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Wilson Zehr Launches Eco-Friendly International Company

Wilson Zehr, faculty member in the School of Business, has launched a firm that makes surf boards from sustainable materials with facilities in Oregon and Ecuador.

Excerpt from an article by Andy Gingrich in Sustainable Business Oregon, July 16, 2013.

A company that makes high-end sustainably produced surfboards has quietly established a sales, marketing and product design presence in Portland.

Yana, which makes surfboards from Ecuadoran balsa wood, is using a model deployed by such companies as Nike Inc. and Adidas, said Wilson Zehr, the company's CEO and founder of the tech company Zairmail. The boards cost more than $3,000 and are made from wood that, according to a Yana spokeswoman, "grows like a weed" in Ecuador.

Most boards are made from what Yana's leaders call "petrochemical badness."

"We do all the design work here," Zehr explained. "The designs are transferred to Ecuador where wood is cut and then rough-shaped blanks are created and chambered. These blanks then head to our facilities in Florida or California where they are finish shaped by iconic expert shapers and glassed. The finished boards are then shipped to customers."

Yana uses balsa because it's considered a sustainable hard wood that grows naturally in Central and South American rain forests.

Most surfboards were made of balsa until the late 1950s. Manmade materials were then introduced to the manufacturing process as surfers sought lighter and shorter boards.

Yana is targeting an older surfing audience, between 28 and 60, who want to purchase top-end equipment. It's also touting its modern design techniques, with efforts led by designer Chris Hotz, a company co-founder.

Read the full article on

Wilson Zehr is the CEO of Cendix, a provider of web-to-print solutions. He teaches international business in Marylhurst's MBA program.

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