grain surfboard

A new 12' gun coming out of the shop at Grain Surfboards. Photo: Nick Lavecchia

The Inertia

“I can change the world with my own two hands” sings Ben Harper, sharing a vision for a cleaner planet by changing how we live our lives. Surfers are starting to realize that if they don’t change their habits, there might not be a clean ocean to surf in. But what can be done by an everyday surfer to lessen their footprint on our coastal ecosystems?

The easiest way is cleaning up our playground. It could be by joining a Surfrider beach cleanup crew or, as grom Cobi Emery (the founder of Pickup3.org) would say, just picking up three pieces.  The Ocean Conservancy reported that for a recent International coastal cleanup over 1.6 million cigarette butts were collected. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. A surfer should recognize that all trash ends up in the ocean in one form or another and if everyone stops the waste stream just a bit along the way it will make a big difference. Recycling your plastic bottles and cardboard is just the beginning; reducing and re-using are just as important.

Here are some ways that surfers are trying to re-use their equipment or reduce waste by creating something new from discarded material. Oxnard based WaveTribe is making new leashes from old ones and making tractop from sustainably grown cork. In San Diego, the Progress Project is taking vinyl from old billboards and sewing them into surfboard travel bags. Another California venture, ReRip, is recycling old surfboards to make new ones. And in San Francisco, Sustainable Surf is collecting EPS foam from electronics packaging and sending it to Marko Foam to make new board blanks. By recycling the foam, surfers are reducing the materials needed for surfboards.

On the East Coast, Maine’s Grain Surfboards also believes in the three R’s and have made it a mission to produce greener surfboards made from sustainable wood and less toxic resin. They lead workshops to teach other surfers to shape boards using sustainable materials, too. With the help of the local Surfrider chapter and SustainableSurf.org, they hosted a seven day class in San Francisco in an old firehouse. They had to ship their tools, the board stands and building materials, but keeping to their re-use mantra, even the crates they shipped everything in could be taken apart and converted into the equipment used for the project. The boards themselves were made from sustainably produced cedar and they were used epoxy resin for the glassing, but have started the transition to Entropy bio-resins.

“I’ve been following Grain for a while now, and when I found out about the California class, I had to take it,” explained Jake Whiddon, an everyday surfer from San Luis Obisbo. He was putting the final touches on the rails of his ‘log’, with each pass leaving a few more wood shavings on the floor which would later be converted to mulch. Another student, Dillon from San Diego, was joining scraps of recycled koa, maple, and redwood to make a tail block for his cruiser. Both of them were learning how to create a greener surfboard. In their own way, both were changing the world with their own two hands.

About the author – Greg Gordon runs two surf websites (www.crsurf.com and www.dadecosurf.com) and help surfers plan eco-friendly trips to Costa Rica. When he’s not writing, traveling, or surfing, he is often helping out at Surfrider Foundation events.


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