“Greed is good,” corporate raider Gordon Gekko famously quips in Wall Street, succinctly explaining capitalism's frequent victories over moral imperative.
“Green is good” is a phrase you hear less often - it seems like everyone fancies themselves an environmentalist until they’re actually asked to change their behavior. Perhaps this explains the victory of greed over green when it comes to surfboards.
It’s no secret that most surfers ride boards made with the same dirty old materials boards have been made with for 50 years. The problem isn’t innovation - every few years, someone comes up with a new, greener tech. Trouble is, previous solutions often haven’t performed as well, and they’ve definitely been more expensive. Greed wins over green, as surfers opt to save some cash by sticking with the cheaper, toxic board.
Michael Stewart (not to be confused with boogie legend Mike Stewart) is co-founder of Sustainable Surf, a non-profit organization that helps put “ECOBOARDS” under your feet. Sustainable Surf doesn’t make the boards - instead, they label boards other shapers make, helping surfers figure out green from greed. Think of it like a “certified organic” label.
I’ll leave it to Stewart to answer the obvious questions:
Lewis Samuels: What would you suggest for a surfer who wants to ride a more environmentally-friendly board?
Michael Stewart: The low-performance option is to find a log and get busy whittling. The high-performance option? Visit the "find a shaper" section on sustainablesurf.org to see who’s making ECOBOARDS.
All the shapers listed (from Channel Islands to ...Lost) have agreed to offer custom ECOBOARDS. This means recycled EPS foam, and/or glassed with a plant-based Epoxy Resin. Use of both (foam & resin) can cut the CO2 footprint of the total board by almost half, zero out toxins/VOCs completely, and help keep about 6 lbs out of the dump.
LS: Are ECOBOARDS more expensive?
MS: Generally speaking, a basic "ECOBOARD Project" labeled surfboard can be the same price as any other EPS foam/ Epoxy resin construction surfboard. The greener materials (recycled EPS foam blanks from Marko foam, and the Plant-based epoxy resin from Entropy Resins) are competitively priced.
Surfers are always price sensitive, but now that these "eco" versions of the typical materials used are basically the same price, its a no-brainer. Admittedly, an EPS/Epoxy board costs about a $100 more than a PU/Polyester board, but you're also getting a board that is twice as strong, and will last considerably longer, so its a better deal – period.
In fact, the response we have heard from several pro test pilots (Torrey Meister, Clay Marzo, Timmy Reyes, etc.) is that they either can't tell any difference, or in some cases, they actually prefer the "flex" of the Marko recycled EPS foam blanks over standard non-recycled EPS blanks.
LS: Will surfers sacrifice performance characteristics when they go with greener boards?
MS: Short answer - Nope. In fact, the response we have heard from several pro test pilots (Torrey Meister, Clay Marzo, Timmy Reyes, etc.) is that they either can't tell any difference, or in some cases, they actually prefer the "flex" of the Marko recycled EPS foam blanks over standard non-recycled EPS blanks. Long-term testing by several board brands has also shown that the Entropy plant-based epoxy resin is actually the "whitest" epoxy resin out there.
And if that aint progress, I don't know what is!