Insider Interviews: Zeal Surf & Ian Wolmarans

Cape Town SUP caught up with Ian Wolmerans, the founder and developer behind the unique brand of Stand Up Paddle boards — Zeal Surf.

Here is how that went down…

CTS:Thanks for your time — Tell us about who you are and what do you do?

IW: My name is Ian Wolmarans, I have been married to my wife, Lezandre for 2 years and 4 months. I grew up in Cape Town and make most of the outdoors that Cape Town have to offer.

I went on my first sailing trip with my grandfather at the age of 5 on a 30 foot Mura in false bay, this this ignited my interest in the ocean and pretty much all related water sports and activities.

I started surfing at 10 and dedicated as much time as I could to convince my Mom to take me to the beach whenever she had free time. At 13 I got the opportunity to start sailing dinghies at Imperial Yacht club Zandvlei. Sailing very quickly became my first love. I spent all my free time racing dinghies against my friends, then quickly graduated to yacht racing, taking part in most the major regattas around South Africa in the season. This new found love led to me racing in many local and international regattas and South Atlantic crossings, I was also offered the opportunity to represent South Africa on Team Shosholoza South African 2007 Americas Cup Challenge. My involvement with the sport and state of the art race yachts led me to pursue a career in high tech composites, starting in the marine industry.

Today, myself and my wife live a healthy active lifestyle and spend as much time outside as possible. I have a keen interest in Sailing, Surfing, Windsurfing, swimming, trail running, Mountain biking.

CTS: Ok, so what is your job?

IW: I am an entrepreneur and owner of 2 new companies, Zeal Composites and Zeal Surf. I spend my time focusing on growing my business, and steering them towards the vision that was placed in my heart.

CTS: How did the name Zeal Surf came about?

IW: I was looking for a name that would best describe how I feel about my passion in composites and building stuff, after about a month my wife suggested Zeal, after looking up the meaning in the dictionary, it was exactly what I was looking for and was sold on the name. Zeal is great energy, dedication or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or object, If you have passion for something, you have Zeal.

CTS: Great stuff… What is the vision you have for Zeal Surf?

IW: The vision for zeal surf is to provide water-borne sports equipment that exceeds international standards at a more assessable price. While growing up we were never able to afford the best sports equipment and often had to settle for average quality second hand equipment.

With my understanding and experience in composites I could not justify the price of the top end carbon boards, and that you do not need to fork out 30+k to experience the best technology has to offer.

I saw an opportunity that lined up with my heart and decided to head down the road of designing and building Stand Up Paddle Boards in South Africa for the local and international market.

CTS: You mentioned high tech carbon composites — what exactly is that?

IW: High tech composites is the term used to describe the latest available technology and manufacturing processes available today with the upper end examples often seen in F1 cars, state of the art racing yachts, Americas cup yachts, military air craft, space exploration, bicycle components etc. When using this term to describe building processes in Stand Up Paddle Boards, it is not the same technology as the above mentioned products, but it is the latest and best build processes VS price that can be used in the Water board industry’s.

You could build a Stand Up paddle board making use of F1 level technology, using high modules Prepreg carbon fibre, honeycomb core and autoclave pressure vessels Etc, in doing so you will have a 15 to 20% improvement in your product, but costing about R180k.

At Zeal Surf, we make use of the latest vacuum bag technology and techniques, coupled with carefully calculated laminate specks, fibre orientations and core to provide lightest / durable product that we can, enhancing the performance characteristics or carbon fibre without compromising the alive flex reflex characteristics wanted for surfing.

CTS: I see, so what should I look for when buying a new Stand Up Paddle Board i.e. is length the only consideration?

IW: I think one of the first things to decide is what discipline of stand-up paddle boarding you are interested in. here are many options, such as sup surfing, touring, flat water racing, downwind racing, family fun boards, fishing etc . This will help to narrow down your options.

A stand up paddle board is an expensive investment, and there are literally hundreds of brands around the world to choose from. Don’t be in a rush to buy. There is an endless amount of information on this sport available online, read, research, and watch the how to videos on You Tube.

Familiarise yourself with what is available, this will all come together and aid your decision when it is time to buy. Length volume and width are all important factors to take into account, there are pros and cons to all of them and it can make it difficult to decide on your perfect board. If you are not sure, you are welcome to give me a call and they will walk you through the process, but don’t be in a rush to buy.

CTS: How many types of SUP boards do you have in the Zeal Surf stable?

IW: At the moment, we have 4 boards on offer. The Superhero, Easyglider, Flying tablet and Apex pro.

To date we have also built 3 custom carbon longboards and are currently working on our own range of production Carbon PVC “performance” and “nose-rider” style long boards. We plan to add carbon short boards to the line-up as well.

I am currently busy working on our 14 foot down wind boards, and plan to launch them for the next South Easter season. I am especially excited about this project, and have some very cool construction ideas that will take the board and brand to the next level.

CTS: Can I order a custom board from Zeal Surf?

IW: Yes, definitely! Having a production range of boards is important to our brand, especially for when we decide to send Zeal Surf into international waters. However, we also realise that a production range of boards will only be perfect for about 20% of people.

To date all except for 1 board that we have made was custom to suit the customers requirements. Most the time it is a very small alteration to the original design, such as taking a production board and increasing the width by one inch, or adding 5L to the volume.

Using Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) We can accurately design and build your board to be perfectly suited to your height, weight, and skill level, and send you pictures of the final design and profile before we even start the build.

CTS: If I order a board, how long does it take to actually make the SUP from start to finish?

IW: We tell our customers that our delivery time is 5 weeks, if everything goes to plan and there are no hold-ups on the supplier’s sides, I could be calling you as soon as 3 weeks to let you know your board is finished. It takes us 23 hours hands on labour (excluding drying time) to build a board from start to finish.

This is longer than the industry standard, but we decided in the beginning that Zeal surf is going to set itself apart from the industry by building products without compromise on quality and performance.

CTS: Any advice that you have for aspiring SUP’ers?

IW: My advice for aspiring SUPers is to not be in a hurry to buy.

A big mistake I have often seen is a beginner who loves his/her new found sport, rushes out to buy a board not really knowing what they are buying, only to be disappointed a few months later. There are two reasons for this, there is a number of disciplines inside this sport, they might initially be attracted to flat water exploring and touring lakes and marinas only to find once there skill and conference increases, they actually want to venture into the surf, where there current board is not going to perform. Normally most beginners experience a very steep learning curve with their balance and fitness improving very quickly. If they rushed out and bought a board that is very wide with a large volume (great for stability, but not as good in surf performance) can be left feeling frustrated with the board when their skill level improves, and they want to be a little more adventurous on the wave but the design characteristics of the board do not allow for that.

My advice is to rent your board for the first couple of months, you will quickly find your balance improving, when this happens you can look at renting smaller, narrower boards until you find a size that you are confident on, but still challenges you so that you will not outgrow the board in the near future. Once you have found your ideal size and discipline you can then start looking at purchasing a board that will serves your needs for the years to come.

CTS:Thanks for the advice and tips, see you on the water.

IW: No problem, cheers.

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