Senior Editor

The Inertia

Way back in 2013, Mercedes Benz fired up something called the MBoard project. In short, it’s a marketing campaign developed around surfing gigantic waves. Mercedes Benz, BBDO, and Garrett McNamara put their heads together to come up with the ultimate surfboard for Nazaré’s monstrous waves. Garrett had a few ideas on just how it should be done. “The technical aspects were from the last 35 years of surfing,” he said, “and having an idea in my head of what a magic board would be like.”

Two Portuguese companies built four surfboards, each made of different materials. Then they waited for a giant swell to slam into Portugal’s coastline, and while the world watched, GMac took them for a test drive.

The campaign did exceedingly well. Overall, it won 20 awards, reflecting advertisement’s international success. So what did Mercedes-Benz do? They handed Garrett McNamara a pen and a contract. Now he’s part of the brand’s global marketing campaign, and the MBoard Project is blowing up.


Since 2013, they’ve expanded into a whole series of boards, all made from different materials. A few months back, they introduced a cork board, made entirely from Portuguese cork. “Cork is a highly resistant material,” McNamara explained. “It’s sufficiently flexible to withhold the impact of big waves. When we surf big waves, we need a flexible board, although resistant enough not to break.”

Now they’ve come up with a board built from a high-density foam used in the aerospace industry. Called Varial Foam, the material will allow for a board with no stringer. “This new high modulus core technology yields a stronger, lighter, more responsive board, while enabling a larger range of custom flex patterns,” said Parker Borneman, CEO of Varial Surf Technology, to Business Wire.

The idea behind the new material is to have the strongest and most flexible surfboard available–something that isn’t the easiest thing to find. Generally, more strength equals less flexibility, but Varial’s material is a perfect match for Nazaré’s powerful waves.


December hit Portugal like a ton of bricks. Major storms whipped up some of the largest waves ever surfed in the area, and gave McNamara and his crew a perfect opportunity to test out the new material–and test it out they did. In one of the biggest swells of the season, Garrett strapped into his new board, grabbed the tow rope, and was whipped into a few of the biggest waves the world has ever seen surfed.

With Mercedes making their way into the surfing world becoming more and more apparent, technology of surfboards is changing, and changing fast. Giant companies pump money into research and development, accelerating what used to be strictly a trial and error based learning curve. And as people like Garrett McNamara continue to push the limits of what is humanly possible on a surfboard, technology for the everyday surfer will continue to evolve.


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