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Ocean Lovers

A Greener Wave

The surfing world is riding a new wave of sustainability.

Photo: Stephanie Riddell / flickr
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Your Surfboard's Footprint

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A Sea Change is Coming

These surfboard makers and shapers are on the cutting edge of sustainability.

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Just Do One Thing

In the market for a surfboard? Want to upgrade your whip? Buy used and the ocean will thank you.

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A Surfing Scientist Tests the Waves

Does the ocean make us sick? Cliff Kapono is surfing the world to find out.

Photo: Judy Dean / Flickr
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In Search of a Greener Wave

New tech means it’s getting easier to surf green. Unsure how to improve on old-fashioned, less-than-green gear? BEHOLD.

Back to the Drawing (Surf)Board

Sadly, conventional surfboards use toxic resins and generate lots of waste. Why not get something greener under your feet?

  1. Bamboo

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  2. Reclaimed Wood

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  3. Green Blanks

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  4. Grow Your Own

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  1. Bamboo
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    Not Just for Pandas

    Not only is bamboo the fastest growing plant in the world, it’s also crazy strong, making it an eco-friendly material for surfboards. According to legendary bamboo-board builder, Gary Young, they need less epoxy and no fiberglass.
  2. Reclaimed Wood
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    Plant Power

    Sustainable Surf’s ECOBOARD features a core of recycled, reclaimed or sustainably grown wood. Oh, and professional surfers give it the thumb's up on performance, too.
  3. Green Blanks
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    Shape Up

    Some manufacturers are grinding down old boards and recycling them into new green “blanks” (the foam heart of a surfboard). That means less boards making a final ride to the dump.
  4. Grow Your Own
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    Be a Fungi

    Ecovative sells mushroom mulch for growing wedding dresses, planter pots and even surfboard cores. (Get that fungi joke now?) Just add flour and water to the mulch and surf that 'shroom board into the horizon.

From Head to Toe

Your surfing gear has an impact, too. Don't worry, greener alternatives are on the way.

  1. A New World of Wetsuits

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  2. Algae Foam Pads

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  3. Leafy Board Bags

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  4. ecoFin

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  1. A New World of Wetsuits
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    Rainforest Rubber

    Huge understatement ahead: neoprene, made from chlorinated and refined crude oil, is not the greenest material around. Patagonia's wetsuits go one (GIANT) step further, using natural rubber from sustainably harvested rainforests.
  2. Algae Foam Pads
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    Pond-er This

    Slater Design traction pads, created by pro-surfer turned board-designer Kelly Slater, are made of algae scraped from ponds at high-risk of algae blooms. The scum is then solar-dried and pulverized into greener, friendlier foam.
  3. Leafy Board Bags
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    Be a Trendsetter

    Be the greenest surf bum on the beach with a board bag woven from the leaves of a Pacific palm tree. The all-natural and biodegradable Pandan bag is a rad replacement to plastic and rubber.
  4. ecoFin
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    Garbage Tip

    Know that fin that sticks out the underside of a surfboard? This one comes from 100% recycled Bali beach trash; approximately 100 plastic bottle caps go into making one ecoFin.
Photo: Mike Seyfang / flickr

Repairing is Caring

“Repair, don’t replace” is a great motto to live by — bonus points if you power up to eco-friendly repair products, too.

  1. Green Wax

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  2. Make Your Own

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  3. Sticky Situation

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  4. Get a Grip

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  1. Green Wax
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    Wax On, Wax Off

    Surfers use wax to stay stuck to those boards, but most mainstream waxes use petrochemical-derived ingredients. There are greener alternatives like Matunas’ farmed ingredients or Treehugger’s plant- and beeswax-based brands.
  2. Make Your Own
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    D.I.-Why-Not?

    Surf-wax recipes are rampant on the web; most mix up a combo of beeswax and coconut oil. While you’re at it, why not go whole hog and choose organic, fairtrade and sustainable ingredients?
  3. Sticky Situation
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    Ding-a-Ling

    Surfboards get dinged and dented on the regular but, rather than use polyester repair resin, Dr. Phix’s eco-friendly kits are sourced partially from tree sap. Great for sanding down dings AND boosting that green cred.
  4. Get a Grip
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    Waste Not, Want Not

    Cut out the endless consumption of surf wax by installing some hexagonal grip tape that will keep your feet glued to your board. Van der Waal’s transparent, UV-protected tape lasts way longer than a bar of wax.
Photo: dakine kane / flickr

