The Brad Rochfort Story: Where Passion Meets Sustainability

By Kailani Wetherell for Sustainable Surf, 24 May 2024. 

Welcome to the world of Rochfort Surfboards, where every wave tells a story and every board is crafted with passion and purpose. Meet Brad Rochfort, the visionary behind this surfboard revolution, whose upbringing in South Africa during the 1990s laid the foundation for his lifelong passion for surfing. Despite financial limitations, owning only one worn-out board at a time, he honed his skills in board maintenance, teaching himself to repair dings to extend the life of his cherished possession. Fast forward 30 years, and Rochfort’s journey into board building became a natural progression from those formative experiences. A born creator, he harbored an innate desire to craft, eagerly seizing the opportunity to learn board building when his friend and esteemed 80’s shaper, Brian Page, extended a helping hand. Grateful for Page’s mentorship, Rochfort embarked on his board-building odyssey two decades ago, starting with humble beginnings in his garden, where he shaped his initial board amidst a makeshift setup. Fuelled by determination and passion, Rochfort soon expanded his operation, erecting a sizable shed that served as the birthplace of countless meticulously crafted surfboards.   

Working full-time for Surf Hardware Intl. (FCS fins), this venture into board building serves as a passion project for Brad who aims to maintain it as such. Despite frequent suggestions to turn it into a full-time profession, due to the extensive time he devotes to each board, meticulously refining every detail. Rochfort follow the belief of Master Ben Aipa who once said “It’s not how many you have done, it’s how well you do them.” With a production rate of only one or two boards per month, he deliberately keeps numbers low to alleviate pressure while simultaneously fostering a steady demand through custom pre-orders. Balancing his existing commitments, including family and a desire to surf as often as possible, this approach affords him the flexibility to indulge in shaping while still enjoying other aspects of life

Concerned about the environmental impact of our passion, Rochfort has wholeheartedly embraced the shift towards eco-friendly boards. As sustainable materials rapidly evolve, he believes it’s crucial to minimize our footprint while meeting the growing demand for greener options. To achieve this, Brad has made significant changes, transitioning primarily to epoxy bio-resin and utilizing various sustainable blanks, such as Marco recycled EPS and Arctic Bio foam. Moreover, he’s implemented a comprehensive recycling system for fiberglass offcuts, collaborating with local artists to repurpose them into textured paintings. Any excess resin is creatively transformed into lifestyle products like bangles, rings, planters, and trophies. Brad Rochfort’s dedication to building eco-friendly boards is deeply rooted in a commitment to sustainability, incorporating verified materials and practices aligned with the principles of the Eco-Board Project. Inspired by the advocacy of friend and fellow ECOBOARD Shaper, Ryan Harris (ECO by Ry) in California, and supported by the endorsement of the UK shaping community, Rochfort continues to seek verification for his eco-friendly practices, driving forward the mission for a more sustainable surfing industry.

Brad Rochfort explains:

It’s nice to be certified by a third party such as The Ecoboard Project, to verify what I’m doing and be able to shine a light on it. To be able to get people riding ecoboards that feel no different to anything else will have the biggest impact. Surfers are reluctant to change, so to see their surprise when they actually try one is always refreshing. It’s a slow process but the needle is gradually moving, and more shapers are seeing the benefits and willing to get involved. I hope to inspire the consumer and the general surfing population, as they hold the purse strings at the end of the day. Also, many old skool shapers find it hard to switch from traditional materials, but if they switched just one material to a sustainable version then we are heading in the right direction.

In the future, Rochfort hopes to see the overall bio content of most boards increase to over 50% in the near future, without compromising performance or durability. And if surfers get these made by their LOCAL shaper, then even better.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting some core memories from Brad and the experience he’s had in this board building process along the way. The second board he ever made was shaped in his garden at home. It was winter so it was too cold to glass outside and he didn’t yet have a workshop space. So he glassed it in the kitchen, which was a big mistake! Thinking a bit of newspaper on the floor and some a-frames would do the job nicely, to his surprise the resin kicked after about 10 minutes, before he’d even got to the laps. Panic set in and Brad peeled off the glass in a rush which then stuck to everything and the pot started to melt. It was polyester resin so the whole house stank of resin fumes. The smell got into every room, our clothes, bedding, furniture and all our food tasted of resin for days. Needless to say, Brad Rochfort has definitely learned from some mistakes over the years, but if anything, they’ve only made him learn faster.

Curious to learn more about Brad Rochfort’s passion project? Follow along their journey @rochfort_surfboards.