Keen surfer and fourth year physics student Duncan Lyster started a bespoke wooden surfboard company with the help of an Exeter University initiative, LAURA DALE writes
The son of a cabinet maker, Duncan Lyster was used to pottering around with different tools and machinery, but the making of a surfboard was a technical challenge.
The first wooden prototype was built in Duncan’s Dad’s workshop about four years ago. Duncan, who started surfing when he was 14 years old, says: “I wanted to have my own board. When I started out I didn’t know a lot about surfboard construction and I didn’t know what the disadvantages would be.
“I wasn’t aware of the design implications or just how heavy it would be made out of wood. The challenge was making a board that is as light as a regular surfboard, so under four kilos. I did this by making them hollow.”
Duncan considered plywood (designed for use on aircrafts), balsa wood and paulownia, a light, fine-grain and warp resistant wood, which is easy to work with. Duncan recalls: “I was trying to creating a lightweight wooden surfboard that performed as well as the polyurethane equivalents; and I wanted it to be sustainable alternative.”
With the help of Think Try Do, a grant giving initiative that helps undergraduates to make connections to found their own start-ups, Duncan founded Lyster Surfcraft earlier this year. He says: “I have had a lot of help from the university. I got a grant from them and I have had a lot of advice, and made a lot of connections through them.”
It takes Duncan between 25 and 30 hours to make each surfboard. He explains: “I am trying to bring it down to make it as economical as possible, but at the moment every part of the board is made by hand.”
With a carbon-fibre reinforced stringer and a thin, but strong and flexible layer of s-glass protecting the wooden surface these boards can take a beating in the waves without showing a mark. The woods used are selected for their high strength-to-weight ratio. Once the surfboards are completed, Duncan coats them in fibreglass. He says: “I try to build the surfboards in a sustainable way, so the materials I use are ideal for the purpose rather than whatever is available.”
‘I would like to get to the stage where I feel like I am having a meaningful impact on surfing’
Duncan, who is also a classical singer, says: “I would like to get to the stage where I feel like I am having a meaningful impact on surfing; that I am making surfboards that perform as well as other boards.
“I have two surfboards which I use as prototypes and they weigh in at four kilos. People who are interested in buying a board can try one out.” The cost of a surfboard is £1,595. To make an enquiry or for more information visit lystersurfcraft. co.uk or Instagram.