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Marissa Gochar of Reefer Wax: Sustainable Hemp-Based Surf Wax

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The ocean is changing. Surfers are the first in line to notice that as we spent most of our time enjoying its magnificent waves. Us surfers should also be the first ones to take action in healing it so that the next generation gets to enjoy it, too.

In this episode, we have the CEO and Founder of Reefer Wax, Marissa Gochar, tell us her journey of being an entrepreneur, her mission of choosing regenerative products, and trying to make products that will undo some of the damage due to climate change. She shares how they make their hemp-based wax and how it can help put essential minerals needed by corals and shellfish back into the ocean.

This episode is filled with lessons that both entrepreneurs and consumers need to hear.

About Reefer Wax:

Reefer Wax is a hemp-based surf wax company with a mission to regenerate our lost coral reef population. They utilize byproducts from industrial hemp production once thought to be unusable waste, revolutionizing the surf wax industry with simple and traceable organic ingredients. Their wax puts essential minerals back into our oceans to reverse coral bleaching and degeneration. As an aspiring B Corp, they are building a responsible, sustainable company alongside other forward-thinking companies and research institutions while prioritizing a thriving eco-system for future generations over profit margins and gain.

Social Media Profiles:

Other Websites Mentioned:

  • http://epsrecycling.com/ - Where you can check if your board is recycled or not
  • Resurf.org - A company in San Diego that turning foam into asphalt. Here's an article about them.

Topics Discussed:

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself.
  • What is it about hemp that you like?
  • What is conventional wax?
  • What's the process of your hemp wax?
  • What is it about hemp that creates a usable wax?
  • How's it like being an entrepreneur?
  • Tell us what a B Corporation is.
  • What was your first surfboard?
  • What's the best wave you've ever caught?
  • If you were to give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
  • Where can people find out more about you and your company?

Location: San Diego, CA

Transcripts

Marissa, this is Saltwater High, what's happening?

What's up, Derek? How's it going?

Good. It's good. It's so good to see you again. We had a conversation that got us, maybe it's been a month now? Something like that?

Yeah, short, little intro.

Yeah, yeah. So I'm really looking forward to this. We were aligned in so many ways and so much of our journey. So, yeah, I'm excited to hear more about what's happening in entrepreneur land and hemp land and everything in between and surfing and, yeah, so just tell us a little bit about yourself.

Amazing. Yeah, my heart is beating with excitement. This is my first podcast, so I feel as though this is going to be a sweet opportunity. I love your platform. I really appreciate the opportunity to come on here and speak about what I'm doing. So thank you, first of all. So I come from the East Coast. I'm from Maryland originally and I did not grow up surfing. However, I moved to California having the intention that it was just going to be a part of my life, that it was inextricable. Yeah, so it was going to be inextricable and as I found myself flowing into the world of surfing, I started to just question some of the products that I was using. And so a lot of the work that I'm doing now is very much based around how can we use our influence, our dollar, our knowledge to make sure that we are choosing the correct products as we move forward with creating a really regenerative ecosystem. So my whole movement is based around choosing regenerative products, as well as trying to make products that are going to undo some of the damage due to climate change.

I love that. I think that's such a visionary kind of view, right? Not only to be regenerative but also to heal is what I'm hearing. To heal part of what's been done, which I hear a few people have that kind of vision. So it's a really beautiful vision.

Thank you. Yeah. I actually found Wave Tribe through a search of regenerative products, specifically looking for hemp-based products within the surfing industry. So I was super excited to see that there's people that have been doing this for years now, but it really takes, I think, a curiosity and a want to find these alternatives that you have to come into this with. So, yeah, I'm really excited to have the opportunity to speak to you directly and just hear a bit more about how you guys came to do what you did as well and why hemp was your choice. Is that something you could bring to my attention?

Absolutely. And I'm excited to invite you in the circle because there aren't many of us in that kind of eco circle in surfing. Some of the brands are doing eco board shorts and that sort of thing. It's great, every little step is a good step. But I feel to stand in the circle of ecology, it takes a whole different commitment. So I had a clothing company before I started Wave Tribe and it was all eco. And I was going to MAGIC, which was MAGIC is the main fashion show in the industry actually. It's every 6 months in Las Vegas. And so I was really familiar with fabric, right? Because I was in clothing, so hemp and bamboo were, I think, the 2 leading sustainable fabrics at the time. Organic cotton was getting some momentum, but if you really wanted to be alternative, people were really going towards hemp or bamboo because of all the things that make them great. And so when I transitioned from clothing to basically board bags, which was my first product, I was like, "Oh, what fabric can we use that isn't plastic?" That was the question. What fabric can I use that isn't plastic or is there a way that I can make a board bag that's more ecological? And at first, I thought recycled plastic, but I didn't really like that too much. And I thought, hemp. Hemp is the perfect fabric for board bags, right? And so it was like one of those aha moments. And I've never looked back and I've always been super happy with our board bags and we've built a company not just around hemp, but we've built a company around ecology. But hemp was the first pillar. And so what is it about hemp that you like or that has attracted you to hemp?

