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The Mass Media

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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Riding the Green Wave

Emery with one of his custom surfboards.

Emery with one of his custom surfboards.

 

 

 

At 23, UMB student Michael Emery is the co-founder and CEO of Green Lightning Surfboards. A management major with a concentration in marketing, Emery has been surfing up and down the East Coast for most of his life. “From Maine to Rhode Island,” he said. “Surfing is my favorite thing to do. It is what I am most passionate about.”

With the help of his friend, fellow UMB student and co-founder Kevin Shoenthaler, Emery started Green Lightning Surfboards in 2008, hoping to provide surfers with an eco-friendly option.

“You’d think that surfers would be the first people to stand out and be protective of the environment, but that is ironically and sadly not the case,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to provide customers with a product they couldn’t get anywhere else, a high-performance quality board that is also environmentally safe.”

Traditional surfboards are made with polyurethane foam, polyester resin and fiberglass matrix, materials that are highly toxic and damaging to the environment. Green Lightning surfboards are made with recycled Styrofoam, epoxy glue derived from wood pulp and vegetable oil from manufacturing waste streams, and organic hemp instead of fiberglass. The result is a stronger, lighter, but also pricier surfboard.

“Our board is more expensive because, in the industry, no one is even coming close to providing the type of service we intend to provide,” Emery said.

A Green Lighting surfboard is about $300 more expensive than a conventional top of the line surfboard.

“Beyond giving the customer the most eco-friendly surfboard in terms of material, we also do eco-analysis on the surfboard and then mitigate it. We lessen the surfboard’s impact on the planet by planting trees and donating to environmental non-profits. We are in the midst of working out a contract with waste management to secure the recycling of all the boards.”

“We offer what we call co-creation,” Emery continued. “This enables the customer to actually put hand tools on the board and shape it-not the whole thing of course-but we will show the consumer how it is done, and be there through the manufacturing process so that, when it’s done, they feel like they had a part in building the board.”

Green Lighting started three years ago, after Emery and Shoenthaler met in an entrepreneurial class at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill.

“We had to do a project where we had to come up with a business model. We never looked at it as a homework assignment. We decided to see if we could actually build a business.”

After graduating from Northern Essex, the two enrolled at UMB. They began taking management courses at the Entrepreneurship Center, the educational sector of the Venture Development Center (VDC). The VDC is a non-profit organization on the third floor of Wheatley that leases space and equipment to start-up companies. In return, students are exposed to internship and networking opportunities.

Emery and Shoenthaler eventually won the VDC Business Launch Competition, a $2,500 cash award and an additional $10,000 in legal consultation.

Why Green Lightning? The name came from an unexpected source: Emery’s cycling obsession. While riding his bike one day he ran into a bicycle gang called Skull.

“We went all the way to Medford and then back to Cambridge,” Emery said. “They all have names like Vomit and Bone Crusher. After a bit they were like, okay you need a name too. They told me to think of what my super hero name would be. I have a really nice looking bike, lime green, all of it, even the chain. And I looked down at my bike and just blurted out Green Lightning.”