Share the stoke

Photo: Stephanie Riddell / flickr
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Lambrecht Surfboards — Using reclaimed wood from all sorts of different sources, Lambrecht Surfboards create beautiful custom boards, built to order. Tensioned wooden skins over a wooden frame, they are hollow — and weigh about 1/3 more than a conventional foam fiberglass board.
NOTOXSURF — A French company who make boards out of linen, NOTOXSURF are now expanding their eco board range — earlier this year they successfully reached their crowdfunding goal to start creating cork surfboards.
Ventana Surfboards — Based in Santa Cruz, California, Ventana Surfboards & Supplies make boards out of hollow reclaimed wood. They also donate at least 5% of profits to ocean conservation. Right on.
Organic Dynamic — Offering New Zealand surfers environmentally friendly board options, Organic Dynamic use 100% locally recycled EPS foam, and combine it with locally grown timber to produce boards and blanks for local surfers and shapers. Keeping it local also reduces carbon emissions attached to shipping, so it’s a double green thumbs up.
Mushroom Surfboard by Ecovative
Ecovative — Ecovative are the creators of Mycofoam, a material made from actual mushrooms and used to create a Mushroom® Surfboard, amongst other things. Surf Organics Boards are trialing the boards, and Ecovative’s GIY (grow it yourself) platform means you could be able to grow your own surfboard in the not-too-distant future.
EcoFin by joinfiveoceans
Five Oceans — Part plastic-waste solution, part attempt to reduce the environmental impact of surfing, Five Oceans make Fins from recycled waste in Indonesia. The ecoFin is the world’s first surfboard fin made with recycled post-consumer waste, so that’s pretty awesome.
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Photo: Judy Dean / Flickr

When Cliff Kapono arrives at a popular surf break in England, Morocco or California, he hands out swab kits to the surfers he meets. So far he’s collected 500 samples, all part of a quest to answer a greater question: do the oceans change humans on a microbial level?

Our bodies are alive with tiny organisms that create a microbiome unique to every person. This invisible world of parasites, bacteria, fungi and viruses is what Kapono studies as a biochemistry doctoral student at the University of California San Diego. Under the microscope, salmonella looks like shaggy pills and strep throat like a string of pearls.

If the ocean makes us sick, surfers would be the canaries in the coalmines.
Photo: djnekokittie / flickr

Microbes are mostly helpful or harmless, but sometimes they cause disease. When we wash our hands or wear flip-flops in a public shower, we’re guarding against malignant ones like the flu or athlete’s foot. But something far more menacing is afoot in this microscopic world.

Scientists warn of a looming antibiotic crisis caused by a new breed of superbugs, AKA antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARBs). They’ve evolved and outwitted modern drugs like penicillin, and every year they infect at least 2 million Americans and 23,000 die from them.

Hospitals are a well-known spot for picking up a superbug, but what part does the natural environment play? Cliff Kapono wondered. Some suspect that superbugs transmit more readily through polluted water than air. A study in the UK estimated that ocean-bathers could be vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant strains of E.coli on more than six million occasions in one year.

If the ocean does pass along superbugs, surfers would be the canaries in the coalmine — and Kapono has deep roots in this world. As a native Hawaiian, he grew up cresting Pacific waves. Surfers spend long hours immersed in the ocean, sodden wet suits stuck to their skin, gulping down approximately 170 millilitres of seawater per surf session.

test tubes
Surfers’ microbial swabs could reveal key clues to the looming antibiotic crisis.
Photo: Håkan Dahlström / flickr

Armed with an $80,000 grant, Kapono set out to collect microbial samples from around the world. No more than two hours after hitting the waves, surfers swab their navels, mouths, heads and boards with the kits he distributes. Then, they ship the samples to UC San Diego where they are loaded into the American Gut Project — a mass sequencing of biomes and one of the largest citizen-science projects in the US. So far, Kapono hasn’t discovered that surfers pick up superbugs and the jury is still out on whether infection from ocean pollution is even possible.

Cliff Kapono is the new face of surfers giving back to the environment.
Photo: Joel Schumacher

But he has noticed how some of his microbial metabolites came to resemble surfers in each region. Maybe the ocean does change us after all? With people like Cliff Kapono around and surfers swabbing their belly buttons for science, we can finally lay to rest the deadhead surf-bum image. These days, they’re part of the solution for cleaner, healthier oceans.

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