Part 3 The WaveSisters Substainability Series
5 tips for sustainable surfing equipment and recycling of your old surf equipment.
The last part of the WaveSisters sustainability series is dedicated to the sustainable equipment you need for surfing. We don’t make advertisements or recommendations, it’s only suggestions of what you need to consider.
Surfing is not a sport that needs the mega-equipment, but in the course of your surfing life a lot of things accumulate. And as with any other consumer good you should consider if you really need 10 different boards or whether maybe one or three boards will do too. You can minimize your impact with well-considered acquisition and the right handling.
- Sustainably produced equipment.
Nowadays we can buy bamboo toothbrushes while surfboards made of degradable and sustainable materials still don’t seem to be a big deal.
Prejudices like limited performance make surfers prefer epoxy, polyester and fiberglass boards. We should be honest about our surfing level and listen to what experts say. Because if you’re “not on tour, you should definitely be surfing a sustainable board,”says soul surfer Rob Machado in the “Stab in the Dark” series in which professional surfers like Mick Fanning set out to find the perfect board. What Machado is trying to say is: If your board is not completely geared to make your incredible performance even more unbeatable, a wooden board with non-toxic glaze is really good enough!
On the website Sustainable Surf you can get more information about sustainable surfboards. The non-profit organisation Ecoboard Project brings together various shapers and producers with different sustainable focuses in surfboard production. The organisation also awards certificates for surfboards that meet certain ecological criteria. An important point when awarding the label is, for example, the use of vegetable-based varnishes or a minimum of 25% recycled materials for the core of the board.
Points of contact for sustainable boards in Europe are, among others, two brothers from Munich, who shape organic boards under the brand Wau-Surfboards and the brand Kuntiqi, who, according to their website, take a lot of time for a surfboard made of renewable balsa wood. There are also Arbo surfboards in Cornwall. Founder and shaper Paul has been offering shape workshops and customized wooden surfboards since 2010.
We have asked Kuntiqu and Arbo Surfboards for tips, assessments and a little interview and hopefully we can present you a little blog post with them soon!
Sustainable wetsuits can currently be found at the outdoor brand Patagonia. These wetsuits actually need a new name as they don’t contain neoprene but are made of natural rubber. Whether natural-rubber-suits will be included in the surfers’ vocabulary remains to be seen, however.
Green Washing? Maybe. As you can see, the sales of sustainably produced material are quite short. That’s also because I’m a fan of the next item:
- Secondhand should be first choice.
Probably you are not a surf professional who wants to improve his chances of winning the WSL by using the best equipment. Sure, you want the right surfboard and a well-fitting wetsuit to get the most out of your sessions, but does it really have to be new stuff and more and more consumption? Much better than sustainably produced items are still things that are already in circulation and are too good to throw away.
Especially as beginners and intermediates, i.e. when you are approaching the right equipment, I recommend you the use of secondhand items. I admit, the procurement requires a little more patience, know-how and negotiating skills, but equipment that is available on ebay, willhaben or facebook marketplace is partly new and can be returned after a few attempts in the water.
One thing: never buy your equipment unseen and stay critical! A torn wetsuit is as worthless as a surfboard that has already drawn water.
- More than SPF and UV-B: the right sunscreen for the corals.
If one believes the various sources on the Internet, around 160,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the ocean where it destroys coral reefs and unbalances the ecosystem. Therefore, when buying your sun cream, pay attention to the note: Reef friendly. Furthermore, you should not use conventional sunscreen when surfing, but rather choose a mineral alternative. This not only provides better protection against skin aging and skin diseases, but also protects the sea. The basis of these “more environmentally friendly” sun creams are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
The following ingredients should definitely not be in your sunscreen you go to the sea with:
Top sustainability tip: Instead of applying cream all over your body, use a shirt or thin neo and just apply zinc embroidery to your face. You can also buy a reusable sun hat for surfing or make your own from an old baseball cap.
- Let`s talk about WAX: sustainable organic wax for your board.
Wax sounds a lot like bees or tree resin. Unfortunately, this is wrongly associated, because many popular waxes contain substances based on petroleum. In addition, conventional waxes contain palm oil or soya. Soya is cultivated on such a large scale that it endangers biodiversity in many areas of the world.
What you can buy to still have the necessary grip on the board is organic surf wax, which not only contains ecologically acceptable ingredients, but also scores points with completely recyclable packaging and, if possible, regional production. Recommended here are organic wax of the Greenfix brand, the Rob Machado Organic Surf Wax, which in addition to ecological production also supports projects that benefit education or environmental protection with the proceeds, and the Famous Green Label Wax.
On youtube you can also find instructions on how to make your own surf wax from the resin of a tree or beeswax. Good luck 😉
The reusable alternative to wax:
A more durable alternative to petroleum-based waxes is a surf pad. You will probably be laughed at more likely with a fully glued board in the line-up. If you don’t care, you can put the foam pads on your board.
- Recycle, give away, sell: What to do with old and broken surf equipment?
Case 1: You have outgrown your material.
Your wetsuit pinches and has somehow become tighter over the last half year and your first 7.6 board has been standing in the corner unused now for a long time.
Of course, you can try to sell your equipment used for a rational price.
If you can’t find a buyer, you can consider making a charity organization happy with your well-preserved equipment. In many poorer countries surfing is more than a sport. For people in the third world it is rather a self-confidence boost, a meaningful leisure activity, a break from the hard-everyday life and if they are very, very good, maybe even a way out of poverty.
In order to ensure that children, young people and adults all over the world have safe access to surfing, there are numerous organisations that hand over surfing equipment to the community on site, organise small surf championships or otherwise contribute to the necessary infrastructure. One organization I can confidently recommend is smiles.org Founded by a Spanish dentist, this organization travels with a team of surfing dentists to areas without medical infrastructure to straighten the teeth of the population and teach them how to surf.
Case 2: Your equipment is damaged.
Recently I visited a local shaper in Costa da Caparica in Portugal by chance and thanks to a broken fin box. He had numerous damaged boards in his small workshop. The defects of the boards were totally different and ranged from small dings to boards broken in the middle. For me as a newbie in surfing it was the realization that you can repair broken boards!
The shaper must have noticed my astonishment and casually said that you can fix anything if you just know how. With this in mind, if you have damage to your board and wetsuit, contact a professional who can estimate the repair before you write off your equipment.
It is best to do this in your holiday country, because it is usually cheaper there than in Germany or Austria and the surfing expertise there is usually a little more reliable.
Case 3: Your material is lost.
A pity. But there are now start-ups and large companies that take on broken wetsuits in order to turn them into different things. There are now yoga mats, accessories or bags made from recycled wetsuits. Don`t throw your wetsuit in the trash, but look out for organizations in your area that can breathe new life into your wetsuit.
With a little craftsmanship, you can turn your old board into a coffee table, a shoe rack or even a garden swing. Check it out: Surfboard upcycling.
Tip: The better you take care of your equipment, the longer it will last. Never leave your board and wetsuit in the blazing sun, stow your board in a sock or bag and wash your wetsuit out with fresh water after each session. Also give your wetsuit a wash with neoprene shampoo every now and then.
We hope you enjoyed reading the WaveSisters sustainability series. And we hope you are looking forward to using the tips in your next surfing holiday! Let us know how you reduce your ecological footprint and what good advice we forgot!