2013 Sydney Design Awards

Image Credit : Chris Anderson



Project Overview

Ecto Handplanes recycle broken surfboards into thrilling high speed bodysurfing devices known as handplanes, or handboards. Ecto Handplanes have been designed with a unique shape, and required developing a special manufacturing technique to recycle the foam of broken surfboards - which are normally put in the bin on a one way trip to landfill.


Ecto Handplanes


Ecto Handplanes grew as a side project to my '1000 Surfboard Graveyard' art project. The project is dedicated to collecting 1000 broken surfboards for a large scale board graveyard art installation on the beach. The 1000 Surfboard Graveyard project pays tribute to all the surfers who have broken expensive surfboards that they loved, but more significantly highlights the current wastage of 'disposable' high performance surfboards.

As I amassed an abundance of wasted surfboards I began researching and experimenting with the ways in which surfboards could be reused and recycled for when the project was completed.

After a few rough prototypes and a lengthy New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) application process, Ecto Handplanes was born.

Project Brief

Have you ever bodysurfed using a handplane?!

Handplanes are all about: FAST. FUN. BODYSURFING. Ecto Handplanes increase the thrilling speed and freedom of bodysurfing by allowing you to maximise accelaration and hold in hollow waves. Handplanes help greatly with bodysurfing as they offer a flat buoyant surface to push against and gain extraordinary speeds - This process is called 'Hydroplaning', which can be more simply be described as the process of skimming across the water.

However, best of all Ecto Handplanes are made by recycling surfboards that are old, broken or snapped.

Project Need

The majority of handplanes currently on the market are made from plastic molds offshore or shaped from various types of wood. Ecto Handplanes took a different approach to the handplane design by pioneering what is essentially a fully functioning miniature surfboard, as it is made using the same shaping and fibreglassing processes as used for making regular surfboards.

The recycled polyurethane (PU) foam shape and polyester fibreglass construction give Ecto Handplanes a particularly unique feel in the water which differs to that of other handplanes made from woods and plastics.

Ecto Handplanes are all signed with dimensions (15 1/2" x 7 3/4" x 1 1/4"), following the same tradition of surfboard design as it allows shapes to be documented and then modified to evolve designs. Ecto Handplanes have brought as a new level of accuracy within handplane design.

A FCS GoPro Camera mount is also built into the nose so you can capture all your glorious waves and wipe-outs.

Design Challenge

The major design challenge was the development of a versatile handplane shape that had the right volume of buoyancy to effectively allow the 'hydroplaning', or skimming process. A variety of sizes, shapes, rails edges, tails and concaves were tested before choosing the final 'Ecto' design.

A design challenge that remains is the consistent collection of broken surfboards as manufacturing material as they can be difficult to collect on a regular basis. However, this challenge is driving the need to further develop a systematic surfboard collection and recycling program in the future.


Ecto Handplanes recycles the Polyurethane (PU) foam core found in the centre of surfboards by reshaping the material back into bodysurfing handplane blanks. These foam 'blanks' are then glassed locally in Mona Vale on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Each year thousands of surfboards end up in landfill because surfboards are not readily recycled. Ecto Handplanes are created as high quality and fully functioning products from a material that is currently largely deemed as waste.

Ecto Handplanes are mostly decorated by recycling old fabrics by inlaying them under the fibreglass during the glassing process. This process eliminates the use of toxic polyester resin tints. Ecto Handplanes are also decorated with hand painted designs but these are created using water based acrylic paints to again try and minimise the use of toxic chemicals.

This award celebrates creative and innovative design for either a component or overall product. Consideration given to aspects that relate to human usage, aesthetics, selection of components and materials, and the resolution of assembly, manufacturing and the overall function.
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