When Clark Foam, the main supplier of polyurethane surfboard blanks, closed its doors in December 2005, we knew the surf industry was about to change. Citing environmental regulations and workers’ compensation claims as the reason for the shuttering, the topic of creating a more environmentally friendly surfboard was on surfer’s lips around the world. From the highly toxic urethane foam to the chromium in the fiberglass to the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are released into the atmosphere when resins cures, almost every part of creating a surfboard is not only an environmental hazard but a potential hazard to the shaper as well. Surfers are an environmentally conscience bunch, what we need now is environmentally conscience boards. Luckily, there are a few choices out there and intrepid designers are furthering the cause.
Many shapers are looking to epoxy. According to the Surfrider Foundation, “epoxy resin has about 75% fewer VOCs than polyester resin and about two-thirds fewer VOCs are released into the atmosphere when it cures.” These resins not only can be made from plant sources, such as sugar and agrigum, but can also be cleaned up with more environmentally friendly citrus cleaners instead of toxic acetone.
Some other alternatives include Bamboo Boards out of Australia who replaces their fiberglass with bamboo. Or Ocean Green Surfboards which uses 100% biodegradable hemp cloth in place of fiberglass and blanks made of FSC certified balsa. Fletcher Chouinard Designs (Patagonia) uses less toxic extruded polystyrene foam, which has fewer VOCs than polyurethane.
It seems as though the Clark Foam fiasco may have actually benefited the surf industry. It shed light on the impact of surfboards on the environment and sent us on frantic search for boards that are environmentally sound.
Visit Eco Surf Project to check out a list of eco-friendly surfboard manufactures.