Sustainable Surfing and its Ethical Conundrums by Sophie Hellyer
29 . 11 . 18
As I walk along the litter-laden coastline of my local beach break clutching a beaten-up old surfboard held together largely with duct tape and good luck, I’m resigned to the notion that it’s probably time for a new board.
However, I’ve been navigating the moral maze of being a surfer and environmentalist for several years now, and it turns out being both at the same time is not that easy. The problem is that, although surfing itself doesn’t damage the environment, our common practices as surfers can have a huge carbon footprint and consumption is probably the biggest enemy to our oceans: buying a new board leaves me facing an environmental conflict. So I find myself asking: can we even get in the ocean without killing it?
Most modern surfboards are made from a slab of polystyrene or polyurethane, slathered in layers of (mostly) toxic resin, and I’m lost in a tsunami of misinformation as many of the brands now manufacturing ‘eco’ boards from materials such as majority plant based resin and part recycled cores still ship their raw materials and finished materials backwards and forwards across the globe. What’s more, traditional neoprene wetsuits are non biodegradable and made from crude oil; our leashes are normally destined to landfill once they snap; the travel involved in chasing waves leads to the emissions of C02 and C02e (other greenhouse gases) whether it be a short jaunt down to the local beach or on an international flight to Bali; even our board wax can be toxic and wrapped in plastic that could well end up blowing into the sea and being consumed by marine life.