Mike Schlebach Photograph © Nic Bothma

The Inertia

In 2015, two surfers from Cape Town joined forces to start a business manufacturing a range of bags and accessories out of recycled and upcycled waste materials. They had a vision, and it was always going to be high-end and smart, but based on an ideology of environmentalism. So what did they do to kick off their vision? “We both read Yvon Chouinard’s book, ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ and based our business model on many points we learned there,” said co-founder and big wave surfer Mike Schlebach.

Schlebach has a reputation for charging the biggest waves in and around Cape Town like Dungeons and Sunset Reef. He had a previous business of manufacturing goods from recycled material, but his vision was a bit bigger than reformatting old boat sails. When a new idea struck, he reached out to his friend, industrial designer Jasper Eales, and the other part of the partnership.

“I called him one day in early 2015 and was like, ‘I want to start a new brand making bags and accessories out of various different high-quality waste materials,” he recalls, “and I also want to do a line of clothes made from Hemp. ‘I want to do it right, and this whole thing needs to employ people and represent an extension of our lifestyles. I know how to make this stuff but am useless at design, do you want to be my partner?’ and he said yes.”
It was a perfect marriage of ideas and ideology.

“We are both environmentalists by nature,” said Schlebach. “The idea of board and brainstorming sessions up the coast while getting tubed was an important factor.”


With the South African economy constantly on the brink of tanking, they continued down the path of building a socially responsible green brand that is going global.

Their most recent product line is called Sealand Eco, and it is currently running a Kickstarter campaign.
It’s a selection of bags and accessories like a backpack, tote bag, weekend duffle bag, toiletry/accessory bag and flat zip pouch. The entire collection is produced from Recover ®, an environmentally responsible fabric, made from a high-quality blend of upcycled Cotton and post-consumer recycled PET bottles.

The upcycled cotton used is created from textile waste that is cut into smaller pieces and gently opened back into fibers to prevent damaging the fiber’s length. This cotton fiber is then combined with carrier fibers such as recycled PET (plastic bottles) to help strengthen yarns and create accurate and unique colors. The color blend process allows consistent color matching without the use of liquid dye. This process is also pesticide and fertilizer free, and almost zero water is utilized in the upcycle cotton process, virtually no greenhouse gases are generated, and over 50% of the production of this fabric is produced on solar power.

The current launch is focused on an all-in-one style bag for surfers — something to pack wetsuits, booties, and everything else needed for a surf trip in one bag.


Co-Founder Jasper Eales has aided the creative and environmentally responsible direction of the brand. He also likes to pull in when his local beachie is throwing some big tubes at the wedge in the corner. The surfer duo’s refreshing vision and approach to an upcycling and recycling business while maintaining the sort of surfing lifestyle necessary for so many of us, has been met with much excitement so far, and their Kickstarter project has had an impressive start.


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