SUSTAINABLE SURF CRAFT
Surfboards are the dark side of surfing. They are still made using the same materials and technology that was developed back in the 1950’s, a time when environmental concerns were virtually non-existent. The problem is, surfboards have extreme requirements, light weight, high strength, flex, and the industry standard look of whiter than white. The materials are not only harmful to the environment through out their life cycle, but are also an extreme health hazard for shapers and manufacturers during the production phases. It was for these reasons that I decided to pursue this project in search for sustainable alternatives to surfboard manufacture.
My first prototype was made out of cardboard. The construction of the board made it difficult to glass as the intersections at the rails were quite far apart so the fiberglass dipped in-between them. Cardboard is an extremely recyclable material but I found that it soaks in so much resin during glassing that the material is too compromised to be considered for recycling. It also folds and creases so it is constantly generating weak points. I don’t think this material would be reusable. The glass and resin will also have to be thrown away at the end of it’s life as it serves no valuable purpose. However the board did ride very well, better than expected and felt like a normal foam surfboard under my feet.
During this phase of the project I encouraged myself to experiment with new sustainable materials that could replace foam, fiberglass and resin. I tested various core materials, bio resins, tree sap, fabric made from the wasted wood pulp of the paper industry. I sourced a range of natural fibers from different sustainable textile companies. I tested these fibers with two different resins to see how they reacted with each one. This proved that the bio resin was in fact stronger and that natural fabrics had sufficient strength. I also experimented with a different technique of glassing the hexagon board structure. Due to the resin drips which made dimples in the board. I milled out the rail profile in foam and attempted to mold the rails smooth. Once I already had the rail molds, it then allowed me to tense the fabric over the deck onto the rails creating a less bumpy surface.
I sealed the board using a natural wood pulp fiber called Tencel. The material was porous enough for the resin to soak through and bond to the foam core, and also had great strength characteristics when used with the bio resin. This method also allowed me to naturally dye the material using indigo to create a unique visual element to the board.
I decided to move away from the hexagon construction for my third board and try seal a foam core surfboard using far more environmentally friendly materials. This was to prove that you can easily have the desired results using alternative materials. I used Tencel, a natural fiber along with a Super Sap bio resin. Which is made by replacing petro chemicals with bio based materials. These two materials create a shell that is far more sustainable than the previous prototype made with polyester resin and fiberglass. The Tencel didn't prove to be as workable as fiberglass but can still be used with a little effort and patience.