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STEAM: Discarded Masks Used To Create Eco-Friendly Surfboards At Torrance Company

TORRANCE (CBSLA) -- A Los Angeles County teen came up with the idea to upcycle coronavirus masks and turn them into sustainable surfboards.

19-year-old Ford Roll of Burbank, who at the time was sweeping floors at eco-surfboard company Earth Technologies, presented his vision to the team and ended up with a promotion and high product demand.

Roll started out this initiative by going out to pick up discarded masks on the side of the road.

The pile of masks he collected quicky found a home in the company shredder alongside other items like gloves and coffee cups that go into upcycling efforts to create sustainable surfboards.

The "zero-waste initiative" surfboard makers focus on collecting, compacting, condensing and then glossing the protective gear into surfboards that reduce the presence of masks in landfills.

Oftentimes, surfers are some of the first people to notice trouble in the water, and new environmental concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic have been one of the things that caught their attention.

"You're starting to see masks everywhere in the ocean," said Ryan Harris, Owner and Designer-in-Chief of Earth Technologies. "It's a new pollution problem. Before it was the bag and straws."

Harris, who has a degree in Product Design and initially worked in the sneaker business, said he had no plans on entering the surfboard-building industry.

Of all the STEAM disciplines, creating surfboards leans most heavily on technology, engineering, art and math, specifically angles and curves derived from nature's Fibonacci spiral.

Harris said for a surfer to succeed in the ocean, the curve and balance of their board has to be in harmony with the curves and forces of a wave.

Ford, who started out sweeping for the sustainable surfboard company, now runs the machine that gives the eco-boards their precision.

"I just kind of worked my way up," the teen said.

Demand for the mask-filled surfboard has been soaring and now Ford is contemplating a career in business or design.

His advice to aspiring eco-surfboard makers is to get comfortable with the numerical part of the building process, and be willing to work your way up to achieving your goals.

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