When Mike Olsen started LibTech in 1977, most people had no idea that he’d one day be selling commercial surfboards. LibTech started as a snowboard company, creating lightweight alternatives to Burton and Sims, which dominated the market in the early years of the sport. But the company was actually founded on money that Olsen made by shaping surfboards. His roots have always been in the surf scene—it just took 30 years for the rest of the industry to recognize the value of his environmental focus. Olsen stopped shaping with polyurethane blanks in the early ’80s, long before epoxy boards became a mainstay in most surf shops. But his sustainable surfboards wouldn’t hit the mainstream market for another two decades. In the meantime, Lib Technologies was quickly becoming a major player in the snowboard industry.
Long-time team rider Jamie Lynn was at the forefront of snowboarding innovation in terms of performance in the 1990s and has always demanded the same from his boards. Lynn has been with LibTech for over 20 years, and recently riders such as Travis Rice have gone on to join the LibTech team, attracted to the durable, high-tech boards and the company’s reputation as one of the most environmentally conscious brands on the market.
As the brand developed, Mike was joined by Pete Saari, a fellow snowboard enthusiast, and board builder. Mervin Manufacturing, which is the umbrella company that owns Lib Technologies, was acquired by surf giant Quiksilver in 1997, and at around the same time, Mike and Pete began to ramp up their experimentation with applying their durable and sustainable materials and techniques to surfboards as well. Although majority control of the company moved to Altamont Capital Partners in 2013, Lib Tech continues to make both industry-leading snowboards and innovative, alternative surfboards and is rapidly gaining traction in the surf market.
Lib Tech’s focus on environmentally sustainable boards has led to the adoption of a manufacturing process that does away with the need for sandpaper, solvents, and brushes, further minimizing waste and pollution. The process is also healthier for board builders and reduces the buildup of waste from leftover board building materials. Excess materials are ground up and used as mulch in the yard surrounding the Lib Tech factory, and between 40–50% of the materials used in creating the board’s cores are recycled. The epoxy construction leads to stronger and more durable boards that don’t often snap and are relatively impervious to dings.
Epoxy boards like Lib Tech’s offerings are often criticized as being overly buoyant and chattery in the wind, but many people feel that Lib Technologies has overcome these hurdles with their latest models. The wide range of shapes includes high-performance boards, hybrids, grovelers, and even a number of models from …Lost shaper Matt Biolos.
Whether you are a crossover snowboarder looking to diversify your LibTech quiver, a longtime surfer looking for a sustainable alternative to your polyurethane board, or a beginner searching for your first surfboard, LibTech is a legitimate option in a market saturated with pretenders.