N: 37°09’11.16″ W: -7°53’15.04″
Octávio Lourenço made his first set of surfboards in high school, he kept one and gave two away to his best friends. At this moment he succeeded in combining his passions – art and surfing – and began turning his passion into a career. During our visit to Portugal we visited Octávio at the Ferox plant and so that we could hear his story. He told us about his love of surfing, the surfboards and his connection with Alex Botelho – a surfer eho is taking on some of the highest waves in the world.
Octávio from Ferox Surfboards
São Brás de Alportel is located about a 20-minute drive from Faro airport, in southwestern Portugal. In the last century there was a factory here where cork was processed, which was primarily intended for bottles of wine – which were naturally produced across Portugal. Not coincidentally, this factory was run by Octávio’s grandparents. Octávio is the founder and owner of Ferox Surfboards, where surfboards are made from – yes – cork.
From local bottle corks to surfboards on a global level
Many cork trees can be found in the Algarve, where São Brás de Alportel is located. The cork that is extracted here is of the highest quality and that is why there is such a large demand for this cork, in Portugal and across the world. In the past this popularity was specifically attirbuted to wine corks, nowadays cork surfboards are also very popular. Even Alex Botelho surfs with the boards made from this cork, such as those from Ferox. Alex and Octávio even have a bond that extends far beyond the relationship between surfer and surfboard shaper.
At first glance, It doesn’t immediately sound like a “coincidence” that Octávio works a lot with the same product where his ancestors owned a factory. Yet it was certainly not planned and there appeared to be another motivation behind his Ferox company.
Cork in surfboards
Many people will not immediately think of cork when you ask them what a surfboard is made out of. However, this is used in many boards and that is due to a number of key properties. Cork is waterproof, it is naturally very light, it is flexible and – partly because of the latter – it offers good support to the surfer.
However, a cork surfboard can be of good and less good quality. Many commercially produced surfboards use cork that is compressed, which also uses a lot of glue and other waste products. The cork that is used with many handmade boards is often 100% pure, which makes a world of difference for the surfer.
How did it ever start?
Octávio has always been very creative from an early age. He used everything he encountered to make something beautiful when brought together. From curtain rails too rails used under table tops, he made guns that the kids from the neighborhood played with. He had a beautiful lamp hanging in the factory, in the shape of a fly – the wings were crafted from 2 old oven gloves.
From the moment he came into contact with surfing, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He thought, “How cool would it be if you could make a surfboard yourself”- and so it happened. He made his first surfboard from a refrigerator door, on which he subsequently applied a floral pattern. This board was completely straight (due to the shape of the refrigerator door), but you could still ride a wave with it. Now it is hanging on the wall in the Ferox factory.
During a project at the end of high school, where he followed many art subjects, he had to present something “quirky”. This could of course be nothing more than his own surfboards, of which he had taken 2 of them to exhibit. They now hang beautifully on the wall in the school and Octávio showed a video of the production process. In the end his effort was rewarded with a very high rating.
The famous David Carson also wanted a surfboard
Coincidentally, David Carson, an American art director, graphic designer and surf enthusiast, visited the Octávio school some time after the surf project. He had initially come to provide a workshop on art and design. Carson soon heard about Octávio and his surfboards. He immediately became enthusiastic and tried to get in touch with Octávio. This was in the early days of the internet, so all contact went via email. David Carson also wanted a surfboard, which meant an incredible boost for Octávio’s confidence.
At this point, Octávio had been doing a great job making surfboards, making a number of them for high profile clientele. An acquaintance of his owns a shop where they sold surf attributes, among other things. He asked if Octávio could make 3 surfboards for the store. No sooner said than done … When 2 days later the phone rang and the acquaintance started talking about the surfboards, Octávio immediately thought something was wrong. The opposite was true, because all three surfboards had already been sold. The bell asked whether Octávio wanted to make 3 more boards. At that time, Octávio knew that he could turn his passion into his work. Not much later Ferox Surfboards was born.
Why Alex Botelho surfs on Ferox boards
Big Wave Surfing is one of the main components of the World Surf League tour. Alex Botelho is one of the most renowned names in this circuit, surfing some of the most spectacular waves to ever be surfed. Ferox is therefore very proud to be the only Portuguese producer of surfboards used within the WSL. It is not for nothing that Alex Botelho is very satisfied with his surfboard with which he surfs the highest waves in the world.
But what makes Ferox so special? Octávio tries to make its brand distinctive in 3 ways:
- All surfboards are made by hand on request. No board is therefore the same. All parts, such as the stringer, are also made by hand, from scratch. The products that are used are only of top quality. E.g. the cork that comes from the region or the special wood that is extracted in the Azores, among others. This manual and customized work pays off, it shows.
- The customer comes first, that is one of the core values of Ferox. Everyone who orders a surfboard starts with a short interview. A number of questions are asked here in order to get the best possible picture of the wishes. Think of someone’s experience, type of waves he /she wants to surf, weight, number of liters of the surfboard, material etc. Based on these interviews, Octávio makes an estimate of how he can make the board as good as possible and then gets to work . However, should it turn out that he has made a wrong estimate (this has happened twice in the past 21 years !!), Octávio will work with the feedback and will make a new surfboard for you.
- Ferox does not want to become a big brand. They ensure that they remain relatively small, so that the service they provide can remain at the top, with a very personal approach. All customers are known by name, so even if a surfboard is resold 2 or 3 times, the new owner can always request the data from the surfboard at Octávio.
Recycling is of paramount importance
Octávio also told us about 2 fun ways they try to recycle. They have to do with production waste, which is often not very good for the environment if you do nothing with it. The grit that comes off the surfboard during processing (sanding) is collected. All of this is ultimately delivered to a local cement producer, who then uses this grit for their own production.
Another nice example is that Ferox uses surfboards that are returned or donated to organize a fun activity with children who have a physical or mental disability. These surfboards are chopped into pieces by Octávio and then the kids get started to create fun shapes, an activity that always brings a lot of fun. The most beautiful works of art will eventually be exhibited in the factory, other parts will be used to make new surfboards.
What a special and inspiring visit this was! We hope to see you again in the future Octávio!
Photo’s: Mylan Rosendaal