Gear Feature

Travis Rice Builds His Own Snowboard

The Lib Tech legend visits the factory floor to create a new Orca

In an age when brands are scrambling to improve their social responsibility credentials, it’s nice to see Mervin Manufacturing capture the zeitgeist by doing what it’s always done. Since 1977, the factory founded by Mike Olson and Pete Saari in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest has employed real riders to build its snowboards whilst striving to minimise its environmental footprint.

Remember when the media were invited around one of the Chinese facilities that produce most of the world’s boards these days? Yeah, us neither. On the flipside, despite having more top secret ideas than Willy Wonka (heck, he even has an inventing room!) Mike Olson has repeatedly invited cameras into the home of Lib Tech and Gnu because, when it comes to working practises, he and Pete have got nothing to hide.

“This year, Lib Tech big dog Travis Rice made the pilgrimage to Sequim, WA to brainstorm ideas for his signature Orca series and try his hand at building a board himself – with just a little help from the people who do this for a living”

In fact, showing how the Mervin shop floor produces zero hazardous waste; how the boards are laid up using non toxic bio-resin; or how the topsheets are made from beans (yes, beans!) is only going to help their sales – and hopefully inspire other companies to become more sustainable, too.

This year, Lib Tech big dog Travis Rice made the pilgrimage to Sequim, WA to brainstorm ideas for his signature Orca series and try his hand at building a board himself – with just a little help from the people who do this for a living.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much work goes into making a top-of-the-line, hand-crafted shred stick, then keep scrolling.

Spoiler: It’s a lot.

1. Every dream board starts with the dream. Before heading to the factory floor, Travis visits the office to talk shapes, materials and new ideas with the Lib Tech crew.


2. Travis arrives at an Orca building press and gets going. After gathering the parts, he begins by laying down the Magne-Traction edges and sintered knife-cut base.


3. From this point on they’re going to need resin. Lots of resin. Travis fills up with Mervin’s safe, non-toxic, non-smelly (but not quite delicious) bio resin.


4. Travis lays down the first layer of resin. It’s important here to wet out all the edge ‘keyslots’ and keep it tidy so you don’t get resin under the base.


5. Time to wet out and lay down some edge dampening, bond-enhancing tape…


6. Travis carefully wets out the first layer of fibreglass and smooth-riding basalt.


7. Here comes the fast-grown FSC-certified wood core. It’s already been cut to exact Orca specifications and assembled with inserts in and sidewalls attached. And yep, here comes some more resin!

8. Another layer of triaxial fibreglass and resin goes down. Travis makes sure to wet the glass out evenly over the entire surface. If you wanna work in a snowboard factory, good squeegee skills are a must!

9. Now we’re ready for that beautiful eco-sublimated topsheet. There’s a whole crew that works behind the scenes to create Mervin’s vibrant, zero-hazardous-waste graphics.


10. We’re ready to press! Don’t forget that ‘whale tail’ form block…


11. It’s a board! But there’s still a few steps to go before it’s Rice ready…


12. Travis and Steven Cobb do an early inspection of the contour profile before taking it over to finishing.


13. Travis is stoked on the build so far. Now it’s time for some master craftspeople to step in.


14. Tim McCabe rough cuts the board to shape using the bandsaw. Lib Tech don’t wrap the edges all the way around their boards because it adds unnecessary weight. This means it’s up to the craftsperson to recreate that exact Orca tip and tail for every board.


15. Tim fine-tunes the shape to Travis’s exact shred specifications.


16. Tim puts a lovely little bevel on the sidewalls for edge hold and tuning access.


17. A light countersink on the inserts makes it easier to mount your bindings.


18. Tim precision tunes the steel.

19. Tim begins base grinding with a course belt to remove any resin from the base. The process is repeated using incrementally finer belts and stones.


20. Tim applies a factory wax job using some speedy blue One Ball Jay.


21. Finishing touch: a bevel is applied to the top edge and Tim’s signature goes on the Mervin Made sticker.


22. Team work makes the dream work! Travis and Tim are stoked on the final product.


23. A job well done and a dream board brought to life. This exact deck went on to ride epic lines in Jackson Hole and AK.

Check out more info on the Lib Tech Orca here.

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