The typical surfboard is far from eco-friendly, but a small company on the Oregon coast creates a greener surfboard by using lower impact materials and reclaimed wood.
To understand what makes a surfboard greener, you have to understand how to make a surfboard. The board has a few different parts:
- The Blank - This is the core of the board. When you're building a board, you carve your shape out of your blank, which is typically polyurethane.
- Fins - These are the pieces mounted on the back of the board. These are normally made from fiberglass, which isn't too bad from an environmental standpoint. Fiberglass becomes problematic when it breaks down, because those fibers are no good for your lungs, eyes, and skin.
- Deck and Glass - This isn't actually glass. Conventional boards use polyester resin, which is a high VOC material. Board makers cover the blank with a layer of fiberglass, then seal the whole deal with lots of polyester resin.
So, how do you make a greener board? We've covered some green surfboards in the paste. Check out these wooden boards from Rayskin or Gary Linden's board made from agave. There's a new company on the scene specializing in a greener board: Tilley. Here's owner Jason Tilley shared a bit about how he makes his boards:
- The core is EPS, rather than polyurethane. I did a little bit of research on EPS, and it gets mixed reviews from an environmental standpoint. It's hard to find places to recycle it, and EPS is a type of Styrofoam. What makes it better than polyurethane is that it doesn't contains CFCs or HCFCs, which are harmful to our atmosphere. Some even say that it improves landfill stability. While EPS doesn't strike me as a green material, it's got polyurethane beat.
- Reclaimed wood. Instead of fiberglass to cover the board and make the fins, Tilley uses reclaimed local wood. This one's a no-brainer, right? Reclaimed wood for the win!
- Epoxy. Since the boards are wood, they require less fiberglass over the deck than standard boards, and he seals his boards with epoxy which is lower-VOC than polyester resin. There's still an impact there, but it's definitely an improvement.
What really makes Tilley's boards a greener option is their durability. As Jason explains:
One of the main reasons in my mind that they are more eco-friendly is durability. They will not easily snap or ding like standard boards (because of the wood and the way it is used in a composite sandwich). They are gorgeous so they are very likely to end up hanging on a wall or re-purposed into a shelf or coffee table, not in a landfill. I wish I could tell you how many Polyester surfboards snap and end up in a landfill, some less than a year old. I got into building these boards because my own backyard was filling up with old polyester boards, and I was frustrated with the endless ding repairs and disappointed when a board I liked was a soggy dead mess after a few years.
You can check out Tilley's boards on their website. He's got some standard boards that you can order, or he'll do custom work to make a board that's just right for your style.