We probably don’t need to remind you that the earth is in trouble, and its up to us to help. Recent generations of humanity have been ingrained with a more sustainable mindset, and thankfully the retail industry is taking note. Most surf products were originally invented with function in mind, not necessarily eco-awareness. In recent years eco-alternatives to everyday products are gaining traction, and this trend has grown to include surfboards and surf accessories.
Wether its recycling, upcycling, or just sourcing sustainable alternative materials, the following products and companies represent leaps in the right direction.
Rareform makes travel bags made from upcycled vinyl billboard material, which apparently is quite abundant and very durable. Not only are their bags very functional, but since they’re made from old billboard cutouts, each piece is unique. They even have a partnership with the World Surf League to re-use all the event banners from each contest around the world.
Created by anti-plastic-waste campaigners Five Oceans, the Eco-fins are sets of removable (fcs, futures) fins that are made from recycled plastic waste collected in Bali.
“We envisioned a product made of recycled material to meet all the expectations of surfers everywhere in the world. We collaborated with shapers, material and hydro-dynamics experts. And based on the expertise of our team of engineers, and designers we converted existing waste to a high performance fibre-reinforced composite: the Ocean Composite.” – Five Oceans
The Wavetribe recycled leash is the only one of its kind. The cord is made from recycled urethane and comes with a 1-year no-break guarantee (Strong like bull). It also won ‘Best New Product’ in Outdoor Magazine’s Gear Guide in 2009.
These traction pads are made from freshwater algae that is very abundant in most inland waterways. The harvesting process recirculates fresh water back into the habitat, improves water quality, and aids CO2 capture and sequestration.
“In keeping with Kelly’s commitment to sustainability, Slater Designs collaborated with BLOOM Foam to develop the most eco-friendly traction pad on the market today. BLOOM is a high-performance flexible foam made from algae biomass harvested from freshwater sources throughout the world.”
Patagonia has led the way in sustainable products for quite some time now, and recently they figured out a way to create the most eco-friendly wetsuit ever made. The key was finding a natural alternative to the petrochemical-based rubber, neoprene. Patagonia and green-rubber specialists Yulex, spent years finding a sustainable method of sourcing sap from the hevea tree and a clean, water-based process of refining the latex. Creating this rubber results in an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to neoprene, and beyond that, the rubber performs better than neoprene in durability, stretch, and insulation. Admirably, Patagonia has published their method of creating their green rubber in hopes that the rest of the wetsuit industry will follow suit.
Santa Cruz California’s Matunas was the first company to make 100% natural organic surf wax in 1998.
“Matunas is not a soy wax, and we use ingredients that we grow on our farm. Everything we use is 100% natural. Our fragrances are from real strawberries, raspberries, and jasmine flowers. We have created a product that works superior to the other paraffin and chemical waxes out there in the market. Our wax is non-toxic, biodegradable, and our wrappers are printed with recycled ink on 100% recycled paper.” -Matunas
When it comes to sustainable surfboards, the water becomes a bit more murky, so to speak. There are dozens of different companies that supply materials or produce boards with eco-friendly methods, with varying results.
California based Entropy Resins has pioneered a green approach to creating epoxy resin they call Super Sap, which is used to laminate surfboards, as well as snowboards, boats, and other fiberglass applications.
“By employing green chemistry techniques that require less energy and produce less harmful byproducts, we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from production of our resins by 50% over conventional petroleum based epoxies. Using today’s modern Life Cycle Analysis techniques we can demonstrate how our resins can help your products reduce their environmental impact.” -Entropy
These bio resins are being used by a couple surfboards makers, most notably Firewire/Slater Designs, who have been using super sap bio resin exclusively since 2014. They were the first company to receive Gold Level Eco Board Certification from Sustainable Surf, meaning: the resin is 25%+ bio content, the blank is 25%+ recycled foam or 50% wood (by weight), all other materials come from a sustainable supply chain, AND the factory has undergone a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
Earth Technologies (E-Tech) is another leader in green surfboard manufacturing, focusing on pioneering increasingly green processes while producing the eco alternatives sold by some of the surf industry’s leading shapers.
Here are a list of surfboard shapers that offer eco-certified construction options.
Sustainable Surf isn’t the only non-profit aimed at green boards. Waste to Waves is dedicated to collecting the EPS styrofoam we see in packaging in order to supply companies that make recycled surfboard blanks like Marko Foam.
Other approaches to green surfboard design include replacing traditional polyurethane (PU) or Extruded Polystyrene (EPS) with other more eco-friendly materials.
Hollow wooden boards have been around since the pre-foam era of surfboards, and there are still a couple being crafted by companies like Grain and Ventana. They are as beautiful as they are functional, especially for larger boards that don’t require the light weight and flex that foam provide.
Companies like Mushroom Surfboards, Ecovative, Agave Surfboards, Paper Surfboards, Cork Surfboards and others are turning to organic bio-matter as a way of ‘growing’ something that can replace foam. There is still much fine-tuning to be done with all of these concepts, but the potential to create a 100% sustainable board using one of these discoveries is there.
Marc Sanchez of San Diego has taken a new approach to the green surfboard conundrum. Instead of coming up with new ways to manufacture an eco-friendly board, he’s turned his attention to upcycling old boards. The blanks are pieced together using chunks of old foam from broken boards and bonded with bio-resin. The results are beautiful, though very labor intensive. Each Reeco board is truly unique in every way.
As our surf tribe has begun to shift our priorities and make things like eco-certifications a driver of purchase decisions, the surfboard industry will continue to make strides in sustainable construction methods. Hopefully someday soon we will see a completely 100% sustainable board that also meets the highest performance standards. At this point there are eco alternatives to most surf equipment accessory out there, and once the boards themselves catch up, we could potentially be enjoying the ocean’s waves without harming it at all.