Dear Nalu-friends & nature-lovers,
recently I was interviewt by the Surfpreneurs Club. They asked interesting questions and it was a pleasure to answer them :) Here is the whole interview:
Nalu Project is a surf brand from Portugal started by Eva Diemer. She started to use old wetsuits and converting them into beautiful neoprene products.
Eva shared with us in this interview her story of building a sustainable surf business.
Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you are doing at the moment?
Hi, I am Eva, 34 years old and I live with my sweet little rescue dog Sandy in Raposeira, Algarve. I felt deeply drawn to this beautiful & very special piece of the earth ever since I came here first in 2011 with a good friend to surf and explore the natural park with its stunning coastline. I kept on coming back for my surf holidays until I moved here 3 ½ years ago.
At the moment I am working a few days a week in my new workshop in Sagres – repairing and upcycling wetsuits. With my beach-clean-up-partner Mel (from ‘Sagres Beach Clean’), we are trying to adjust to the current situation (Corona) to see when we can start with the public cleanups again. Until then we are brainstorming about how to make the cleanups more effective.
During the lockdown, I started working as a Health Coach & Personal Trainer which I really enjoy. As a Sports Scientist and Social Worker, I have always loved to help people live a happier and healthier life and I am very grateful to be able to work in my profession again here in Portugal.
So I also put a lot of time and energy into my new job and trying to keep a good balance between Nalu Project and Health Coaching :)
What is NALU PROJECT and what exactly is its mission?
Nalu was born in 2018 and arose straight from my heart. The name already demonstrates that it is more than just a simple business: it is a project to protect our precious environment and raise awareness among people.
It is very important for me to show people how badly (unreflected) consumption- and living patterns affect our natural environment. My goal is to be an inspiring role model instead of simply ‘passing the blame’, complaining without creating solutions, or feeling simply overwhelmed and helpless regarding the situation on our planet.
With Nalu Project I want to show how easy and fun it can be to be creative with our waste, to produce less waste in the first place, to clean up areas full of rubbish, to live with a low environmental footprint, to be mindful, thankful, and blissful, to celebrate and embrace our nature and support it to recover from the damage we have caused.
What motivated you to get started with NALU PROJECT?
My personal motivation to start the project has a long history. The base was set in my childhood growing up in an earth-conscious household with parents who have always been focused on sustainability, local & organic food, and low-waste.
Moving to the coast and seeing all the plastic being washed up onto the beaches showed me the full extent of our environmental crisis and brought me into action.
What went into building the initial products, is it hard to work with neoprene?
After the first season here, I found a big pile of old wetsuits in a garbage bin. I decided to do something useful with them because it seemed like such a waste to simply throw them away because they would end in landfills. I fixed the wetsuits that still seemed okay and gave them to local fishermen. The ones that were not-repairable, I cut them and made phone- and laptop cases out of them.
As neoprene is thick and elastic it is one of the most difficult materials to process. It took me over 1 year and a half to find a sewing machine that is able to work with this challenging material. Concerning the wetsuit repairs, I experimented with different threats, patchings, and glues until I finally found some good and effective repair methods. And the learning never ends – which is amazing :)
How did you find out about the benefit of Neoprene as a material?
If you think about what the wetsuits are made for, it becomes quite clear: wetsuits are made to protect us from cold and injury when we are in the water. It is soft and light so we can do sports wearing them. Here we go: the neoprene is a perfect material to insulate and protect whilst it is very light, soft, and durable. So why not protect our technical devices, glasses, etc. and insulate our bottles & drinks with the leftover material of a discarded wetsuit?!
How are you collecting the wetsuits who will be turned into new products?
I collaborate with a lot of local surf- dive- kayak-, coasteering-, and SUP-schools. For some of them, I repair the wetsuits so it became a natural process that I collect the unrepairable ones and transform them into new products. More and more water sports-related businesses know about my project by now and get in touch with me. Quite fast it came to the point that I can’t process them fast enough to save them all from ending in a landfill. But I do what I can to save as many as possible.
What has been helpful to help you to grow your business and raise awareness about wetsuits-related waste issues?
Being self-employed for the first time in my life has been an amazing and intense process. My motivation and drive behind are that it is so meaningful to me. I have learned that you can grow and achieve almost everything if you do what you LOVE.
Of great help and motivation are the unbelievable and overwhelming support of the local community, my friends, and my family. At points when I was close to giving up, there has always been someone around to help me regain my strength and trust. Thanks to all of you!!
Are you planning to include more products in your offering made from recycled wetsuits?
The ideas in my head about transforming wetsuits into new products seem almost endless. I also started to experiment with upcycling other materials (mainly from fisherman’s trash) which is very exciting. So stay tuned and follow me on my social media channels and my website to see the newest NALU products.
Where can we find your amazing products?
There are several ways to get yourself a NALU bag:
(as the material is super light, national & international shipping costs are very low)
Izzy’s Market (Vila do Bispo)
Salty Wave Surf Shop (Praia da Luz)
Market Vila do Bispo (Organic stall from Heike)
What's your advice for surfpreneurs who are just starting out?
Believe in your project! Believe in yourself! There will be obstacles - see them as a chance to grow. Don’t give up. Don’t try to achieve everything at once. Go step by step. Get inspired by other entrepreneurs. Ask for help if you get stuck with a specific problem.
And most important: enjoy what you are doing :)
ღ Namaste ღ