A Bordeaux start-up makes surfing grips with used flip-flops

These tap shoes are ground in their workshop on rue Achard in the Bacalan district. The granules obtained are then agglomerated. Each piece is unique. There is no specific reason. It’s a colorful, variegated patchwork with every summery color palette that the strappy sandal industry can offer. The raw material thus recycled is Eva foam, an acronym for ethylene-vinyl acetate, which is used in the composition of both the flip-flops and these handles, “95% imported from Asia”, which facilitate maneuvering from one wave to another. You had to think about it.

Agglomerated slipper pellets

Commissioner Emmanuel

Nicolas Thyebaut, Thomas Cervetti and Basile Gentil have in common having lived in Southeast Asia. These surfing enthusiasts worked for big companies in the Philippines and Malaysia. The first is a graduate of Kedge, a business school based in Talence. Its two partners are engineers. At Polytech Lille, they were in the same class. “On the beaches of the tropical belt, we often saw incompatible flip-flops,” reports Nicolas Thyebaut. It is the second most widespread waste, after plastic bottles”.

one year of testing

Thousands of miles away in Africa, his mother and sister made the same observation. President of the Mérignaise Grain de Sable association, Véronique Thyebaut goes to Benin in particular for humanitarian actions. Her daughter, Prune, lived in Kenya, where an organization, Ocean Sole, fights precisely this type of pollution. The flip-flops collected along the coast are transformed into works of art, animal figures exported all over the world. From these cross-experiences came the idea of ​​these pillows in line with the ecological raison d’être of the Bordeaux start-up.

Finding the right formula took a year. Varying the granulometry, the temperature, the compression intensity and the glue rate, the thirty-year-old trio multiplied the prototypes, of different thicknesses, until obtaining the perfect dosage. “The main characteristics had to be adhesion and cohesion”, explains Thomas Cervetti. Under the effect of water or wear, the aggregate must not disintegrate. “Reclaiming waste to create new waste would be absurd,” these travelers note. Five shapes will be sold this summer, from its website or in specialist retailers, from Saint-Malo to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, but also abroad. After installation, whether in-store or by customers themselves, these inventors heartily recommend “waiting at least twelve hours before going surfing”. The final product is made in the Landes, by the company Agglolux, with which Nomads Surfing already collaborated for its cork pillows, made from wine corks collected for the benefit of the fight against cancer, another doubly virtuous circuit.

“The social model is great”

The first copies will be limited series. For the experiment, members of Grain de Sable brought pounds of slippers from Africa in their suitcases, which, on the way, served to transport clothes and games for needy children. “The social model is brilliant, observes Nicolas Thyebaut. The residents who took all those flip-flops off the beaches, it’s the first time they’ve made so much money. But ecologically, there are pros and cons. The other side of the coin is the carbon footprint that this large-scale delivery mode would generate. In addition, the next flip-flops to be recycled will come from France. Partnerships are in the process of being concluded with surfing brands or sporting goods in general. As with bottle caps, there will be collection boxes. It is a new reflex to adopt. Don’t throw away your slippers. It sells “between 5 and 7 million” a year in our country.


This is Nomads Surfing’s latest project, making yoga mats by recycling Neoprene, the material that makes up wetsuits. Manufacturers already supply you with neoprene scraps or non-repairable clothing.

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