WATCH: Professor Creates Sustainable Balsa Wood Pull Buoy

by Davis Wuolle 9

August 30th, 2016 News

University of British Columbia professor and Masters swimmer Dr. Phil Evans has created an environmentally-friendly pull buoy made entirely out of balsa wood.  The pull buoy presents a more durable and attractive materials alternative to the traditional pull buoy typically constructed of EVA foam (ethylene-vinyl acetate), a petroleum product which contains formamide. Users of the wood pull buoys feel that  the tactile qualities of the wood is an improvement over the traditional foam buoys.

Dr. Evans is the BC Leadership Chair in Advanced Manufacturing Technology in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia and former director of the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing, where he produced the wood pull buoys.  In an email to SwimSwam, Dr. Evans said that he has no commercial interest in producing the balsa buoys and has only made a few as gifts for coaches at UBC Masters Swim Club, Savannah King, Rebecca Terejko and Erin Stamp, who have patiently helped him with his swimming.  Dr. Evans developed the balsa buoys as a way of bringing attention to the urgent need to start using  materials derived from sustainable resources (e.g. plantation grown trees) instead of ones derived from fossil fuels, but he has been delighted by the response to the balsa buoys. Dr. Evans took up swimming 4 years ago and has been using his prototype for 18 months.

More information on the balsa wood pull buoy is available here.

Thank you to University of British Columbia Thunderbirds swimmer Jonathan Brown for contributing the information for this story.

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Phil Evans
6 years ago

I’ve been using my ‘balsa buoy’ for 15 months. The chlorinated water has bleached the laser engraved lettering on the buoy. But I think the chlorine keeps the surface of the buoy clean. The buoy absorbs very little water and dries out overnight (much to my surprise). I think it’s a less slippery than a foam buoy. Balsa is a little denser than EVA foam, but not by much. I’ll get back to you on the weight of the buoy. I’ve made six buoys so far as gifts for the coaches at UBC who have helped me with my swimming. Happy to answer any other Q’s.

David A Tyler IV
Reply to  Phil Evans
6 years ago

Are you willing to take orders?

Bo swims
6 years ago

No surprise it comes from UBC! New pool almost done too.

6 years ago

Interesting idea. I wonder how well does balsa wood stand up to chlorinated water? does it splinter? and how would it feel against skin compared to EVA foam?

Manx Bobster
6 years ago

Back in the late 70’s, the dad of one of my age group team-mates who happened to be a woodwork teacher made a wooden pullbuoy. Two chamfered cylinders with drilled holes for poly rope.

Too right you wouldn’t use it as a projectile, I was always amazed that something so heavy still floated.

6 years ago

Super innovation. Well done west coast, UBC and Dr. Evans! I’d easily pay for one or two. Or three or a dozen to bring back to my club.

S. Parsons
6 years ago

I love this!

6 years ago

sign me up. Only downside is you can’t use it as a projectile now. . .

Reply to  nemofish
6 years ago

Sure you can