Emily Bingham put together this wonderful spread for us on MLive.com … Thanks Emily!
Jason Thelen’s paddleboards are like floating works of art: long, wide planks of hand-milled wood the color of honey, caramel and brown sugar, kept simple with clean lines or adorned with intricate inlays.
But these arresting vessels are more than just lovely to behold; Thelen wants them, and his Petoskey-based company, Little Bay Boards, to change the way we think about how our purchasing decisions affect our environment.
“Most stand-up paddleboards are so dispensable. They just end up in landfills all the time,” Thelen said. “It shouldn’t be that way. People should have a board and keep it for their entire life.”
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world; head to any popular beach or river around Michigan on a warm summer day, and chances are you’ll see at least a few people gliding across the water on one of those big, colorful boards.
But despite the sport’s rising popularity, buyers still have limited options when it comes to what their boards are made out of. So far, materials like foam and plastic have dominated the SUP industry. Meanwhile, wooden paddleboards — which use more sustainable construction methods and materials — account for only one percent of the paddleboard market.
Part of that is because wood paddleboards are more complicated and expensive to make, and therefore are more expensive to buy. But Thelen and other proponents of wooden SUPs say they last much longer than their plastic counterparts — saving customers money over time, all the while reducing what eventually lands in the landfill.
At first, though, Thelen wasn’t exactly on a mission to save the planet via paddleboards. Rather, the idea to try making his own wooden board came about after a family trip to Leelanau County, where he had a transcendent experience while paddleboarding on Lake Michigan.
“I got really far out [on the water], on a beautifully calm day, and I sat out there and just thought about how it was just heavenly to be completely alone, to sit there in the sun,” he says. “It really spoke to me, and I thought, ‘Man, I wanna do this more often.'”
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