Surfers are becoming stoked Ocean Activists. According to Surfrider Foundation, over the last decade more than 1 million surfers have shed their “whatever, dude” attitude to help protect and preserve the ocean’s natural beauty. International Surfing Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of June (this year on June 17), and brings together surfers from across the globe to share their love of the sport and give back to the ocean. As part of a US$ seven billion industry, surfers are coming together to become a powerful catalyst for ocean preservation and protection. (photo -Slater Kelly)
Surfboards Define the Surfing Culture.
When surfing took off in the early twentieth century it replicated the boards of ancient Polynesians, with boards made with locally grown non-toxic materials. Broken boards could be reused, recycled, or being biodegrade they went back to the earth to grow new boards.
But, surfing “progressed” and the bulk of modern surfboards are not environmentally-friendly. They are largely made of plastics and toxic, petroleum-based chemicals, the antithesis of surfing’s original values. If surfboards are the basic definers of the surfing culture, then by definition surfing has become ‘unsustainable”.
Surfers have always sported a more environmentally-aware ethic than most ocean recreation lovers. Yet how do surfers uphold the fundamental values of surfing when their boards are unsustainable?
Enter Sustainable Surf…
Surf Culture to Surf Mission
Sustainable Surf is on a mission to move the surfing community back to the original sustainable spirit of the first surf boards without forfeiting performance. This non-profit helps board builders make informed choices about new materials that lower the environmental footprint of a surfboard. Manufacturers that follow best practices get a recognized label that helps consumers make better choices This process is called the ECOBOARD Project.
What’s an ECOBOARD?
An ECOBOARD has the same high, technical performance, attributes as any modern water-sport board, while having reduced environmental and toxic impacts – through the use of more sustainable materials and manufacturing processes.
When you buy a board with the ecoboard label (Level One or Gold Level), the board has been verified that it has one or more of these attributes: a measurably reduced carbon footprint; renewable, recycled and/or upcycled materials, and/or; uses materials and processes that reduce toxicity during manufacturing.
Life Cycle of a Surfboard
To point surfing in the right direction, Sustainable Surf and Pure Strategies have used science to determine the environmental impact of surf boards. They recently completed a Surfboard Life Cycle Study, comparing the footprint of a standard poly board vs an ECOBOARD. The footprint of a surfboard depends on the “life cycle” of each component from raw materials extraction and refining, to manufacturing energy use and transportation of the finished product to stores.
Opportunities for Manufacturers
The ECOBOARD Life Cycle Study showed that when using qualifying materials, an ECOBOARD had a 30% reduction in the carbon footprint. plus a significant reduction in the use of carcinogenic chemicals. The study also identified opportunities for manufacturers to reduce waste, use renewable energy and source more sustainable materials.
Riding A Wave of ECOBOARDS
Since 2012, more than 45,000 ECOBOARDS have been made by over 40 registered board builders. These boards have a reduced carbon footprint, are made using renewable and recycled materials and limit exposure to toxic chemicals for those building boards.
Verified ECOBOARDS” are made by big brands like Firewire, Channel Islands and Lost, and also smaller artisans like Maurice Cole, Donald Brink, Earth Technologies, and Ventana Surfboards. Starboard is a recent eco-board addition in windsurf and SUP categories. (photo – Sion Milosky and his daughter Sariyah, Photo Jamie Ballenge)
“If we can change our surfboards to physically embody the ideals of sustainability, then we can change ourselves too” – Sustainable Surf
What You Can Do As A Surfer?
1. Get your ‘footprints’ on a more sustainable surfboard. Just look for the ECOBOARD Project logo on boards in the racks at shops, buy from an existing partner, or get your shaper involved in the ECOBOARD program and get the resources to make you a custom ECOBOARD.
2. Join Surfrider. This U.S. based non-profit environmental organization works to protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves and beaches by focusing on such issues as water quality, beach access, and sustaining marine and coastal ecosystems. Surfrider chapters are located in the U.S. and Canada.
By Laurie Wilson, Blue Ocean Network
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