So many things. It really comes down to the fact that every single part of this plant can be utilized and turned into something that can either feed us, shelter us, clothe us, heal us. It truly is an all-encompassing plant. And I think also part of what drew me to it was the taboo that's surrounding it. And why is there all of this pushback against this plant? Knowing that it is just something that grows from the ground? It comes from a seed, it is natural, it was put on this earth just like we were. Why is this all going to be pushed away from us and over so many years has this happened? So I think those 2 things together have brought me to just do the time and research to understand really what this plant can be used for, what it's good for, and also why there was all this pushback. Actually, I didn't really have hemp as the starting line, but it came to be the perfect filler for what I needed. And to give a bit of background, I originally came into surfing questioning how can we continue to surf knowing that there is this damage that's happening to our ocean year after year after year, especially through seeing it through reefs and the ecosystems that all surround reefs and how they are just dying off in a rate that we can't even comprehend. So through seeing that and wondering how surfers are going to be able to continue doing what they do, what can we do to make sure that can happen not just for us, but for future generations to enjoy? So really what the core was, was understanding the cycles that happen within the ocean that are actually damaging reefs and not just reefs, but everything that requires calcium. And I like to call coral the bones of the ocean, just like we have bones full of calcium and other minerals, these bones need calcium and other minerals in order to continue to grow. That includes shellfish like oysters, crabs, lobsters. All of these things that have exoskeletons need these minerals. So as the ocean is changing due to climatic change, these things are suffering. You can see it, you can understand it, if you're in these industries, you realize that it's going to decline to zero at a certain point if we don't do something about it. And I guess part of that goes back to my core as well coming from Maryland, the shellfish industry is huge. I grew up eating shellfish. I could eat on a daily basis if we had access in a way that you do to it when you're living by the sea. So that was the core—it was understanding that first and foremost. Coming from that as I surf, realizing that there's these minerals that need to be in the ocean in order to regulate some of the carbon and the damage that is going into the ocean, we can use our act of surfing to put minerals back into the ocean. The only way I could conceive of doing this was by putting it into a wax in which naturally comes off of a surfer's board as they do what they do best, just taking waves. These minerals can be put into wax and allow for some of the pressure that's put on reefs and shellfish to be alleviated by having those minerals already in the ocean in a different form.

I love that. I had no idea that that was part of your vision. That's beautiful. And so then hemp really becomes, I guess, the vehicle for redistributing the minerals. Is that how you see it?

Exactly.

It's beautiful.

So hemp being this all-encompassing plant, my dream was to utilize it in some way and how can there not be a wax that comes from hemp knowing that it is this sticky material if you've ever had your hands on hemp or truly, hemp is cannabis to just try and change the education a little bit around it. Hemp is the same plant as marijuana. It is only chemically different. They are both cannabis, they are just genetically some have more THC, some have more CBD. So at its core, the stalk, the leaves, everything that can be used to create all the building materials and clothing, marijuana can also be used to create those things. It's just in a legal form. You have to have it below .3 percent THC in order to turn it into these things. That's what's considered hemp.

Okay. Yeah, it's interesting as obviously, parts of the country are becoming looser around the use of marijuana, which is great. I wonder if they'll come a time when you could lick your wax? You're out on your board, you just lick your wax like edible? That would be amazing.

That would be.

Especially when it's really small and you're 20 minutes between sets.

Right.

Dude, there's a whole another idea right there.

I don't want to have to go in for lunch or a snack, I'm just going to lick my wax and pull myself over. That would be cool. I would want to put this out there. It's not edible.

Of course, of course. It's just some of my humor. But I love the idea of putting minerals back. It's a great thing. And so why don't you tell us a little bit, because I know you've done a ton of research, what is conventional wax?

Yeah, glad you asked. So conventional wax comes from paraffin, which is a petroleum-based byproduct. It's also closely related to petroleum jelly, something that we're commonly using on our skin. But it's basically just a harder form of petroleum jelly and it goes through all of this processing in order to become what we understand as surf wax. Mainly, it needs to be bleached, first of all. It comes out as like a grayish-black sludge originally. It's bleached using chemicals that are considered by the FDA to be carcinogens. And then it also has to go through a process of hardening, which is called hydrogenation. All these things require chemicals that are basically all coming from the petrochemical industry in order to turn it into the wax that we understand. So the main form is paraffin. The second form is soy wax, most commonly soy wax. The agriculture around soy wax has so many aspects to it that are damaging from the use of pesticides to the use of chemicals to harden it because it naturally does not come out as a wax. It's just a soybean oil that needs to be hydrogenated the same way that paraffin needs to be hydrogenated. It's also the largest deforestation culprit in order to sustain our agriculture system and other industries, just like the surfing industry. So those are the 2 main types. The third one, which is really common in home-based wax, so if you're making your own one at home and you just google "DIY surf wax" is beeswax. And this was something that kept coming back to me as I was talking to people about how should I create what I would consider an eco-friendly wax, but it's gone so much further than that now. Beeswax has to, especially to make it at scale, you need to melt down an entire beehive in order to get beeswax out of it, because all it is, is just the harder parts of the honeycomb which allow for food to be stored and for the next generation of bees to be born. That's where the eggs are laid and that's where they come from. So in order to create beeswax, there's a lot of harm that needs to be done to the lifecycle of bees. And what do we know about bees now? First of all, they're declining in their populations. And second of all, if we are going to continue to produce our vegetables, our fruits, our gardens at our home, if we don't have bees, then we're not going to get our vegetables and our fruits. They have to pollinate. Without them, we cannot continue to survive. So I did not want to put any sort of reliance on either paraffin, soy wax, or beeswax for any of those reasons. And that whole journey was something that took me down many rabbit holes of what are the alternatives then, what can we do instead? Yeah, so there are some that are out there, but they're very expensive and they can come from all over the world in forms of like Carnauba wax was one that I came to originally. But it's not really produced at scale and it's hard to get your hands on. So I had to start thinking of some alternatives.

