The Alchemist - Surfboard Shaper Kevin Cunningham

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by Mike Marks

Kevin Cunnigham turns beached flotsam into performing works of art. He's featured in the new film, One Beach, premiering Tuesday, September 20th.

spirare fin More than anything else, Kevin Cunningham wants you to know that he shapes performance surfboards. Once you've got that fact in your mind he'll be pleased to inform you that, beyond performance, the materials he uses in his boards are as environmentally friendly as possible. The foam cores are recycled EPS, the rails are made from fast growing paulownia trees and the top and bottom wooden skins come from poplars. Shaping green surfboards puts Kevin in the forefront of a quietly growing movement to make the reality of surfing as eco-friendly as its image. But what really sets Kevin apart is his passion for beach trash.

Kevin likes to walk along beaches and pick up marine debris from the wrack line to reuse in his products. He especially likes tangled fishing lines, old nets and frayed ropes - he can weave those elements together to make something akin to fiberglass cloth. Casting this former flotsam in clear epoxy resin he creates surfboard fins that are one of a kind functional works of art. The results are beautiful and carry a message.

Kevin explains, "My goal is to raise awareness and show people that even though this is trash washing up on the shore, we can put a positive spin on it. People will think a little more and maybe they won't throw as much trash into the ocean." 

Kevin works his surfboard alchemy through Spirare Surfboards in Providence RI. The name "spirare" comes from the root latin word for spirt, the breath of life.  His passion for giving pieces of beach trash fresh life as things of beauty is now being recognized in the new film One Beach. Presented by Barefoot Wine, directed by renowned surf filmmaker Jason Baffa and produced by Farm League, One Beach tells the personal stories of people who are using creativity and innovation to help keep the world’s beaches “barefoot friendly:”

•    Richard + Judith Lang (California): Collect plastic from their local beach to create large sculptures, installations, photo tableaus and jewelry
•    Kevin Cunningham (Rhode Island): RISD graduate who builds surf boards from beach trash
•    Barbara de Vries (Bahamas): Fashion designer who makes jewelry and fashion t-shirts from found beach plastic •    Tim Silverwood (Australia): Environmentalist who founded non-profit Take 3, focused on beach health and taking the time to pick up litter
•    Jim Moriarty (California): Avid surfer and CEO of Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches

The first installment of One Beach debuts on Facebook on September 20, 2011, with subsequent episodes posted weekly for five weeks following the premiere. To view the trailer and watch One Beach when it premieres on September 20, visit  Join the conversation by using #onebeach.

Kevin Cunningham, Spirare Surfboards


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