Can your next surfboard help save your waves?
by: Greg Gordon
The answer was made clear last month at the Sustainable Surf EcoBoard Launch Party, held in downtown San Francisco and hosted by Saatchi and Saatchi. Surfboard manufacturers are realizing that if the waves and beaches are too polluted to surf, then no one will be buying their products. They are starting to use toxic free resins, recycled foam, harvestable wood stringers while not sacrificing the two most important aspects of board production – price and performance.
The evening was a mix of a fundraiser, a surfboard glassing demo, and a panel discussion. The sponsors of the event were all eco-friendly- products with organic ingredients, artwork made from discarded license plates, and services offered that left the smallest footprint on the planet. The idea was to show attendees that you didn’t have to sacrifice quality to save our seas. After the introduction from the Co-Founders of Sustainable Surf, Mike Stewart and Kevin Whilden, the pro glassers from Entropy Resins and E-Tech Glassing showed off their skills on a Channel Islands surfboard custom-shaped for former World Champ surfer Shaun Tomson. Why do this at a party? To show how non-toxic the bioresins were - you couldn’t smell any fumes, unlike the usual stank coming from many shaping rooms around the world.
Then after a few drinks and silent auction bidding on some eco-creations from noteworthy brands such as Stretch, Firewire, ...Lost, T.Patterson, Hobie, and Pearson Arrow. These brands wouldn’t sell sustainable surfboards if they weren’t high performance. It’s solid, and works great as many of their team riders have reported. Their participation in the ECOBOARD Project is a testament to the current quality of sustainable surfboard technology.
Next, a panel of surf industry eco-experts tooka seat in front to talk about how new techniques in shaping using earth friendly materials is going to change the mindset of the masses. Todd Woody, the Environmental Editor for Forbes Magazine, voiced his support for the movement, pointing out that surfing is the only sport that is actually trying to reduce its carbon footprint. Mark Price from Firewire Surfboards shared his wisdom on building boards that lasted and professed that surfboards will only sell if they are high-performance or at a lower cost. Green features were not yet a priority for the best riders.
Jim Moriarty from the Surfrider Foundation made the connection between our love for the ocean and our duty as surfers to protect it. Will Hutchinson from Proof Lab Surf Shop gave us insight from a shop owner’s perspective – what customers were now buying and which surf companies were producing products from sustainable materials. And to back him up, Ryan Ashton from the Quiksilver Foundation told the group about the strides Quiksilver has made to change their corporate philosophy, making boardshorts from recycled plastic bottles and helping surf communities keep their beaches clean. They also were the main sponsors of the event along with Telo Island Lodge, an eco-friendly surf resort in the South Pacific.
The discussion closed with Mike Stewart sharing his vision of the evening, where surfers didn’t have to choose between performance and the planet, and could find a variety of eco-friendly boards in the same price range as the poly-surfboards. His non-profit, Sustainable Surf, started the “Waste to Waves” program where anyone could drop off Styrofoam into containers located at local surf shops (think of the packaging holding your television securely in a cardboard box). The collected foam is sentto Marko Foam, who turns it into new surfboard blanks which can be used by any shaper and cost just about the same as a regular blank.
Around the Saatchi & Saatchi Sustainability Division office the attendees could see lightweight, high performance shortboards and beautiful longboards by some of the most cutting edge surfboard brands in the world. All of these boards carried the“Verified ECOBOARD” label by Sustainable Surf because they were built using sustainable surfboard materials.
So what exactly qualifies as an ECOBOARD? Sustainable Surf has created a science based benchmark that an ECOBOARD must be made from at least one of the following materials: A FOAM blank made from minimum 40% recycled foam or at least 40% biological content, EPOXY Resin made from minimum 15% biological content, or a WOOD blank made from sustainably sourced biological/renewable material that provides the majority of the surfboard’s material and structural integrity – and therefore significantly reduces the amount of foam or resin needed to build the board. With these requirements, the ECOBOARD label has become the first, independent 3rd party, consumer facing “eco-label” for surfboards.
The evening ended with a feeling of hope that the sustainable message would spread to the rest of the surf industry and that everyday surfers would change their mindset and seek out and buy brands that cared for their playground – our ocean. The answer is ‘yes!’, your next surfboard could help save the sea. And if you factor in the durability of the newer eco-boards, they are actually a lower cost than a new polyurethane board since they will last longer. Now it is up to you to tell your shaper to make your next board with eco-friendly materials and to share this concept with your surf buddies. If the demand for eco-boards goes up then more shapers will produce them locally and the prices will come down. Visit www.sustainablesurf.org/ecoboard to learn more the ECOBOARD Project and find a shaper who will make them.
A review of the party is available at: http://sustainablesurf.org/2012/11/ecoboard-launch-party-a-success/