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Kopcilova Michaela

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SUSTAINABLE SURFBOARDS

Introduction

Surfing is global. It has no gender, age or socio-economic boundaries. Although surfers come from many different backgrounds and approaches, they all rely on the same things. Surfers are like a family connected by the deep respect for and love of the ocean. As most surfers are conscious about environment and thus trying to keep plastics out of the beaches and oceans and trying to create healthier environment, there is demand for production of sustainable surfboards (‘Moss Research Announces “Industry-First” Sustainable Surfboards’, 2011). As surfing is an interaction with simple forces of nature on a sustainable level, it has the image of very pure sport. There is no trace left on the face of crashing wave by a surfer, however, the surfboard production industry has a great impacts on natural environment (Sullivan, 2007).

Surfboard production

Technology and materials which are used nowadays for construction of surfboards were developed in the 1950’s. At that time, there were no concerns about the environment (‘Moss Research Announces “Industry-First” Sustainable Surfboards’, 2011)

”The dirtiest thing about surfing is under our feet — a conventional surfboard is 100 percent toxic” Frank Scura (Woody, 2009).

The typical modern surfboard is made of polyurethane foam, polyester resin and fibreglass. The process is mostly carried out by using environmentally harmful products. A lot of materials are wasted and those are un-recyclable. During the manufacturing, the workers are surrounded by dust and toxics. Prolonged exposure to fibreglass and polyester resin is harmful for health of shapers as it may be cause of lung cancer (‘Moss Research Announces “Industry-First” Sustainable Surfboards’, 2011; Sullivan, 2007; Vartiainen, 2018).

Environmental impact

According to the life cycle analysis conducted by California-based non-profit group Sustainable Surf, a typical 6’0” short board, weighing approximately 2.5 kilograms emits over 270 kilograms of CO2 during its lifecycle, spanning from manufacturing to disposal (‘The Ecoboard Lifecycle Study |’, 2016).

Also, the impact of transportation is surprising. It is usual that the materials have travelled 9000km before being assembled. 80 % of blanks are ordered from overseas. Transporting the materials is actually worse that the materials used. However, some consumers are buying boards from local shapers, which, at least, cuts down on packaging materials (‘The Ecoboard Lifecycle Study |’, 2016; Vartiainen, 2018).

Production of sustainable surfboards

In the past there have been attempts to produce more ecological boards but most of the attempts have failed because the boards did not perform well and looked bad because of the colour. The challenge is to create an ecological surfboard that looks and feels exactly the same as what the customers are familiar with (Vartiainen, 2018).

Alternative materials

Blanks

  1. Recycling old blanks – mixing collected polyurethane cuttings (60%) from old surfboards with virgin foam. Recycling method works only with EPS and does not work with PU. However, PU is preferred because it is more flex, more dense, stronger and cheaper. EPS has tendency to be dumped quicker. PU blanks cannot be recycled as easily as EPS because PU blank sucks the resin into it  (Woody, 2009).
  2. Plant based materials – in the past blanks made of sugar. However this is a difficult material. It rottens very quickly once the board is broken