The History of Riley Balsawood Surfboards
Growing up near Melbourne and Sydney Mark Riley was drawn to surfing at an early age and spent the majority of his time in the water. After completing his carpentry apprenticeship and working several years in the trade Mark was ready for a change. He packed his bag and surfboards and was off on an extensive trip through Central and South America.
Two months into the trip Mark had broken both Polyurethane (PU) boards he had brought along. Having this frustrated experience in the back of his mind he stumbled upon balsa wood in Ecuador. The material was light, had great flex characteristics and grew on sustainable farms. Being a carpenter by trade Mark knocked up his first board then and there.
After the first trial sessions Mark saw the potential in the material - not just as solid balsa surfboards but also in the combination with foam.
12 months after leaving Australia Mark returned to Sydney – in tow a container of balsa sticks. Soon after, in April 1996, Riley Balsawood Surfboards was founded.
The company started making beautiful, high quality retro style 50's and 60's Malibus. On the side Mark tested combinations of balsa and foam on his private boards. Three years later Mark was convinced to have found a true alternative to polyurethane surfboards. Recycled EPS foam in combination with a 2-3mm balsa "skin" made the boards super light but also very strong. The boards felt great in the water and attracted much attention. Word of mouth spread fast and soon the order books were filled with solid Classics as well as a range of EPS core shortboards, fishes, minimals and high performance longboards.
Nowadays Mark is still the director of Riley Classic Balsa Boards. He is the head shaper and runs the whole operation of selecting the balsa wood in Ecuador, grading, cutting, laminating, shaping and finishing all orders. As Ecuadorian balsa is renowned for its superb quality we still import containers on a regular basis. As we are constantly trying to reduce our impact on the environment we have also started growing balsa trees here in Australia. We are very proud of hand crafting all our products right here in Australia.
In late 2007 Riley Balsawood Surfboards launched an instructional DVD in which Mark shares his balsa shaping secrets. After great response from the surfing community we soon later also released a downloadable E-book explaining in detail how a solid balsawood surfboard is made.
Mark lives with his wife Lourdes and kids Sebby and Elyss in Miranda (Sydney, NSW). Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org