How Ernest built a cardboard surfboard

October 21, 2014

As Ernest’s director of consulting services, Mike Martinez gets any number of unusual requests to help customers solve packaging problems.

But nothing could have prepared him for the day that Ernest’s president, Tim Wilson, gave him this latest challenge for the Ernest Cardboard Chaos series with Signal Snowboards: Build a surfboard … out of paper.

“I was really excited about it,” he said. “I knew that it would be challenging.”

He immediately assumed that buoyancy would be the biggest issue. To address the problem, Mike used a honeycomb structure from Hexacomb, which allowed him to replicate a traditional foamcore out of paper.

Mike and his team initially made an all-paper board, which was fun in theory but — without a fiberglass coating — wasn’t very practical.

The challenge proved to be a very difficult one. “There were a ton of disasters!” he said. “It felt like fail after fail after fail.”

So what kept him going? “We’re determined to get it right here,” he said of Ernest. “That’s just our culture. We learned a bit from each failure. I knew it was just a matter of time before we got it right.”

The Ernest team had some difficult engineering issues to address, such as including a stringer in the core. They needed to maintain the geometric look of the honeycomb while maintaining a strong bond. “We accomplished this by cutting a dado into the honeycomb the exact width as the stringer,” Mike said. “That gave us just enough contact of paper to paper for the polyurethane to bond.”

After dozens of hours working and help from Jeff “Doc” Lausch and Future Fins, Mike had the perfect board. When it was finally time for the board to hit the beach, he couldn’t wait.

“It was pure joy!” he said. “It was a big celebration. It’s like the first time you see your kid ride off on a bike without the training wheels.”

This project gave Mike a new appreciation for paper projects, but it also gave him a new appreciation his Ernest coworkers.

“Our culture really doesn’t give up,” he said. “This is a microcosm for how we approach our business. If there is a problem that needs to be solved, we’re going to find a way. We’re going to root out the answer. There were a lot of time when we could have quit or give a mediocre solution.”

That’s the kind of attitude — creative and tenacious — that Ernest uses everyday to find solutions for our customers. Contact us today about your packaging challenges.