We like surfboards. You like surfboards. But the production process can be pretty toxic, both for the shaper and the environment. So we’ve put together a list of our favourite ethical surfboard brands.
Words by Rachel Lingham | 16th October '23
We may all dream of owning an enormous quiver like Hawaiin surfer Ian Gottron’s, but the environmental impact of conventional surfboard manufacturing should give us pause. Surfboard construction can have profound negative consequences for the environment through the use of toxic materials, huge energy & water consumption, waste generation, and transportation emissions. The short lifespan and inability to recycle most of these materials exacerbates the problem.
“Here’s a person who, by virtue of his sport/lifestyle, consents to a vision that is more respectful of the environment, yet has no other choice than to use (at least some) petro-compound materials (neoprene wetsuits, polystyrene or polyurethane boards, gloves, grip pads, leashes, etc.) which are toxic, non-recyclable, and often travel great distances” ~Paradoxal Surfboards
Polystyrene or polyurethane are the two materials most commonly used in the manufacture of surfboards. They are toxic for the environment, energy-intensive to produce, carcinogenic for humans, generate micro-plastic and take hundreds of years to decompose.
But there are brands out there adopting eco-friendly practices to reduce these environmental impacts, using sustainable materials and innovative production methods. So here is our list of the top 10 ethical surfboard brands that are leading the way in crafting eco-conscious, environmentally friendly, and high-performance surfboards.
Sustainable Surf's ECOBOARD Project empowers board riders and shapers to create, purchase, and enjoy high-performance sustainable surfboards, with as little environmental impact as possible. This initiative educates surfers to understand how their board choices impact their environmental footprint and lifestyle.
Spooked Kooks, based in Bondi, use recycled plastic waste to make component parts of soft surfboards. Their boards – including the fins, finboxes, fin keys and leash plugs – are crafted entirely from recycled post-consumer plastic waste. Plus they offer discounts to customers who bring in their used boards for recycling. They sell online, but if you are in Sydney pop in for a visit.
This custom surfboard brand create their products using locally sourced materials, and believe that whatever they use should not contribute to the decline of the natural environment that – as surfers – we all want to play in. Each board is meticulously crafted for individual consumers, reducing waste and only using ocean-friendly materials.
Verdure donates 1% of their sales to support Sustainable Coastlines.
NOTOX, based in the Basque Country, produces eco surfboards (Certified Gold Standard by The ECOBOARD project) without compromising on performance or price. The materials for products are sourced as locally as possible to reduce carbon usage, whilst using organic natural or recycled materials with no toxins (cork, recycled EPS, linen, white beech or upcycled carbon).
Firewire is a pioneer of sustainable high-performance surf equipment, with Kelly Slater holding a 70% ownership stake. The brand leverages technology and sustainable materials to craft products that still excel in performance, remain lightweight and robust – all while minimising its environmental footprint.
Not a surfboard but still very cool – these guys make skateboards from recycled bottle caps. Based in Amsterdam, they source the caps from festivals, events, schools - and each board is handcrafted and unique.
A cardboard surfboard? In water? Get outta town. But, Mike Sheldrake – who had a cool enough surname to call his brand Sheldrake – has only gone and invented a way of making surfboards with a cardboard blank. Bonkers. It does still need to be finished with epoxy to make it watertight, but there is no nasty foam involved.
You can also order kits, with pre-cut shapes for you to glass and finish off yourself.
There is a lot of ongoing research out there about algae more generally as a potential zero waste material, and for a surfboard brand in Brittany – where harmful algae blooms are linked to the agriculture industry – clearing and utilising this material has multiple perks.
They 3D print surfboards out of stranded green algae, the stuff you see washed up on beaches, which is actually pretty dangerous to humans as it decomposes and releases hydrogen sulphide. Paradoxal surfboards are committed to a circular economy for the Breton ecosystem around the development of their boards, in tandem with the clearing and repurposing of beach algae.
Otter Surfboards, a Cornish company born in 2010, handcraft custom wooden surfboards, paddleboards, bellyboards, and handplanes. These unique boards are made with locally sourced timber from sustainable woodlands, and marry their commitment to both the environment and their customers' aquatic enjoyment.
They also host workshops, so you can learn how to make your own wooden surfboards, bellyboards, paddleboards and handplanes.
…a product design student from Cardiff, UK, has developed an innovative surfboard concept using mycelium, the fungal root network known for its unique properties. This prototype was created by Steve Davies as his final project at Cardiff Metropolitan University in summer ‘22.
He employed mycelium to grow within a straw-like, spongy structure, resulting in a fully biodegradable alternative to traditional foam blanks - and fully intends to develop the product into high-performance boards. Watch this space.
We are always working to reduce our impact - find out more about our over on our Sustainable-ish pages.