For three entrepreneurial snowboarders from Newfoundland, Canada, one simple dream has changed their lives. Steve Wheeler, Marcel Savidon and Michael Maddock sought to make quality snowboards using green composite materials. In 2009, they spent six months constructing their own snowboard press out of an eclectic group of materials.
“It started with a whole lot of passion, steel railway ties from the now defunct Newfoundland Railway, fire hose from the Phoenix fire department and an idea,” says Wheeler, general manager at Magine Snowboards. While making the press, the three friends created a business plan that led to the emergence of Magine Snowboards in Port au Port East, Newfoundland.
Magine Snowboards is owned and operated equally by Wheeler, Savidon and Maddock, who tackle the bulk of the hands-on work of building bio-composite snowboards. The snowboards were developed in partnership with The Composite Innovation Centre (CIC) of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Magine Snowboards received a seed capital loan from the Community Business Development Corporation and additional funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
A connection with Composites Evolution Ltd., a manufacturing company from the United Kingdom, cemented the entrepreneurs’ dreams of building a bio-composite snowboard. Brendon Weager, managing director of Composites Evolution, was introduced to the owners of Magine Snowboards in 2011 by the CIC. “We discussed what the guys wanted to achieve and their performance requirements for these bio-composite boards,” says Weager. Various layup and material combinations were tested before Magine settled on the final match.
Composites Evolution produces Bio-Tex, a high-performance natural yarn material made using flax that’s ideally suited for reinforcement layers. Most snowboard manufacturers use two fiberglass layers as the reinforcement. Fiberglass makes the boards stiffer and stronger – two characteristics snowboarders desire. But riders also want flexibility.
Bio-Tex fiber provides that flexibility: It is created from raw, processed flax fibers and converted into a twistless yarn. “This provides straight, aligned fibers for good mechanical properties and an open yarn structure for impregnation,” says Weager. Rather than fiberglass, Magine incorporates Bio-Tex layers into its snowboards.
“The boards are more giving, meaning you can make a few more mistakes [on the slopes],” says Wheeler. One of the main things riders look for in a snowboard is dampening – the reduction of vibrations in order to improve handling. The Bio-Tex fiber offers three to four times more dampening than fiberglass and gives riders a high-quality ride while maintaining the durability of a traditional snowboard, says Wheeler.