Honuhele SUP boards, bringing manufacturing back to Portugal
indsurfer Guilherme Martins welcomed Inside Magazine to his surf shop, overlooking the sprawling beach of Praia da Rocha, to find out more about his stand up paddle- boards business. Born in northern Portugal, Guilherme came back to his parents’ hometown, Portimão, and began to search for a beach concession where he could rent Stand Up Paddle- boards (SUP). In 2012 he found a spot in Alvor and after a wonderful year hanging out on the beach and renting the boards to tourists, it was time to replace the boards.
If you’ve never bought a SUP board before you may be surprised to know how much a good one costs and, with this in mind, he began to think about branching out and making his own boards. Being a former teacher with no technical background whatsoever didn’t really help but this was something that Guilherme was passionate about. He decided to investigate what was involved in making a board and find out if it would be practicable. His cousin Tiago was in the mannequin production business and had some manufacturing connections in China, so the cousins went off to China to get the ball rolling. Guilherme told us: “We were so excited and began brainstorming on the plane for a brand name. I was sure that it needed to have something to do with SUPs origins.”
And so Honuhele was born, a name derived from combining Hawaiian names that are related to the sea and movement, Honu meaning Turtle, and Hele meaning move, go and travel. With Hawaii being the birthplace of windsurfing and SUP the cousins decided this was a fitting tribute.
Although the first shipment of boards that arrived in Portugal soon sold out, Guilherme was not fully comfortable with the idea that the boards were being produced in China and thus had a big carbon footprint. “Something was always niggling inside me because I want these boards to be 100% Portuguese,” he told us. “I went to a trade show in Madrid and met someone who could help to bring the production back to Europe but it wasn’t until 2015, when I met a surfboard manufacturer in Munich, that the last piece of the puzzle was in place and I could proceed.”
The cousins found a factory with perfect conditions in Guilherme’s birth town of Figueira da Foz, as well as a skilled board maker and more eco-friendly materials for construction. “The current factory is great as it’s centrally located for supplies and also by the sea which is perfect for sea trials and quality control. I would, of course, love to bring everything down to the Algarve in time but, for now, this is the best solution,” explained Guilherme.
Many of the components that are used to make the boards are not particularly eco-friendly and Honuhele are working on ways to develop much more environmentally-friendly options, including cork.
“We have made a few cork boards with the help of Amorim who are the biggest manufacturer of cork products in Portugal and often run campaigns for designers who are involved in sustainable projects using cork. The cork boards are amazing; I love them and we are working on the technology and hope to be able to create more and more affordable boards with cork. This is my new goal, to eradicate the plastic components and make a SUP that is at one with its home, the sea.” Guilherme smiled. “I am very keen to explore new techniques and take the brand to the next level.”
Production costs in Portugal are around 15% higher than in China but Honuhele are happy to absorb this for the peace of mind of having everything made in Portugal and the environmental impact of production and shipping far outweigh the cost.
For now, you can’t buy the boards online so you will have to go to the surf shop and see them in person.
www.honuhele.com | www.rochasurfshop.com
TEXT MIA WALLACE