Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Green Stick Surfari - Hunting For Environmentally Friendly Surfboards

Photo courtesy of Ed Fladung - who's got a groovy blog thing going

Beach Bum is planning on buying himself a longboard when the bank balance moves from red to black (and I can swing the deal past Sea Nymph). Ah, decisions, decisions! There's all the usual ones involved in such a significant procurement and, for good measure, I thought I’d check out the feasibility of buying an “environmentally friendly” (EF) stick.

Sometime ago, I'd read that the a company called Sustainable Composites had teamed up with the Eden Project here in Cornwall and shaped up a highly EF board. This "eco-board" got plus points for effort and concept, but wasn't a serious alternative to existing boards. Bit of a brick was the word on the waves. However, this set me trawling through the net for the lowdown on potential green purchase options.

First off, the thing that hit home was just how noxious many of the key components involved in surfboard production really are. You can read all about the detail here - but suffice to say that "toluene di-isocyanate" is not something to mix with your tequila for that extra kick - unless it's the bucket you wanna put your foot to. There's no doubt that the pollutants associated with surfboard production industry, and the related recyclability issues don't sit well with the oft-cited green ethos of most surfers.

Second, in the UK at least, there’s a definite dearth of options, and I would suggest, a lack of awareness of the issues and alternatives. The most excellent Ecosurf Project does list a range of EF suppliers but that doesn't make it easier for the punter to translate all the good work that's going on into the basics ie where can I buy the board, what types - and at what price. As far as I can see – and please let me know if you know otherwise – available EF boards are produced or supplied in the UK by a few eco-conscious trailblazers, namely:

Ocean Green – who make their boards from hemp & balsa wood sourced from Nicaragua. These guys are literally just up the road from Beach Bum's shack in Newquay, Cornwall

Loose Fit – with an online shop and realtime one at Barnstaple. They stock some boards from Oz shaped by a dude called Tom Wegener and are claimed to be the “world’s most eco-friendly board”. By the by, I like the sound of Loose Fit - everytime they sell you a board they plant a tree!

There’s another Australian innovation in the bamboo board – but their website seems to have suffered a wipeout and any emails sent seem to ping pong back to me unanswered.

Finally, there’s the price. Let's just say that getting my bank balance back on dry land will take significantly longer should I splash out the semolians on any of these new boards. Added to the price is the question of durability, repairability and usability. Not knowing anyone who has one won't necessarily put me off, but I'd love to get some feedback on the gear ahead of buying.

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