Hmm. Interesting. And do you know, I would assume that the industry is 98 percent petroleum-based wax? Or something like that? It has to be the majority, right? I don't know what the numbers are.

Yeah. I think that really comes down to sales. If you were able to track and see what overall in the surfing industry, those big players are using paraffin. And the reason why they're using paraffin is because it's so cheap and they can keep their prices down to 2 dollars and under a bar.

Yeah, which is crazy because we at Wave Tribe, we make beeswax. But we private label it from a company in New Jersey, very small batches, a couple hundred every few months. Not much at all. And I might have to ask them where they get their beeswax because now I'm interested. I always thought, well, that was the best alternative. But now that I'm hearing from you, we might have to be carrying your wax in the future.

Oh, exciting. I love to hear that you're encouraged to ask the question.

Absolutely.

That is a huge part of what I'm trying to do is just get people more curious about what products they're choosing and for brands to start to ask the questions about who their suppliers are getting their materials from and what their processes are to make the materials. All these things, it goes through the chain and they all have an effect on the larger ecosystem, right?

Yeah, definitely. So tell us a little bit about hemp wax. What's the process? Don't give us any secret sauce that you might have. But, generally, I assume so we're not using beeswax, we're not using soy, and we're not using petroleum. Because obviously, the wax has to work for surfers to use it, so what is it about hemp that creates a usable wax, if you will?

So the hemp-based wax and I want to be totally transparent because I find that is the best way to get people to open their eyes up to other brands that may not being as transparent. I am sourcing this hemp wax from companies who take CBD out of the hemp plant and turn it into a distilled form that can be put into salves for your skin or for edibles that used CBD. It basically turns it into an oil form that then can be put into other things. What's left over having removed the CBD is what they call the lipids or the fats, and that is the wax in which I'm able to use for the base of this wax. So it is something that they do need to use alcohols in order to pull out the CBD and there are residuals of that, the part of the processing before it comes to me is that that's actually taken out and recycled and they're able to use those alcohols again in their process. So it's a full cycle system and it's taking a waste product that was originally going to either be put into compost or turned into just a trash. They're able to give it to Reefer and then turn it into a product that is actually going to do some good by putting minerals back into the ocean. So it's this upcycling that I was so encouraged by as soon as this kind of landed in my lap that we would be able to turn a waste product into something that's doing good.

I love that. I love that a lot. So you have this vision, obviously, for a cleaner world and a better world, I would say. So you've taken this on as an entrepreneur, right? Because that's how we change the world. A lot of us change the world through business. So how does that feel? How does it feel to have this vision and realize that you're going to enter the market and you're going to have to do a lot of the other things that us entrepreneurs do? Is that something that excites you, scares you? Were you learning about that? That sort of thing.

I definitely wasn't learning about it. It's something that you just have to learn as you go. I'm finding the process of creating, bringing something to life, is also a process of ridding of old belief systems about myself or what's possible in an industry or just listening to what people say is the only option and deciding to go outside of that. It's truly about eradicating these belief systems. Part of that in my own belief system was that I come from a background of engineering and I was one who I really found it easier to work on my own. I felt like I was much more effective in that way. And I like to just be able to kind of do my work like that. But then as I'm starting to become an entrepreneur of sorts, I'm learning to rely on other people's strengths so much more because it is so much greater than me to be able to create something like this. And how can I do it? I'm only one person and I only have a certain amount of strength. So being able to realize your weaknesses, being able to move forward in a humble way, and be able to ask other people for help and if they're able to see the vision and understand what you're trying to do, I think that you'll find so many more people than you could have ever imagined who are willing to take their time and put their energy and make something come to life. So, yeah, I was not an entrepreneur, but I am very excited by this process. I honestly have not reached the point of feeling scared. I just any time, like even getting ready for this, is just an excitement of this is the next step I can see now. It seems like I'm reaching towards the goals that I have for this. And there are many. So again, thank you.

Yeah, no, no problem. And the more I can help, the better for sure. When I did it, I did it all alone and I wish I would have had a network of people to kind of reach out to or ping about certain questions. And it's kind of a different world now. So absolutely, I get a lot of joy out of helping. So, yeah. And I saw that you're either creating or you're going to create a B Corporation. Can you tell us about what is it? I know what a C Corporation is. So what is a B Corporation? It's not a B like a bzzz?

