Like many who attended the Boardroom Show in Del Mar earlier this month, straight after walking through the front door I began to dream up my next board. Being able to see what an array of board builders are up to, there was no shortage of craft to fondle. One thing I knew for certain was that whatever I order next, I want it to built as sustainably as possible.
For more insight, I sat down with Brett Giddings from Sustainable Surf at the show to discuss what a more sustainable board might look like, no matter which shaper I choose.
DH: Once I decide on the shape, size and color of my next board, what are some questions I should be asking my shaper to ensure the board is built as sustainably as possible?
BG: With more than 40,000 ECOBOARDS built each year, it’s clear that you aren’t the only person looking for a more sustainable surfboard. In addition to seeing if your favorite shaper is part of the ECOBOARD Project, there are some simple things that you can ask any shaper to make sure your next board is more sustainable.
Could you make it really easy and tell me which shaper is making the most sustainable boards?
There are a lot of shapers out there doing a lot of great things. Here at the show, there are nearly 30 companies making ECOBOARDS and globally there are more than 100 board builders signed to the program. Each one of those shapers makes ECOBOARDS in a unique way and uses different material combinations dependent on the specific boards they are building. To narrow it down, how about we focus on some of the things you can see right here at the show?
Sounds great. Before we get into that, can you tell me how Sustainable Surf knows what we should be focusing on?
Last year we completed an ECOBOARD lifecycle study, which identified the opportunities available. We could talk all day about the study; essentially it confirmed that resin, foam and the manufacturing processes used are the key things to focus on. Having said that, we encourage people to think holistically. There are different options for fiberglass, fins, leashes, traction pads, board bags, sunscreen… choosing a more sustainable surfboard is really just the start to living a more ocean-friendly lifestyle.
Ok, so what about resin? I know that a lot of board builders use bio-resins, can you talk me through the options available?
There are several resin manufacturers now making plant-based resins (and a few more on the way), meaning any board builder, especially in the US, can access those materials. And if your board builder isn’t using those resins, it’s pretty easy for them to find a glass shop that uses those resins like Earth Technologies, Green Lightning or Glass Lab that all have booths here at the show.
A lot of people say bio resins don’t perform like regular epoxy or PU, but that myth’s been busted right? I mean plenty of pros are riding boards like these, right?
You got it. Michel Bourez won Pipe on a Firewire ECOBOARD glassed in Entropy Super Sap, Clay Marzo is riding Superbrand ECOBOARDS glassed with BioLink and Zane Schweitzer won the World SUP Championships in Fiji on a Starboard ECOBOARD glassed with Sicomin bio-resin.
What about the blanks used in those boards? Marko Recycled blanks have been around for a while, are there any other options?
We actually have a board on our stand that uses an algae-foam blank from Arctic. Those blanks are becoming more widely available and people like John John and Filipe Toledo have been testing them, so expect to see more and more of those in the water. There are also a bunch of board builders, like Wuux and Grain here at the show, making their cores out of wood, which can also lead to an improved environmental footprint.
Cool. So, you mentioned waste management earlier; what can a shaper do to minimize waste and why should they be looking at that?
We completed a study last year that showed waste is actually a big part of the carbon footprint of a board. There are some simple things that shapers can do to minimize the waste that they’re sending to the landfill. Marko, Arctic and KKL Machine can all machine shape blanks and recycle any waste created. Marko can also take waste EPS back from your shaper and recycle that into new boards via our Waste to Waves program. When it comes to resin waste, it often comes down to accurately measuring resin and using resin waste to make things like fins and ding repairs.
I noticed that there are a bunch of shapers here like Gary McNeill, Maurice Cole, and Danny Hess using alternatives to fiberglass. What materials are they using and what is the impact of using those?
We’re seeing more and more shapers using natural materials like flax fiber and wood veneers to improve the deck strength of their boards. It’s difficult to measure the exact environmental impact of that change, but I am personally riding boards from Treehouse Shapes with hoop pine laminates that are 5+ years old and have very few deck impressions. There are also several shapers, like DMS, experimenting with basalt as a replacement for carbon.
Well that pretty much covers the board itself, so what about fins? Are there any options out there that we should be thinking about when it comes to fins?
There are definitely some great options out there for those looking for a more sustainable fin. Three options right here at the Boardroom Show are: Push Fins, making fins out of up-cycled skate decks and bio-resin; Eco Fin, doing fins out of plastic collected off the beaches in Bali; and Futures have a few new fins that use wood waste, recycled plastic and/or bio-resin. And for those looking to use their fins for good, check out SmartFin. Their fins have sensors that collect several data points, which is then being collated to measure ocean health.
Rad. This is all super helpful, Brett. It seems pretty obvious, really, that we who recreate in the ocean should try our best to minimize the impact we have on it, especially in the craft we ride. It’s also amazing to see all the options available to make a board more sustainably. Appreciate your time here, and looking forward to my next board!
To learn more about Sustainable Surf, and more specifically the ECOBOARD Project, check out their website here.