With the concept of making upcycled products from discarded yacht sails, truck tarpaulin, advertising billboard, ripstop and Bedouin stretch tent materials, who better to represent Sealand on the ground than the man who makes beautiful, handmade wooden surfboards and runs courses on how to build them. Patrick Burnett is the latest Sealand Gear ambassador who we would like to introduce.
Explain to us what you actually do for a living.
I make hollow wooden surfboads, stand-up paddleboards and related surfcraft, all out of wood. As part of that I run courses where people come into my workshop and build their own boards.
So it’s woodworking then. If someone were to want to make a board, but is not very good with their hands, will it be a challenge for you and for them?
I've had people from all backgrounds - from 14 to 70 years of age - from people that are good with their hands to people that have never picked up a saw. What's great to see is how everyone no matter his or her background really gets something out of creating a surfboard out of wood. The job for me is to assess where people are and then either let them get on with it, or assist where required. But it is definitely not a pre-requisite to be good with your hands. I find it very inspiring when someone who hasn't worked with wood before comes in and makes a beautiful surfboard - it gives me chicken skin!
How long does it take to make a board with you?
The full course is 5-6 days and with that you start off with a pile of planks and finish the woodwork on your surfboard. For folk with less time, there's a three-day option where part of the board is done for them. Most people choose the 6-day option - I think they want to start at the beginning and be able to say they did all of it.
What else do you do? You’re in Europe at the moment.
I've been lucky to have a relationship with a company called Vermont Sales, who distribute Triton power tools in South Africa. Triton have supplied me with power tools for the last 18 months and I'm in Germany to shape a wood surfboard at their demo stand that they have at an exhibition in Cologne. It's been an awesome experience so far to see a different place and meet some amazing people. Triton's whole vibe is to support the maker movement - people doing interesting things with wood, and so there is a really talented young woodworker here from the UK and a woodworking blogger from the States who are also doing demo’s, so it's been great to share experiences and hang out.
What is your philosophy on life in general?
In three words, let it happen...
What would you do if you were granted the power to change the world?
I wouldn't know where to start; it's so daunting a question. Maybe prioritise time travel research so we could go back and change our destiny, end up in a better place?
What is the most progressive thing in the world of surfing right now?
Big wave surfing. The way the paddle boundaries have been pushed the last few years has been phenomenal, unbelievable almost. But I think what's also interesting for me where I’m at is how the idea of what you can ride and how you ride has diversified – the ride anything movement, the finless movement, the retro movement, the wood surfboard movement – and also how all those movements cross pollinate each other. It’s inspiring.
On fatherhood and challenges. You love being a dad?
Yes. It is very meaningful. My kids (two boys age 11 and 4) inspire me, challenge me, keep me young and sometimes even tell me when I’m full of shit. Being a parent is a privilege, an honour and keeps me honest. I’m tremendously grateful.
Our environment needs to be looked after, for your children and their children. Elaborate.
A few years ago the author George Monbiot put it well in saying that “we’re borrowing from the future to pay for the present.” I think we need to try and live more consciously, keeping in mind that the hard decisions we don’t make about how we structure our lives and society as a whole have tremendous consequences for the lives of our children.
Do you have an opinion on Nuclear?
I'm opposed to nuclear, for a number of reasons. Generally, nuclear accidents do happen and when they do it is a multi-generational disaster that compromises the future of our kids and kids kids. Check out Fukushima. There's got to be a better way. With regards South Africa's nuclear plans, as widely reported there are serious questions around the transparency of what's under discussion and huge concerns about the potential for corruption and the vested interests that want to see us adopt nuclear – it's not only about our energy needs but has the potential to further undermine the health of our institutions and body politic, as the arms deal has so tragically demonstrated.
For more information on making wooden surfboards, or taking the course with Patrick, go to:
Phone: + 27 (0) 73 232 3043