Photo: Silhouette of a man with a surf board against the setting sun

by Michele McKay

Surfing is great for health and fitness. But for the environment, Hawaii’s signature sport has two serious downsides: first, surfboards are made of highly toxic materials; second, the sport generates a vast amount of unusable waste, from production scraps to old, broken boards. The good news is that eco-surf innovators on Oahu and in California are changing all that – and they’re leading a green revolution in the surf industry!

Country Feeling Surfboards, on Oahu’s North Shore, shapes boards from blanks made of soy- and sugar-based foam. They use deck inlays of bamboo fiber, hemp, silk, and organic cotton, and they apply a sun-catalyzed resin that is 70% less toxic than typical resin. Kyle Bernhardt and Jeff Bushman of Country Feeling Surfboards share the belief that “Surfers subscribe to one universal truth: the ocean is where we find magic. We must recognize that if we don’t take care of our planet, the magic will disappear.”

Green Foam Blanks is a California eco-pioneer – the first ever to recycle scraps and discarded boards into surfboard blanks. Top surfers find them equal in performance and durability to boards made with toxic polyurethane foam. Matt "Mayhem" Biolos, Lost Surfboards’ renowned shaper, endorses the recycled blanks, saying, "The specks of stringer and colored glue dust adds character and defines their look. Starting immediately, we will offer Green Foam Blanks to anyone who wishes to get a board made."

How do old, broken boards and production scraps get recycled? A philanthropic Southern California organization, ReSurf Recycling, is ‘paving’ new ground by establishing drop-off collection sites at participating surf shops and factories. Old boards and the shaping waste from board manufacturers are collected, pulverized, and re-made into various products, including street pavement. According to ReSurf.com, “adding surfboard material to the asphalt mix aids the integrity of the asphalt, making it less rigid and more flexible – like a good surfer.” Co-partner Steve Cox says, "ReSurf Recycling has literally invented a system of transforming discarded surfboards and previously unusable waste into asphalt and concrete that can be used to pave city roads. It's our goal to have surfers driving to the beach on roads paved with their old boards and to recycle the estimated 250 tons of neoprene waste that is created from wetsuit scraps each year!" And what product is being made from neoprene wetsuit production scraps? Appropriately... yoga mats!

What you can do:

  • Start a surfboard recycling program! ReSurf hopes to spread surfboard recycling around the world. For information and start-up assistance visit http://resurf.com/.