No, but I think it does just as much good. It stands for a Benefit Corporation. And I am pretty sure every state that is in the U.S. actually has the option to become a B Corp. It basically is just a derivative of a C Corp, which means that your priorities are not only to make profits for your shareholders, but your priorities are to prioritize people and your effects on the world over profits. So it's a legally binding contract that says I will prioritize people over profits. And anybody that invests into your company then has to be on board with that. So there's companies, I think Ben and Jerry's is a great example of it because they, at one point, were sued by their shareholders for trying to, I guess, give back? There was some charitable aspect to their company, which was then taking away from the profits that their shareholders were expecting. And that was when they decided to make this shift. And it has to be accepted when you're a larger company by, I think, more than half of your shareholders have to say, "Okay, this is great." But I wanted to start the company off with that established so that moving forward from there, I have those grounds and those morals that are clear to anybody that wants to contribute afterwards.

Beautiful. I love it. So what's next? Oh, go ahead.

I was just going to say, there's a difference that I want to make clear. There's a Benefit Corporation, which is something that you get established by the state, whatever state you are establishing your business in. And then there is an entity called B Corp who you actually would get audited by and you have to sign up through them in order to get that stamp that some people might be familiar with. It just says B corp on it. In order to get that stamp, you actually have to go through an auditing process through B Corp to get that. So you can be a Benefit Corporation without being a B Corp, if that makes sense.

Oh, really? I didn't realize that.

But you can't be a B Corp without being a Benefit Corporation in your state.

Got it. Very exciting. That's great. I'm going to look more into that. I really like that.

I'm curious now, to kind of turn the question around, what was the grounds that you wanted to start your company on?

What do you mean grounds? When I started Wave Tribe, there were no ecological surf companies at all. Zero. There was zero ecology. And so it's 2007, right? And I wanted as a surfer, as a long time surfer, I wanted products that had a lighter footprint on the world and I couldn't find them. So I thought, "Well, I'm going to create them." So that was really the main intention, right? Your vision is really put together in a beautiful way that I didn't have. I really had a simple goal, which was I want to create products that are better for the planet. That was really the goal and that's what I've done. And over the years, we've done things like planting trees and giving back to different organizations. And that's been part of it, but it wasn't really part of the original vision. In my original vision, it was just make a good product that has a lighter footprint and then uses ecological materials like hemp, cork, and recycled plastic. Those are the 3 pillars that we've stood on. And it's still crazy to me that we make a recycled leash, right? No companies are making recycled leashes, which seems such a weird thing. But if your ethics are just based on money, then you're not going to even think about where you can make a difference for the environment. And the reality is that all the products cost more to make. The hemp is more expensive than plastic, the recycled plastic like we all know, recycled plastic is more expensive than plastic, which is crazy when you think about it. And then cork, the core product that we make is a composite. So it's a more complicated mold to get the mold right and everything. So the customer has to be, you kind of started this whole conversation about, well, you as a customer wanted a product that was better for the environment or wasn't as harmful in the ocean. Like, I'm not going to stop surfing, right? Surfing is probably one of the most important things in my life. But I can do things that will definitely help the environment or that will be, it's kind of difficult to say they're ecological products because they're eco-friendly, I would call them. Because our products, they still have a footprint. You've come up with a scenario that's amazing, right? You're taking this waste product and you're going to upcycling it and we actually did some upcycling for a while, too. But it was cost-prohibitive, right? So if your bar of wax is like 10 bucks a bar, nobody's going to buy it no matter how good it is. And so that's the other thing that I've struggled with over the years is, okay, it's one thing to create a product. I always had this dream I was going to create a bag that would decompose. That you could put in the garden, it would just decompose at the end of its lifecycle.

That'd be incredible.

Yeah, it would be awesome. But the reality is, technologically, we're not there yet. Right? You have to have wheels on your travel bag, which are plastic. And then on the inside of our bags, there is recycled plastic because it's really hard to like if you created say, a travel bag out of complete hemp, it would be too heavy. It would be so heavy you wouldn't be able to travel with it. You try to take it to the airport and the airline would probably, they wouldn't even accept it on the plane because it was so heavy. So there's also things with water, too. So if it's raining, right? You can get a coat over hemp, but I don't like the coats, the waterproof coats, because they're very chemically based, super chemically based. So I'm not going to create a hemp board bag and then put this chemical over it that kind of destroys the whole idea of having something ecological. So, there's a lot of trade-offs that one has to make. And one of them is really the customer has to pay more. That's just the reality. If you want a better world, somebody has to pay for it. And the world we've created, it was a result of us really maximizing for profit. And you talked a little bit about kind of limiting beliefs, which I'm a big fan of, too. Dissolving all of these belief systems that we've held. And in today's Walmart world, if someone chooses to buy and this isn't something against Walmart, but say you choose to buy the cheapest item at bulk pricing because you want to save money, but you know you're never going to use all that product or you don't really care what it's made of, then that's the world we end up creating. We end up creating a world that, yeah, it might be cheap or you might have more money in your product and your pocket. But what is the karmic imprint of that? The karmic imprint is that we have then global warming and trash in our oceans and trash island in the Pacific. And so that's the result of all of the decisions that we've made as consumers. And so as business owners, we have to make new decisions. This is your podcast, but that's what I feel about it.

