The Surfboard - Not Green but Making lots of GreenThe surfboard industry (like any industry) has always been about making that green$ Although surfers have a rep for being reef hugging hippies, the quest for a giant wave of cash has in fact added much to fuel our over-heated climate. For decades we have been ripping through polyurethane foam blanks coated in petrochemical solvents and polyester resin all wrapped in fiberglass. Modern blanks are packed with dangerous chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This stuff has been deemed carcinogenic by the EPA, so we surfers, shapers, and glassers have been willing participants in the destruction and soiling of the very environment our lifestyle depends upon.
Clark Foam's Demise - Just a Lull in the SwellBack in December, 2005, surfboard blank uber-manufacturing kingpin Clark Foam shut its doors without warning reportedly due to a mass of workers comp lawsuits and strict EPA regulations.
Ironically, the vacuum left by Clark Foam’s demise opened a giant door for new innovations in surfboard construction. Most notably, manufacturers of “greener” surfboard materials have taken center stage.
But just as maverick companies are moving to clean up the industry (such as Greenlight Surfboard Supply who is pioneering ways to effectively use bamboo in surfboard construction as well as bio-plastic leash plugs and removable fin systems and making them available to garage builders, custom shapers, and glassers worldwide), experts cite another storm on the horizon.
Cheap Surfboards at a PriceMega-producers who have set up shop in China and Taiwan have made surfing convenient and affordable for the masses are also churning out the most boards in our history, and thus pumping the most VOCs into our environment.
Further, surfers’ attitudes toward their equipment are a far cry from the good old days.
Before surfing took over the world, a surfer had to scrimp and save for a new stick and waited months for a local shaper to carve one out. Then he kept that piece of art in a board bag and repaired each crack and ding so to keep it fresh for a few years. Not today, we beat the hell out of our ultra-light performance boards before ordering the next one within the same year. It’s like we’re all a bunch of traveling pros riding disposable boads. When you imagine 20 million surfers changing boards every year, the future looks dark...and hot.
The Green Surfboard - Rule or Exception?All the news isn’t so bad though. In addition to Greenlight’s bamboo construction, other green companies are using recycled Styrofoam and even old school balsa wood. But the biggest movement in the "green room" is the advancement of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam blanks which are covered in an epoxy resin. These babies use far fewer VOCs. Even better, epoxy boards are insane. They are light and flexible and extremely durable.
Like with all progress to a greener world, the first steps are painful and slow, but we know that surfers are good at charging through strong currents and huge swells.
And this situation is no different. But just as in other industries, this all comes with an added cost to the consumers, but it’s worth it in the long run.
If you want to check Greenlight’s range of eco-friendly surfboard materials, check out http://www.greenlightsurfsupply.com/.
For more ideas peruse www.ecosurfproject.org to find out how you can surf in concert with Mother Nature everyday.