The Fabric of Our Lives

    How Victoria-based ALUULA created a breakthrough in composite fabric manufacturing.

    The Fabric of our Lives - Douglas Apr/May 2024
    The Vortex Ultra-X kite from Ozone features an ALUULA airframe, helping boarders catch their biggest air. Photo By: Samuel Cardenas / Ozone Kites.

    If you’ve ever walked along Dallas Road on a blustery day, chances are you’ve seen windsurfers and kiteboarders bouncing on the whitecaps below. It’s from the minds of a few of these adventurers that the Victoria-based composite fabric manufacturer ALUULA was born.

    Before ALUULA, windsports companies made airframes out of the composite fabric Dacron. But the lack of innovation in new fabrics created a problem for the industry. “We got to this point where the market was saturated,” says Richard Myerscough, CEO of windsports company Ocean Rodeo. 

    Enter Peter Berrang, one of Ocean Rodeo’s stakeholders, who developed a method of creating composites by fusing polyethylenes. Typically, glues are used to bond the materials in composites, but with Berrang’s method, “They mix together and basically become one,” says Myerscough.

    The new composite proved stronger and lighter than Dacron. Soon, other windsports companies expressed a demand for the fabric, and in 2019 Myerscough founded ALUULA.

    Today, the company sells five versions of fabric for a range of applications, from backpacks to bike helmets to sails. Not only are they abrasion resistant and UV stable, but they have an additional attribute that sets them apart: recyclability. 

    “If you’ve got a backpack … it probably has a nylon weave and a polyurethane film,” says Myerscough. “But that isn’t recyclable. If you have a bag made from one of ALUULA’s fabrics, you could technically put it in your blue bin.”

    Outdoor gear manufacturers Arc’teryx and Durston are set to release products made using ALUULA’s composites. Chilliwack-based Thin Red Line Aerospace purchased ALUULA materials to make hardware for NASA’s lunar and Mars missions. 

    Says Myerscough: “You just never know where you’re going to go when you have a breakthrough like this.”