No, I really appreciate everything you said. Oh, my gosh. First of all, I want to say thank you for being that one, back in 2007, standing aside from the rest of the crowd that said I'm going to create something different. I'm going to create something that I believe in and that I actually want to work towards a more sustainable product whereas other companies are thinking about how can I get my margins better? How can I continue to make this product that's effective and might work, but it's actually doing more damage in the process of allowing that person to buy a cheaper product and continue to surf. And I want people to be able to continue to surf. That's the whole mission behind this. I wanted to touch on you saying that choosing hemp and choosing recycled plastic and these things are more expensive. And a big reason why they're so expensive is because we haven't invested into the production capabilities for us to be able to turn these things back into a form that we need them in. Then without the production capabilities, you have to either outsource it, you have to get it from a country that has the production capabilities, and there's still a lot of the flying and everything, the emissions that come from that transport is doing damage in itself. But part of that is also creating more cost. So by investing into these products now, you're allowing for, in the future, these products to be more affordable. Right? Someone's going to have to pay for it like you said. We have been cutting corners, we have been not being transparent with how things are being made, we have been doing things out of the mentality of profiting, and now we're going to have to pay for it. But if we pay for it, the next generations may not have to. And saying things like eco-friendly and all the decisions that you have made along the way in order to get to that point of what you understand to be eco-friendly is heads above what other people are doing. And it's nothing against those people. It's about what they're taught to question and to understand about where their money is going. So I want to encourage people just like you are, to be curious and to ask questions about the brands because in order for brands to understand that they have to be transparent, it needs to come from the consumers. That's going to allow for more parts of our products, for example, board bag to be recycled, because if you could be clear about this part of it is made of this and so you could cut this out and turn it into this. This wheel, this isn't recyclable, this needs to be taken to a particular plant in order for that to happen. Right? These things are going to allow for our products to be taken out of the waste cycle and put into a recycled system.

Hmm. Yeah, I love that.

I wanted to touch on, too, just down that route. The boards that we're using, there are some brands that aren't quite as transparent as they could be. But I wanted to just put it out there into the world. If you have a foam board, there is a website you can go to where you can actually see if your board is recyclable. So you can go to it's the epsrecycling.com and they have a whole map on there and you can put in your location and see if that foam board is or if there is a plant near you that can take your foam board out of that cycle.

Sweet.

So just to give people that option, it allows for a lot of that foam to stay out of the landfills, which is where most of it is going these days.

Yeah, yeah. And I want to encourage people, so on the surfboard level, is to check out wood surfboards. I actually have a few balsa boards which are beautiful and there's absolutely no foam in the balsa board. It's super light and you can get an eco-friendly, I'm going to say eco-friendly again, glass job on it. You can actually use hemp, too instead of fiberglass, you can use hemp in the deck. So that's one wonderful option. And the other option is to actually get a board that has no glass on it, just a straight-up wood board. You have to put linseed oil or something on it to make sure that the water doesn't get in. But there's somebody in Hawaii and I can't remember his name right now. And I've had some conversations or some correspondence with him and he's making all-wood boards. And so say you have 4 or 5 boards in your quiver like most of us do. If one of those boards is at least ecologically minded—I like that word, ecologically minded—then you've created one step towards a better world, right? Because you probably don't surf all your boards all the time and actually the wood boards are super fun to surf. One of my favorite boards is a wood board. So, why not try it? And so I totally I'm down with you and recycling. There's another company in San Diego, they were turning foam into asphalt, like using the foam. And I'll look that up and put it in the show notes and I'll email you because you're in San Diego so you can maybe check them out. And I don't know if they're doing any more, but I thought that was a great idea. Right?

That's amazing.

Yeah. So they're collecting boards and just probably compacting them, putting them into the asphalt.

Right. Which again takes the processing power. It's incredible that people are finding out how to do these things, but it takes money in order to make that happen. So I love that that innovation is happening. And I see it a lot in San Diego, actually. There's another company called Solid Surf Co that they create boards using plant-based epoxy resins. And those are better for everybody, including the shapers where there is zero VOCs, which are basically just volatile organic compounds. They're chemicals that get into the air, they get into your body, and they do damage. So there's resins that are being made that are plant-based that aren't damaging to people, and there's also, like you were saying, hemp alternatives to fiberglass, which is so cool. That's what Solid Surf is doing here.

Yeah, yeah, it's really cool.

Yeah. And then the foam core, maybe this might be the same company, I'm curious, but I know that their EPS foam core is a hundred percent recycled. They actually take other EPS and then they form it back into a surfboard. So yeah, I'm curious. Let me know what you find about them.

I will. Yeah. And the other thing is I think I've seen kind of emerging class of artists that are taking old boards and doing beautiful paintings on them. I just interviewed somebody from Malibu, actually. I don't think it's dropped yet on the podcast. It'll probably come out in the next week or two. And he's taking old surfboards and stripping them down and then repurposing the foam and then creating new surfboards for his clients, which is amazing, right? And it's all up to us, right? Instead of going and buying a new surfboard, not only are you supporting a local shaper, which is there are very few these days. Most everything is made in China now from surfboards, so shapers just send the files. Not all of them. There's a local shaper here and I surf most of his boards, he's called Roberts and he's doing local shaping, which is great. So getting back to that customer power, what's our power? We have the power as a customers. It's all us, right? So choose hemp wax, choose a hemp board bag, choose to get maybe one wood surfboard, recycle your old surfboards. That's a huge one, right? Just recycling, just finding somewhere to recycle your old surfboards is also a great way to help the environment. You find a kid that wants to learn to surf and just give it to him. Even better. Pass it on. So it's up to us, right? This is one of the things I really realized starting Wave Tribe way back when. I was like, "Oh, man, I'm going to change the industry." And it felt like my fight. But I realize that the customer is the one that has to move the market. It's really customer-centric. At one point, if you look at our website, we have tons of articles on ecology. So I just started writing and getting other people to write about ecology just because I felt like there needed to be more education about even what the hell is going on in the world. So I've struggled as a business owner that had a really strong vision, I've struggled to find the customer or educate the customer or in some ways turn the customer, if you will—maybe that's not the best word—towards a different sunset. And that sunset has a different future. I have to admit, honestly, it's been a hard journey. And so I'm excited what I'm seeing in the industry. I'm excited to meet people like you. That just makes me so happy. I have no doubt you're going to be successful and you're going to bring something to the world that's going to be amazing. I just have no doubt.

