I had someone ask me recently are your boards really eco-friendly and how?
Well, the answer is simple, but of course it comes with a lengthy explanation. They are as eco-friendly as i feel they can be, but not at the expense of performance. I will however continue on in my pursuit of more eco-friendly and sustainable materials that perform to the levels my team riders and customers require. But performance is key to what we do. If you look at my range, i am very much so a performance driven company. You might have watched or recall a recent meeting at the Shapers Round Table on Surfline between some of the greatest, or largest, to ever do it. They touched on the topic of Eco-Friendly equipment, and I think they said some of the same things. But i also think it can totally be done, and the answer so far is the marriage of sustainable and eco-friendly materials, combined with the construction process that leaves the lowest footprint, or impact on the environment. Green or greener surfboards are here without a doubt.
Process and Materials:
It starts for me in the stringer. I like to use Bamboo Stringers for two reasons. First of all they are highly renewable and second they perform the best. If you have ever grown bamboo in your backyard, you can't get rid of the stuff. Grows like a foot a day or something crazy. But a cedar, redwood, or apple tree takes forever to be harvestable and then you cut it down and start over. Bamboo is like a weed. But not only that, its a very strong oily wood. I saw Stretch using them so i gave it a shot and i love the results. I believe its the strength combined with the oils in the wood that solved every issue i had with epoxy at the time i started using it. I did not like the chatter and resonance at high speed some epoxies can have, and i didn't like standard bass stringers that feel kind of doggy under your feet. The bamboo flexes great when you make it thin. Once under a load or when the board is flexing, it comes back fast and strong. But the oily nature of the wood tends to dampen resonance and chatter. Kind of like a shock absorber on stiff suspension. Even on our thinner boards they flex, and then they come back fast, strong and stay there. Combined with a light glass job small waves boards work insane. They don't weigh very much and the flex is quick and they come right back to help generate speed. For the step-ups we glass the boards a lot heavier for bigger wave and offshore conditions. This adds weight and strength, and again the bamboo acts like a dampener. And the break strength of the bamboo is another bonus. So bamboo stringers is where we start.
The foam I use is Marko EPS in all different weights for many reasons. I like the flex characteristics of the foam, and i like how light I can make a board from Marko Foam. I never use less than 1.9 lb densities, but i do use as high density as custom pressed 2.5lb foam. For air boards and small waves i use a lighter weight, and for stepups and so on i user a heavier weight foam. The performance of these boards when glassed right for the job they are intended is excellent, and the boards are much more durable. All of my team riders have switched almost solely to EPS boards and they love them. Higher performance for them, less broken boards for me, less broken boards in the trash.
Now EPS is styrofoam so how green is it? That is not exactly what your recycle company wants to see in your recycle bin! Its in the process and capabilities of that process that win. We CNC machine the boards at marko for a start. Marko then vacuums up all the excess cutting material, picks up the scrap and grinds it up to make recycled blanks and more boards. So the cuttings don't just go in the trash this way. Right away we are already much greener than a poly in that i don't have cuttings in the trash bin at the shop. Just minor scrap from tail templates, scrubbing and cutting rail bands etc. Secondly, you can actually strip the glass off of the EPS board, leave it in their bin, and marko will also turn that into a recycled blank. So now we have a chance. Essentially this board can have two lives, or three lives, or maybe even more. Where does your poly board go? 100% of the time on a wall or landfill. No other place for it, it has no chance. And if you want to lower your footprint even more, ill make your board out of that recycled foam from those cuttings and scrap surfboards that would have otherwise gone in the trash.
Glassing is also where we really start to get greener. And this is where i have really began to love EPS surfboards. We use Resin Research Epoxy Systems on all of our boards. The resin is flexible like we want, light like we want, it is twice as durable as poly resins, its nice and white and UV resistant, and it has almost NO V.O.C.s. You can literally glass a board with no respirator. The impact to the environment is much lower this way. Stronger, lighter, flexy boards that last a long time, and you could build one in your garage with just a fan. It also allows us to achieve the results we want, using less material, and lighter thinner boards that still last and perform great.
There are certainly much greener alternatives. I have tried many and none yet that suit the demands of a high performance, picky surfer, who rips and wants zero substitution by way performance. But i do believe that one day soon we will get there. For now i think we have a very good process that makes light boards, that are strong, perform great, and will be a great companion for you on your travels.