Public d’Investissement) innovation challenge, the two obtained valuable support to the sum of €20,000, allowing them to create the first prototype surfboards made with natural fibres.

Bio-based approach

The first important objective set by Notox was to establish a workshop for producing their own surfboard models. It would be an operational and safe environment that would encourage gradual changes to the production process and experimentation, promoting both workplace wellbeing and business performance.

This was followed by an increased use of natural materials and the creation of a better working environment (facility aeration and ventilation, less resin thanks to vacuum lamination, etc.).

Pomiers continues: “After seeing the harm in traditional workshops caused by the use of toxic resins without sufficient ventilation, by the release of fine dust without effective protection for employees, and unrecycled waste, it seemed obvious to us that we should work to improve workplace health and well-being.

Atelier Notox copyright Notox

But remaining competitive has meant making certain compromises during the first year of production. In addition to conducting research on natural fibre-based surfboards, Notox also produced standard models to balance out the business. Over time, the team replaced the materials, while monitoring traceability and guaranteeing identical performance and mechanical properties. Polyurethane foam was replaced by recycled polystyrene. Bio-based resins are made from a mixture of renewable petrochemical and 50% natural ones. Finally, certified natural fibres used for reinforcement replace glass fibres. “We tested coconut, sisal, hemp, and jute… After many tests, we opted for flax fibre because of its excellent mechanical properties and the high quality of French and European production,” Pomiers explains.

planches surf lin composite copyright Notox

Notox’s first supplier and collaborator, the Belgian company Libeco, provided many types of weaves: one is unidirectional and is placed under the board, whereas the other is a thicker twill for the top that absorbs shocks. “Moreover, in order to reduce environmental impact, 75% of our production waste is recycled, and so we produce just 1 kg of non-recycled waste per surfboard as part of local, workshop-based production process.” All polystyrene waste is collected by Knauf (Uni’vert PSE certified), which recycles and reuses it as a raw material in its factory in Casteljaloux. As for flax waste, it is treated in the same manner. It is used a second time in short supply chains to make recycled clothing and to manufacture insulation felt for construction.

Eco-designed boards popular among surfers 

Notox planches de surf en lin copyright Notox

Surfers quickly came to evaluate the properties of the new flax fibre surfboards out on the ocean waves. They have given the surfboards a ringing endorsement thanks to the boards’ elasticity and durability.

Some Notox ambassadors, like members of the Brittany surfers’ association Lost in the Swell, were able to experiment with flax surfboards while travelling around the world, in remote areas and in extreme conditions.

They confirmed the high added value of Notox’s flax surfboards, especially, says Pomiers, when it comes to “the absorption of vibrations, which hits the water while softening the feeling of chopping when picking up speed."

The flax fibre surfboards provide support for the surfers’ efforts, resist strain and shocks, compensate for energy received, and have a spring-like effect. The surfboard is made with extremely taut textile that is stiff at the same time, endowing it with a degree of elasticity.”

With six employees, the company remains anchored in its values and sustainable practices with the aim of reducing environmental impact, while producing custom-made composite flax boards for the surfing community. Moving even further with eco-design, with the support of a CSR consulting firm, this year Notox hopes to develop a surf-score, an easy-to-understand rating of the use and of the life cycle of the materials and environmental impact based on six clearly defined criteria.

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