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Marcelo Matos is saving the planet one surfboard at a time

Written by Marisol
WAYRA Instituto de Español

By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy: Marcelo Matos

It all started for Marcelo Matos when he was growing up in Uruguay. At 11, he started to surf, and needed a board, so he made one out of some foam he found on the beach in Barra de Carrasco. He glued it together, shaped it a little, and that was that. He went surfing. There’s also another part of his story, equally important. As a youngster, he was timid, and started DJing as a way to get in with the kids in school. Today, at 44,  married to Gineth with six rescued dogs and 12 cats, he has two surf eponymous stores, Matos Surf Shop in Playa Grande where he lives, and the original one in Tamarindo. He still DJs and continues to do photography and videos.  But it’s his recycled surfboards, made from old boards he finds and out of commission, that are making waves.

Here’s what Matos had to say to THE Tamarindo News:

THE Tamarindo News:  Although you are a photographer, and rescue animals it’s your passion for both surfing and music that is a highlight in your life today. Tell me about that

Marcelo Matos: All my life I’ve been a DJ, since I was 11 years old and working at a radio station in Uruguay. I didn’t talk on the radio, I was a technical guy, making mixes and doing live sets. I had my own show at 15. In high school, I was too shy for girls, so I started DJing for the kids. At the same time, at 11, I started surfing. I needed a board but didn’t have the money to buy one so my friends and I made one from the foam I found on the beach which I glued together. By then, Yama, a friend of mine told me how to glass them. He said to use clothe, but I didn’t know he meant fiberglass, so I used old t-shirts. Then I noticed that the foam parts that had glue on them didn’t melt, so before the cloth I put glue all over the foam. Obviously, I got a lot more experience. I’m not into the handicraft of making the boards, but when I had enough money to buy a surfboard I did. I got the money from situations like when my neighbor gave me an old board then bought the one I made. It’s always been music or surfing. I saved every penny to buy surfboards and records. I still do both, I had thought that 44 was too old for DJing, but people seem to like it and tell me when the party is over how much fun they had. I can’t imagine my life without surfing. I have three things in my life that matter: surfing, music and love.

TTN:  You’ve had a very successful music career, tell me a little history.

MM: I had a friend when I was younger named Ariel Perazzoli, who was a big influence on my music. He went on to become very successful. As a matter of fact, I’m going next week to Uruguay to play a big gig that Ariel arranged for us DJ together after more than 20 years. The music I’ll play will be Billy Idol, INXS, Jamarioquai, 80s, 90s, and the 2000s.  Actually, this is the first time I’m going back there. I have lots of friends there and the event is already sold out. We might have to make another. While I’m there, I’ll also play a few bars.

TNN: How did you end up in Tamarindo?

MM: Since I was around 15 I knew I was going to move to Central America. I saw videos of guys surfing in Nicaragua, and  he said “its 365 days of offshores and waves.” That stayed in my head. I collected information on both countries. My friend Pancho came to Costa Rica in the 90’s , and by then I was making a Surfing and Skate TV Show, and I made an interview with him where everything he said made me understand Costa Rica’s the place. I was 25 then. I was working so much at night, DJing all the time and then surfing in cold water every day. I moved here when I was 27, sold everything, brought the dog. I had never even been on a plane. First I went to San Jose, and there were two signs, one said Jaco, the other said Tamarindo. Whichever sign the dog peed on was where I was going. He chose Tamarindo in February 2001.

TNN: What did you do when you got here?

MM: At first I started taking pictures, but at the time John Lyman was taking photos for everyone and I wanted to show him respect, so I started photographing in Playa Grande. Then all my stuff got stolen, and 9/11 happened, so I started working for Cary the original owner of Iguana Surf.  I was fixing boards. He had a room filled with old discarded boards, so I figured out how to make new boards out of them. This gave me a lot of experience. I opened my own shop in 2003. Eventually, I asked some people to send my records here so I could DJ, but at the time there weren’t enough places to do that in Tamarindo but did it here and there. I found some opportunities in New Jersey, and at the same time Babylon Bar in Tamarindo opened and I started DJing  there Saturdays and Thursdays for reggae night. I was lucky to opened for big bands like Linkin Park, Steele Pulse, Cyprus Hill, Eek-a-Mouse later. That’s how I got better known in Tamarindo.

TNN: How did you transition into making Surfcycle boards?

MM: When I was 35, I was not having success as a pro surfer even though I had sponsors and got free trips and clothing.  I was getting about 30 boards a year. That’s when I started making these recycled boards. I was totally focused on reducing the length, weight and control under the feet.  By now I had the store in Grande. My friend Brian Honycutt  came from California and I was working on reducing a longboard that he helped me finish. Then my friend Paul from Ghetto House showed me how to glass and minimize waste.  Around 2014, with a friend from Uruguay Gaston Rodriguez from Sur34 surfboards, I made a board from a broken longboard that became a 4’6. He made a bet with me for pizza and soda that I would not be able to stand up on it. I still ride that same board today. Eventually, I invited Carlos Salustri, who had Ocean Vibrations in this area, to be part of the project. We came up with the name of Surfcycled, and my wife made a logo of a Guanacaste tree. I mostly designed the boards, Gaston shaped, and Carlos glassed. Today, Carlos does more of the shaping since Gaston is back at home.  We went to Future Fins and asked for all the product that didn’t sell and we got the boxes from them. So we recycle the foam, use donated fin boxes, glass and cure in the sun so there’s less fumes. We are as much green as possible.

TNN: What do you ultimately hope to accomplish making these surfboards?
MM: We want to be as green as possible and make cheap, good surfboards available.  If you buy one of these boards, you’ll have it forever. The process is hard and slow,  all made by hand. So we only can make about 2 boards every 10 days, Sometimes All Ocean surfboards help us with the glass, especially during the rainy season. The final price of the boards are $350 and we are very happy when we see people having fun on it, at the end , that’s all what is about…..having fun.

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