We’ve said it before – you can’t surf without surfboards (well you can, but not the board surfing variety). You can take away literally everything else – boardshorts, sunglasses, surf movies and surfing lives on. But take away the basic wave sliding vehicle, and surfing culture simply collapses.
Pretty much replicating what the ancient Polynesians were riding, when surfing started to spread globally in the early 20th century, boards were made from locally grown, non-toxic materials. If they ever broke you could reuse or recycle the material for something else, or let it simply biodegrade quickly back into the earth where it helped to grow new surfboards. From an environmental perspective – those ancient boards were close to perfect.
The bulk of modern surfboards, like many other modern plastic products, are largely dependent on using toxic, petroleum-based chemicals, so we’ve actually flipped the original ideas of what a surfboard should be – and therefore the related original values of our surfing culture too – completely upside down. It’s worth noting that we are what we do, and since our current surfboards represent the complete opposite of being strong, non-toxic & transformable back into the building blocks of future generations; then by default, so are we. This is a recipe for personal as well as environmental disaster. Simply put, if our surfboards are the basic definers our surfing culture, then we are by definition: “unsustainable.”
This is a loud wake up call for the surf community to see and discuss the problems we face, so that we can ensure a long term future for the surfing lifestyle and a pristine healthy ocean environment. While we know that the average surfboard as an object is not the largest contributor to a typical surfer’s negative environmental impact (energy use from driving, flying & heating/cooling the home are much bigger), we at Sustainable Surf think that this conversation can be best started by focusing our attention on the most elemental and iconic object in all of surfing history; the simple Polynesian invention that started it all – the surfboard.
Here is our simple vision: if we can change our surfboards to physically embody the ideals of sustainability, then we can change ourselves too. We will learn from that process, and can then apply that experience to tackle much larger issues that we confront as surfers and as simply humans (like reducing energy & water use, reducing pollutants, conserving biodiversity, etc.) If we take these steps now, we can still ensure a long, sustainable future for the culture of surfing, as well as for our amazing watery planet that makes it all possible – it’s really that simple.
Fortunately, we do have the power, tools & ability to change our ways and get back to the original “sustainable spirit” of the first surfboards, without giving up any of the “performance” improvements that modern materials have given to the culture of surfing, since petrol-chemicals were first widely introduced the 1950′s. ECOBOARDS using a new generation of materials & processes have reduced carbon footprints, use (and reuse) renewable, recycled and recyclable inputs, and reduce toxicity within the surfboard manufacturing process.
That’s a win for the environment, and importantly for surfers – a win for our oceans. And, believe it or not – a win for pro-surfers. That’s right, remember Slater’s win at the Volcom Pipe Pro in 2016 – Ecoboard! And Stu Kennedy taking down the world’s best at the Quiky pro – Ecoboards!
So how do we know about the environmental impact that these high-performance ECOBOARDS (made using bio-resin and/or a recycled foam blank) are making – science of course! The environmental footprint of a surfboard depends on the “lifecycle” of each component: raw material extraction and refining, manufacturing energy use, and transportation.
In 2016, Sustainable Surf and Pure Strategies, a leading sustainability consultancy, completed the first in-depth lifecycle study of a more sustainable surfboard. With some help from Entropy Resins, Channel Islands and Firewire Surfboards, we compared the carbon footprint of a standard “poly” surfboard (PE resin/PU blank) vs. an ECOBOARD with bio-based Entropy Resins and a recycled content Marko Foam EPS blank.
The LCA showed a 30% reduction in the carbon footprint of an ECOBOARD and a significant reduction in carcinogenic chemicals used to make surfboards, when using materials approved by the ECOBOARD Project. The study also identified some huge opportunities for surfboard manufacturers to reduce waste, use renewable energy and source more sustainable materials.
The key to making the shift to a more sustainable surf culture is actually YOU – the surfboard buyer. Whether you’re looking for a high-performance whip or an old-school log, there’s an ECOBOARD builder for you. With a mix of big brands with large pro teams, to artisanal craftsmen and women, it’s your choice whether you want to buy an ECOBOARD off the rack at your local shop and start shredding today, or custom order your dream creation with hydro-foil fins and acid-splash resin tints.