Thank you. I feel like you're paving the way for that.

Yeah. I don't know if I paved it, but I definitely was one of the early kind of cheerleaders. That's a better way to put it.

You laid down the stones.

Yeah, yeah. I put a couple of stones in place for sure. I put a couple of stones in place. But it's really going to require people like you to go the next mile, to think. You've taken your approach, you've taken it to kind of the next level. Yeah, it's just the way you're even approaching it is different than I did back in the day, and I'm approaching it obviously different than I did before. But the way that you're kind of holding the whole thing, it isn't even close to how I was holding it. And it doesn't say it's right or wrong. It's just that I don't think there was the collective intelligence at that time and at that moment in culture and society to hold it. Luckily, I did place a couple stones early on, but it's really going to require people like you—it's like passing the torch. So I'm super excited. Obviously, this podcast has been great because I've got to meet a lot of people that are like you, are thinking like you. And it's just exciting because 10 years ago, they weren't out there. These people, you people weren't out there. So very exciting times.

Definitely. I feel as though it's a time out of urgency as well. And part of the process for me, just growing as a person has been continuing to be a good listener, being patient. And something that came to me the other day, I was meditating, but I realized that you cannot change the direction of a force. You can only change hearts. So if you can change the hearts of the consumers, you can educate them, you can encourage them to be curious, I think that that can go such a long way. And on top of that, I think that that's too much for one person to take on. So the fact that you are still here, still doing what you're doing, still being a voice for Wave Tribe, is in itself so incredible because I understand, like you said, this is something that you were doing on your own for a while. And I'm curious, has your company grown through this process?

Oh, for sure. It's definitely grown. Yeah, but not at the rate that I wanted it to. Early days were like, oh yeah, ecology and surfing, of course, surfers are just going to fall out of the ocean and the sky and love on Wave Tribe. But it hasn't been that way. Most of the surf industry is and I've never been really connected to the surf industry. I've never been like I'm going to have my flag with all the other surf companies. I've been an outsider. I've been an outsider my whole life in a lot of ways. I'm just that way. I think differently. I like different things. And so the surf industry is not my industry. So I have a surf company, but I'm not part of the surf industry, which is it's a really sometimes very difficult place to be in, and in other times, it feels great because I know a lot of what happens in the surf industry, right?

Right. Like you're not bounded by the surf industry in the same way that these other companies are. I think that a lot of them are trying to keep up with trends and a lot of it is a fast fashion mentality. And in that sense, it's very damaging.

Of course, yeah. And it's about which pro you can get in your circle and which magazine. Magazines are kind of over, but for me, this is the most powerful time, I think, for companies like ours, because the old school model, you had to be part of the club in order to even play the game. So how do you get in the surf shops? You had to schmooze the surf shop owner and then give them terms and take back stock because that's what all the big companies are taking back stock that you don't sell. Right? And so that's a really hard game to play for a smaller company. Like for me to make a sale to surf shop and then have to take a bunch of stock back, it's almost an impossible business model, right? But in today's world, we get to have the relationships with the customers, which in the old school model, you didn't, right? You sold to the surf shop. It maybe knew the brand ambassadors, it knew you the pro rider that was riding for Rip Curl or whoever it was or Neil, but nobody knew the owners of the businesses were. Rarely. Rarely they knew. They didn't know the ethics of the owners. They didn't know even the mission of the owners. So that's what I'm excited. And that's really been a recent pivot. More so in COVID. But it started a few years. But for COVID, which is direct to customer sales, nobody was buying boards bags on Amazon 5 years ago. Nobody. Maybe a leash. Dude, now you can go and you can buy crazy 10,000 dollar items on Amazon. And I'd rather you not buy it on Amazon personally, I'd rather you buy it directly from Wave Tribe, but that was one step closer the customers got. They got comfortable with buying online on Amazon and they're like, "Oh, I'm going to go straight to the brand because there I have a relationship, I can see what's going on, I can kind of be part of their community." So that's the exciting thing about what's happening now with brands. And that's another reason I know you're going to do really well because you are speaking a link. You're customer-centric in your vision in just the way you talk about it. I felt like I was talking to somebody that was a consumer advocate for ecological surf industry. I haven't felt like I'm talking to a business owner, right? So you're consumer-centric with an ecological layer. And that's what I think the new companies will need because customers, they're not going to take it anymore. They're just not going to take it, hopefully.

