Thursday, July 16, 2009

Surfrider and Green Boards

Last night's Surfrider meeting was about educating surfers on the greener options now available to surfers. The San Diego Chapter invited Ned Mc Mahon of Malama Composites, JP and Andrea Holeman, and shaper Jake Moss. Each company is trying to build a greener surfboard and lessen their carbon footprint. Everyone also agreed that the health of the people making the boards and materials was a big motivating factor to cleaning up the industry.

The surf industry is an old-fashioned and stubborn thing, especially when it comes to the building of surfboards. The technology used until Clark's closing in 2005 had been relatively unchanged since the 1950's, when foam cores were invented. Since 2005 there has been a rush of technology improvements and experiments to improve aspects of surfboard building. Its confusing for those of us in the industry to keep up with the different foams, what they are made of, what resin it needs, new epoxies, stronger cloths, and what fins and boxes are made from. I can't imagine a consumer trying to sort it all out, so Surfrider engaged us all in a discussion about greener options for surfboards.

Ned Mc Mahon is a great source of information. He thinks like a chemist, talks like someone that knows about composites, and really cares about worker's health and the environment. He's been leading green improvements for some time now and seems determined to educate consumers. He talked last night about ingredients in foam, resin, catalyst, and cloth. Ned explained that foam and resin can be made from basically any oil- soy, linseed, castor, petroleum- but there's really no getting around (yet) the toxic catalyst that account for less than 5% of the final products. He and Dan Van Zaten showed off a new Super "Green" surfboard that looks futuristic, but is a green option. There is no sacrifice on performance.

JP and I brought in a board Wyatt is laminating for me. It wasn't done yet, but it was good enough to explain what we have been working on lately. Its made with 30% post-consumer recycled styrofoam (we can get 100% now if you want it), a bamboo stringer, sealed with Elmer's glue, and laminated with a linseed epoxy. Everything can be washed up with soap and water. The fins are the tricky part. JP can hand-foil some from scrap wood if I want glass-ons, or i can just use Futures. Rumor has it they are going to be greening-up their fins and boxes because of demand, so thats good. JP and I try to run our business like we run our home- sustainable and green.

Jake Moss showed off his latest, tripped out design. Its made from locally sourced greener materials and has bamboo fins also made locally. The bamboo fin was an interesting story- the guy making them chose bamboo because of it strength and flex and didn't even realize or care that he had a greener product. Jake talked about durability, how any oil can be epoxified, and hemp.

The three presenters all proclaimed the same message really. There are green surfboards, not in stores yet, so you'll have to look around and ask for them. You can get greener, custom, hand-shaped boards that perform and last. Surfboard builders are striving for cleaner, safer work environments. The "Wal-Mart" mentality of cheap, cheap, cheap has all but made the once booming and revered craft of surfboard building an "endangered species". Smaller carbon-footprints are good.

Change starts small, change starts local, and change starts with you!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the kind words. I enjoyed meeting you and JP. There is so much work to do in this arena and we are all just taking the first steps. The lesson here is that it is an ever evolving process and there is no place for complacency. Collectively we WILL make a difference. One more thing...we don't need to think about making a 180 turn. Two non parallel lines over time become really far apart. A 10% shift is all it takes to get started.
    Aloha, Ned