Sustainable Surfboards - Conclusion

10 Oct 2007 0 Share

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Methodology
3.0 Results
4.0 Discussion
5.0 Conclusions

5.0 Conclusions

What is the current state of the efforts by the surf community to produce, market and develop and more environmentally friendly surfboard? At the current time, there are pockets of interest within the surf community who are actively involved in trying to make a sustainable surfboard a common reality. However, the general market, although expressing an interest in seeing an alternative to the modern foam, glass, resin surfboard and even claiming to be willing to spend more money on an alternative, does not at present seem to back the claims up at the purchase point. The vast majority of surfers, including the Top 45 competing pros, seem contented with the current surfboard on offer. Complicating any effort to produce and market an E-F SB is the evident reluctance of the surf community to look beyond the Polyurethane blank/ fibreglass/ polyester resin model surfboard. Although epoxy surfboards are much better for the natural environment in terms of CO2 and VOC emissions, the associated health effects for shapers do not make epoxy a viable solution to the PU surfboard.

Certain people and companies like Homeblown and Chris Hines’ Eco Board represent steps in the right direction, and these types of technological advances are the key to creating a sustainable surfboard, but technology is not the only solution.

What is clear from all the results is that any effort to develop, market and produce a sustainable surfboard needs to be a collaborative effort between surfers, shapers, manufacturers, professionals and the media; the cooperation of the whole surf industry is necessary to provide surfers with a viable alternative to the status quo.

Although the manufacture of each surfboard may only contribute small quantities of greenhouse gases and VOC’s into the atmosphere, when one estimates the number of surfboards produced each year around the globe, including those produced in local shops and huge factories, these small figures add up to a large, environmentally damaging sum. Issues of water contamination, air pollution, worker’s health and safety, and increased waste streams are all problems that can be remedied. What is needed is a manifold solution from the different levels of the surfing community.

5.1 Recommendations

First, there must be a campaign to educate the average surfer about the environmental effects of surfboard construction. This report shows a correlation between those who are aware of environmental issues and an increased interest in an alternative, sustainable surfboard. Armed with this information, consumers can make more informed decisions, and I am confident these decisions will take into account the environmental costs associated with the current model of surfboard construction. As a surfer, it is your responsibility to ask your local shaper or surf shop about the materials used and the alternatives available; environmental responsibility cannot be left up to the companies.
Second, the surfboard manufacturers need to take it upon themselves to look into alternative technologies and business practices that minimize their environmental impacts. Currently, there are available plant-based resins, recycled fibreglass and plant-based cloth, and foam that replace petroleum-based oils with plant-based oils. Technologies like HomeBlown’s BioFoam or the materials used in Chris Hines’ Eco-Board don’t represent the end solution, but they are a step in the right direction. Manufacturers don’t need to reinvent the surfboard, in fact it seems that the best eco-friendly alternative to the modern surfboard will look and ride just like the current model, its only difference being the ingredients used to make it. For shapers, experimentation with sustainable products should be factored into the budget; it may lead to increased savings or a better product. Also, it should be noted here that this call for alternatives does not imply that surfboards need to return to a total wood composition. In fact, this could cause even worse environmental issues.

In addition to materials, surfboard manufacturers need to account for material sourcing and make efforts to get foam from local sources in order to minimize transportation of the finished product. The amount of carbon emissions generated by transportation has been identified as a key contributor to global climate change and it is an issue that should be addressed by surf manufacturers and buyers. Again, the surfer should ask the shaper where they are sourcing their foam from and how it is shipped.

Third, there needs to be a willingness by the surfing community to try something other than the standard PU board, particularly the thinly glassed short boards. If you are a surfer and break a board, don’t smile and tell all your friends how macho you are, remember you are out $500 and next time you go to your local shop, look into getting a more durable board. Spending extra money for some thicker cloth on a new board may stretch the wallet at the moment, but when you miss the drop on a double overhead day and your new board doesn’t snap, you will be thankful. You’ll also be doing your part to minimize the emission of VOC’s, minimize the chance of groundwater contamination, and reduce non-biodegradable waste. This willingness by the surfers to try something new can be made much easier if surfing companies allowed average surfers to demo new technologies.

In order to be successful, any environmentally friendly surfboard needs to be comparable or better to the modern PU board in cost, strength, and performance. Surfers are generally content with the modern PU board, and this is a big obstacle to overcome, particularly when many shapers do not have the money to research and develop a comparable, sustainable alternative. This means that there needs to be external funding for research and development of a sustainable surfboard. Whether it comes from the government, a charitable foundation, a wealthy philanthropist, a keen investor or one of the large surf companies seems inconsequential.

Without any regulatory or oversight committee providing an evaluation or keeping records of surfboard manufacture, there is virtually no research being done on the issue of surfboard cons

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