Oh, right. I think that part of it comes down to giving those people an alternative that's viable for them to see. Oh, within my surf wax, I was able to pick something that I feel is a superior product in many ways from its function to its ability to do more good than harm. These things, once they see it in one part of an industry, won't they start looking for it in others? At least that's my hope. That's where this whole dream is coming from, is that it's really on top of just being a good product, it's a conversation starter. Really want people to start asking more questions and honestly, from my background not coming up in the surf industry, not growing up into this, being able to see it through its many phases, I rely on people that have the history of it, like you speaking about what it was back when it was really just the faces of the ambassadors versus now, there's a bit more of a story that people expect out of the industry. At least I'm seeing that a little bit more. I don't quite see it so much in the surfing industry, but surely during COVID, I feel like a lot of people were seeking story out of the brands that they were buying from. And when it comes to a quick decision purchase like waxes versus buying a board bag on Amazon, that usually takes a bit more predisposition or pre-thought to it. You're like, "I'm going to go on a trip, but I'm going to buy a board bag. Let me look on Amazon or whatever." But somebody who's just going surfing and doesn't have wax and they don't have an alternative that's in a store, that's where I feel as though I have to be in both worlds. I have to be in the surf shops and in the direct to consumer as well.

Yeah, yeah. And no, I think you're totally right. It's kind of a different wax as I don't know, I think you'd be surprised how many people would sign up for a subscription service for wax, which I think would be a great part of your business model.

It's a great idea.

I surf 5 times a week. I know I need a certain amount of wax. If it shows up once a month, I have my wax for my month. And an extra bar, too, I'll give to a friend. Right? So it's not even the sort of thing that would spoil like if I get a little bit of extra, that's okay. If I'm going on a trip, I don't know if you've played with kind of temperature ranges and that sort of thing.

Yeah, we have.

Yeah. So if I go on a trip, then that's the only probably time where I might do a purchase at a store like I run to the store to get it. So I think you could kill it with wax direct to customer. I think there's no reason in today's world. Guys are buying surfboards on the internet. If you buy a surfboard in the internet, you definitely could buy a wax. So I don't know, I challenge you a little bit on that belief.

Yeah, I definitely want to rely more heavily on that direct-to-consumer, as you know, that there's so many more benefits from it. But I do know that there is that world out there. There's consumers that will require that just click purchase day of sort of thing. So I know I got to be in both worlds, but a big part of this is making it a product that people are willing to pay that extra dollar for, but not going too far where it's like, "That's ridiculous, I'm not going to spend 10 dollars on a bar." So my whole goal has been to find that sweet spot where you are catering to those people that are used to buying their 2-dollar bar, 2-dollar bar, 2-dollar bar then those people that are willing to buy the 6 to 7-dollar bar and finding a sweet spot in the middle that you can actually tap into both markets.

Yeah, yeah. It's a great idea.

And a big part of that, again, comes down to the sourcing of materials, and the cost of things like hemp is definitely more expensive than paraffin. So people have to understand that they're investing into a future of an industry.

Yeah, that has always been the biggest hurdle. You just nailed it.

Yeah. Having wax, that was just the first child that came from this whole idea, but understanding that in order to be in that sweet spot of pricing, it's very hard to run a business. It's very hard to be profitable. Wax is not a very profitable thing. So a big part of this has been what other products can I create that haven't been created before and bring them to the market? So that's why Reefer Wax is actually founded upon products that are all hemp-based, but all contribute to the surfing industry. So that was a huge reason why I found you guys because I'm looking to create a platform for hemp-based products within the surfing industry to give people that alternative while also returning that profit into the hemp industry, which is so in need of funding in order to reach the masses in the ways that it's capable of.

I love that. You're so right.

I'm curious, and I've been thinking this since we started talking. Why did you decide to go with hemp versus bamboo when those seem the 2 most viable options?

Bamboo just doesn't have the strength. Bamboo is better in a T-shirt because it's light, it's just better for clothing, right? And I did do a couple of samples, but we use a really thick weave. So when you think about hemp, you can get different weaves of hemp so you can get a thinner weave or a thicker weave and with a thicker weave hemp, you actually have a protection against, well, for a bag because board bags, they obviously take a lot of beating too, right? Baggage handlers are throwing it around and your little brother's stabbing it with a knife and whatever it is happening. Hemp, it has to be strong. So it was a stronger fabric. And I also had read about a lot of the processing of bamboo fabric. And it's a pretty gnarly process from what I learned, the stripping of the bamboo and a lot of chemicals are used for the fibers. The growing of the bamboo, no. The growing of the bamboo is obviously, it grows like weeds, as we all know. But the processing of bamboo, it's not that ecological, actually. But hemp is because it's basically well, it's just the way that it's made. They don't use the same kind of processing, right? They just weave it basically.

Right. Yeah. Honestly, I want to admit where my knowledge, my barriers are. And part of that right now for me is understanding what it takes to produce hemp or manufacture it into these different forms. I'm curious how much of this processing is actually sustainable. I am confident in what I'm getting for the wax as being sustainable, but I haven't put eyes on a process like creating clothing out of hemp or I know that there's things out there like hempcrete, hemp plastic, hemp wood, the list goes on. I would love, through your platform, if anybody that listens to this has knowledge around this or access to this kind of stuff, I would love to have my eyes opened to it so I can understand it because this truly is where my passion lies, is trying to make sure that this industry is truly going to change the world and change infrastructure and not just surfing. But it goes so much further than that.

