Paper Rain Project – Birth of the Eco Skateboard


I am literally drooling over sharing this next interview. It relates to red wine, skateboarding and being environmentally friendly – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!! Three things I hold close to my heart. Paper Rain Project you are making dreams come true. Allow me to share the juice on the exciting newly recycled Barrel Boards.

Paper Rain Project LogoThe Paper Rain Project is a small custom creative company based in Marlborough, New Zealand (our favourite region for an awesome Pinot Noir). They produce organic/fair trade apparel, board art, recycled longboard decks, photography, design & other creative ventures. Although the company basically consists of Indigo and her partner, Wills, it is in collaboration with several artists abroad & continues to expand it’s relationship with makers, shakers & creatives alike.

The goal at The Paper Rain Project is to combine sustainable living, quality products & art with a local, environmentally friendly ethos that’ll make NZ proud. Let me tell you, their true to their word as Indigo reveals in this interview.

What legacy would the Paper Rain Project like to leave behind for future generations?

We would love to be forerunners in sustainability & localisation. We feel that it is very important to produce high quality & creative stuff that isn’t at the cost of the environment or other people. If (when!) we make our millions, we’d love to donate solar panels & native seedlings to schools & to help inspire the next generation to look at things that aren’t needed anymore & to make something rad out of them.

We want to leave a legacy of mean, green skating machines!


The first stages of preparing the barrels

Other than the recycled skateboards…. what are your fave projects to date?

Hmm… a very recent favourite would have to be The Blanks Project 2014, our international t-shirt graphic competition. We were stoked with our final 6 designs (from UK, Portugal, France & Australasia) which were locally printed on fair trade & organic tees. This was topped off with a few weekends collaborating with photographer, Sharlie Healey, for our Look Book.

I hate to think how much coffee some of us consumed over that time ~ but it was great fun & we are stoked with the results!

How did the idea of making skateboards out of recycled wine barrels come about?

Well, we were moving from Wellington back to our home region of Marlborough which is chocker-block with wineries. Wills, being an arborist by trade, wanted to get his hands stuck into wood work & we were really keen to make our own decks. I’ve been painting custom boards for a few years so making our own was the next logical step for us.

Given that we are super stoked on recycling too, the wine barrel boards came about fairly naturally.

It’s been done before as a hobby as well as with Whiskey Barrels in the U.S, but we’ve definitely got our own spin, techniques & aesthetic!

Process of making Barrel Boards 2

Is it true that grip tape is also made from recycled materials?

Well, yes! Our grip is made from crushed glass. There is a company here in Marlborough who developed a machine for breaking down all the glass left over from in the wine industry. We hooked up with them to get a few kilos of the stuff for trials. The sealant is a water-based varnish but we are still trying to get our hands on a more eco-friendly version of lacquer which is not yet available in NZ. We are just using it in-house at the moment but hope to soon offer it as a re-grip service & product for our customers.

In an age of mass consumerism, do you expect more purchases of your new line of skateboards cos they’re freakin’ awesome and different OR cos the skaters prefer to be more enviro-friendly?

Good question! I think we tend to appeal more to long-boarders who are more likely to have a bit of an eco-edge. However, with the wineries we’re teaming up with, namely Seresin – a delicious organic drop – & the odd shape of the boards in themselves, I think our customers have just been stoked on a product that is wine-related, hand-shaped & pretty different. That it is a recycled product just adds to this I suppose.

It’s great to see a whole range of people giving interest in them, from young girls right up to older guys who used to skate or are related to the wine industry.

We hope people in the future will all lean towards things that are eco-friendly but for now it might just be an added bonus. 😉

The final process for making Barrel Boards

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in getting this project off the ground and how did you combat it?

We have two main big challenges which haven’t exactly disappeared. One is that our full-length longboards need to be made from Puncheons which are a large-volume wine barrel & are very hard to find. The barrels are re- used for wine over & over & it turns out there’s not a lot of extra-large barrels about. Plenty of regular barrel lengths though! I suppose this just makes these particular decks a rare breed.

The other issue is the ongoing goal of making our products more sustainable. We are on the lookout for glues & finishes that are better than we already have. There’s some great products made by U.S’ Entropy resins which are available in Australia but sadly not NZ (yet!).

What are the next goals/projects in the pipeline?

We are about to head off on a wee roady around NZ seeking stockists for The Blanks Project tees. It’s a pretty hard market to tap into as a small company but we’re going to give it a go!

We are also really keen to develop some new products using recycled Marlborough sails & Christchurch Fire Station fire hose…. *Watch the space!

Later in the year, we will be launching the 2015 Blanks Project tee competition so we will again be open to world-wide submissions with an open brief & a blank slate. Creative, anyone?

If you could change any one thing in Arts or Environmental Policy anywhere in the world, what would it be?

Hmm… I think we’d need to think locally on this one. So NZ: currently we have a bit of an issue here in terms of our ‘100% clean green NZ’ slogan which is our face to the world. If we could change “one” thing that could cover a range of issues (sneaky!) it would be the risk of failing this reputation. The current Government has allowed deep sea oil drilling off the coast at depths much greater than the Gulf of Mexico disaster (unfortunately to satisfy current needs) for which we all have to take responsibility.

Also, the selling of NZ assets, lack of protection for the very rare Hector’s dolphin, allowing heavily polluting fish-farms in previously clean water ways ETC. I think I cheated at that question, but you see where we’re getting at :)

As said before, I think we all need to take some responsibility for the demand we have for the unsustainable resources.

Barrel Board finishedWould you like to add anything else?

One thing people often ask is how the bow in the board effects its’ riding style. This is referring to the natural curve of the barrel staves that brings the belly of the board closer to the ground.

We were concerned about this at first too but it turns out, as it lowers your centre of gravity, it’s a rad cruiser style ride.

The rigid French Oak board paired with loose bushings &/or double-king pin trucks & it’ll ride like a “…slippery Gypsy” as one customer describes it! *The reddish pink tinge of the deck top (seen through the grip) is WINE, think Pinot Noir soaked oak (which smells LUSH in the shaping bay!) *Also, we ship overseas! (With or without hardware & wheels).

We are: The Paper Rain Project // Sustainable Custom Creative

Indigo Greenlaw & Wills Rowe

Facebook: The Paper Rain Project

Instagram: @thepaperrainproject

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