Traditional surfboards are a highly toxic mix of nastiness. They cause damage to the very environment we rely on to actually surf, from the extraction of raw materials to the toxic emissions released in production. The whole process has a far-from-great track record environmentally.
But, like that extra pint the night before a solid swell, buying just one more traditional board seems like a good idea at the time. After all, what are the other options? Sure, we can throw performance out of the window, grow long curly Rob Machado locks and go back to heavy wood. But, for you and I who don’t have a freakish ability to surf every condition like most of the guys on the tour, we need that advantage of a board that performs – even though we do actually give a s*@t about our surroundings and the surf environment. Enter Sustainable Surf and the awesome Eco board standard…
- Blank – The foam is made from a minimum of 25% recycled foam, or at least 25% biological content.
- Resin – The resin is made from a minimum of 15% bio-carbon content with low or zero VOCs.
- Alternative Structure – A surfboard structure made from sustainably sourced biological/renewable material (a.k.a. wood) 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.
Makes sense right? So, why aren’t all boards made to this standard? Well, it turns out that materials bought in a decent quantity to make an Eco board are actually only marginally different from the standard materials used. It’s simply all up to the market and industry to make that transition.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Sustainable Surf and Superbrand to form an awesome trio and do our bit in helping to make that very transition. How? Eco board price tags have typically been far higher than traditional boards and often too much of a jump in price for you and I to swallow, (even though we’re all ashamed of surfing’s dirty secret). It’s simply because the demand has been low due to high pricing that material prices remain high due to low quantities and so there is a vicious circle of expensive Eco boards.
So, surely it’s time to break the loop and shift the industry? We think so, and that’s why our awesome trio has decided to bring to the market a Superbrand range of Eco boards at an affordable price – all in the hope that this is perhaps the 2nd or 3rd domino to fall and get the wider industry’s attention.
We caught up with Michael at Sustainable Surf to explain more and Justin Cote at Superbrand to let us know about the performance of the Eco boards.
Michael at Sustainable Surf
Hello, Michael! Where in the world are you at the moment? We see you’ve spent plenty of time in Hawaii lately!
Thanks! I’m happy to report that I’ve been happily at home in the San Francisco Bay since the New Year, enjoying the “swellular” gifts of a pretty amazing El Nino season.
So, the Eco board project – give us a run down. When did it start? How many shapers use the standard? And why isn’t this awesome standard adopted by all shapers and all boards?
We started the ECOBOARD Project back in 2012 and we’ve got about 40 different surfboard brands that we are currently working with as EBP partners. We’ve actually been fairly selective in reaching out to specific brands that we knew we wanted to be working with.
While many of them are based in CA, we’ve now been expanding the reach of the program globally, where there seems to be strong interest. For us, the original idea was not to see how many brands we could quickly add to the program, but rather, what brands would be an authentic fit to help make the effort successful and that could help the program grow organically.
Let us know a bit about the standard. What makes the boards more friendly to the environment that we rely on to actually ride them and how does a board meeting the standard affect its performance?
The ECOBOARD Project program provides the surfing industry with the first, independent 3rd party, consumer-facing “eco-label” for surfboards. We designed the program to help individuals choose a high-performance sustainable surfboard made with the latest advancements in green chemistry and renewable materials – this can dramatically reduce the surfboard’s environmental and toxic impact on the environment while improving worker health and safety.
The EBP is a materials science-based program that uses a simple “minimum” bar (so it’s a floor vs. a ceiling) for approving products based on their chemical or process properties (such as having recycled content). And since our research shows that the majority of a surfboard’s environmental footprint comes from the resin and core used – we are currently only focused on using those two main classes of materials to “verify” a board as an “ECOBOARD”.
We are really stoked to stock the boards and have made plenty of efforts to make the Eco boards affordable, but why would our customers choose an Eco board over a regular board?
The great news for your customers about the newer “eco” materials (and specifically the ones being produced in the last few years) is that they can actually provide better performance characteristics than the industry standard PU & PE based materials. So, they’ll have greater strength, durability, flexibility, recyclability, weight, etc.
Making a positive impact on our playground through your work must feel great. Does nature repay you? Are you one of the guys that just ‘happens’ to be in the right spot for each set?
Nature has always provided the world with the best things in life – including the air we breathe and the waves we ride – so I feel it’s on all of us to repay nature for the gifts we already enjoy. And, it’s down to us to protect those gifts (clean water, coral reefs, etc.) for future generations. That said, I sure do enjoy it when a clean, barreling left-hander comes right to me
Justin Cote – Marketing Director at Superbrand
Superbrand is going from strength to strength recently. We caught up with Justin Cote the Marketing Director.
So, offering an Eco board in your range is awesome for the environment, but also, some of your key team riders ride these boards. Who rides the boards and what’s their feedback been on the board’s performance?
Clay Marzo is a big fan of the Eco boards we’ve been making for him. In fact, that’s pretty much all he rides. He loves the flex pattern and durability he’s getting from them. He’s such a violent and powerful surfer too, so the durability factor is saving us from having to make him a ton of new boards. Plus, making fewer boards means less material in landfills.
We’ve teamed up with you guys at Superbrand to bring an Eco board at an affordable price to our customer. If we can encourage the production of more Eco boards to help bring down material costs can you see a reason why all boards can’t be to the Eco standard?
There’s no reason why all boards can’t be manufactured with more environmentally-friendly products. Gone are the days of epoxy boards being these stiff, lifeless planks. The new materials like bio-resin and recycled blanks have greatly increased the overall perception and feel of Eco boards. We feel that with surfers like Clay Marzo leading the charge, Eco boards will someday be the industry standard.
What does a world look like with only Eco boards in it?
A lot cleaner and healthier! It’s on us as surfers and board manufacturers to promote the value and quality of Eco boards and we’re happy to take that mantra and run with it…