Yeah, it's exciting.

Yeah, I think so too. I love what you guys are doing with the board bags and I love that you're continuing to refine it because you know that it's a never-ending process. To be a business owner, it's always a learning process.

Always. Always be learning. That's my mantra.

I like it.

So we've got almost an hour. We've got an hour now. I just have a few more quick questions that I like to ask my guests. What was your first surfboard?

A Wavestorm, what else?

Wavestorm, ohhhh!! What size?

8'0.

Tell me the story. How did you buy it?

Yeah. I moved to Santa Cruz. This is about 3 years ago. And I didn't want to hurt anybody in my process of learning how to surf. I knew Santa Cruz gets very crowded, so you got to be careful. I actually went on Facebook marketplace. I was able to find a second-hand surfboard and I just dove in. Gosh, learning in Santa Cruz was such a blessing in a lot of ways, because it treats you with a lot of respect or teaches you how to be respectful. And yeah, when you're out there, it's a lot of point breaks and you get a lot of people that want to make sure they're getting their time. So I had to find my ways around it as I learned on a Wavestorm, you stick out like a sore thumb, right? So I was humbled a lot. I have come from that experience and grow. Now I ride a 9'0, but I also love riding some mid-length and I have a 7'2 that I love riding and I'm out here in Encinitas mainly just riding on beach breaks. Understandably, 3 years is not enough time to really have much understanding around surfing. I'm still a student. I think I'll always be a student with surfing, but my heart's in it and I'm dedicated and I've started out like a lot of people are. And the surfing industry is just booming right now. And there's a lot of Wavestorms and there's a lot of foam, and that's, again, another big reason why I want to make sure that as I now grow into this industry, that the growth is done in a sustainable and a regenerative way.

Yeah, for sure. Do you put wax on a Wavestorm? I don't even know.

No, I don't.

You don't. This is great. So you are creating a hemp wax company or hemp company and you didn't even have wax. I love that. I just love it.

Dude, it was really just seeing the world around me and knowing what I was growing into and understanding that as I had to start making these purchases, buying a board, buying a wetsuit, buying the leash, buying the wax, that there weren't the options out there that I felt comfortable with.

Yeah. So in a way, maybe even more sensitive, right? Because you kind of went from not using wax to then using wax to a different board. Yeah, I can see that. That's a trip. So how about the best wave that you've ever caught? One that kind of stands out?

Oh, there's this place I went to at Maui. This is probably about 6 months ago, it's my first time ever going to Hawaii. It's really close to Lahaina if you've ever been there, but just the most incredible right, the most comfortable I've ever felt riding a line. The wave just takes you, there's no sections, you just go. And just learning, I was on 9'0 for the first time ever as well, just borrowing a friend's board out there, turned my board down, caught it, dropped in, and it was just like the biggest rush. It was like being on a roller coaster. It was such an incredible, freeing feeling. Yeah. Immediately, that was the first one that I thought of. I couldn't have asked for a better learning experience coming in to Hawaii. The energy of the waves is something that I had never experienced before. The energy of the people that you're surrounded by when you're out there, it really still goes beyond my words. And I want to ensure that that can hold its integrity, that for generations moving forward that that energy can last. So even saying my most amazing wave was in Hawaii, people have to take that and understand that there's a responsibility that comes behind that claim. That going into these places where people have been for thousands of years, you have to go into it as a student and humble and willing to give more than you are taking. So I'm not perfect at it, but I am learning and being patient with myself and with the people that I speak to about this. So, yeah, I just want to come from that place.

Yeah, beautiful, I can tell. Very intentional. So the last question is if you were to give your younger self some advice, what advice would you give your younger self?

stay humble, stay open, stay in your integrity. Listen to the voice that is trying to speak through you, your gut is always right, and there's something to be trusted that goes beyond the words in your mind. It comes from somewhere deeper and I wouldn't be here speaking to you if I hadn't followed that feeling. Sometimes it comes as a fire and when that fire happens, you have to realize that there's a path being blazed. So, yeah, I am grateful for the times that I listen to it and I'm accepting of the times that I didn't and having to now learn from it and move forward with grace. So, yes, thank you.

Yeah, that's beautiful.

That was a very encouraging moment.

Oh, yeah. It's a lesson I'm still learning for sure. So where can people find you and come hang out online and do you have the website address and Instagram and all that goody goody goody stuff?

Absolutely. I want to point people to Reefer in all its forms. We keep it pretty simple. There's reeferwax.com, and you can find us on Instagram in @reefer_wax. So you'll find everything you need to find out about Reefer Wax in either one of those places.

And we'll put those links in the show notes so everyone can jump over there and say hello to you. And I'm sure this episode is going to be one of the best ones we've done. You were fantastic.

Thank you so much, Derek. Again, I really appreciate you, your time, your platform, your spirit, and your style. I would love to hone in on this relationship much for the future.

Absolutely. Come up and surf. Wintertime is when we have the magic up here. So you have to come up and surf one of these fantastic points. We've got a lot of different points, so you'd have a blast up here.

It's an honor to get the invitation. Thank you.

Yeah, for sure. All right. Bye.

Bye, Derek.

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