The surf industry has seen a significant shift in recent years towards mass-produced, factory-made surfboards. This new culture of cheap and easily accessible boards is eerily similar to the fast fashion industry, and it is having a detrimental impact on the environment.
In the 1970s, surfboards were handcrafted by local shapers and were built to last. These boards were often made of high-quality materials, such as polyurethane foam and fiberglass, and with proper care, they could last for decades. However, in recent years the focus is more on performance and price. Because of this, boards are being made with lighter more brittle materials, and for as cheaply as possible which leads to more broken boards. Not only that, but the trend of cheap surfboards also leads to an increase in the number of surfers, which in turn has led to overcrowding at popular surf spots and can cause damage to the local ecosystem.
The surfboard production process is also incredibly heavy on the environment. The manufacturing of surfboards requires large amounts of energy and resources, and the use of toxic chemicals and resins can have detrimental effects on the environment. For example, polyurethane foam is produced using petrochemicals and is known to release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air during the manufacturing process. Fiberglass, which is used as a reinforcement material, is also produced using petrochemicals and generates hazardous waste during production. In addition, the disposal of old and broken surfboards is a problem that is often overlooked. When surfboards reach the end of their useful life, they are often discarded in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Moreover, surfboard production also requires a significant amount of water and energy. The process of shaping and sanding a surfboard alone requires a large amount of water, and the use of power tools and machinery also consumes a lot of energy. Many factories also rely on non-renewable sources of energy, such as coal and natural gas, to power their operations, which can contribute to climate change. The transportation of surfboards from the factory to the retail store and then to the customer also contributes to the carbon footprint of the industry.
In conclusion, the rise of factory-made surfboards has led to a culture of disposability and cheap prices that is similar to fast fashion. This trend is not only bad for the environment, but it also diminishes the quality and longevity of surfboards and the surf experience as a whole. The surfboard industry has a significant environmental impact and it is important for surfers and the industry as a whole to recognize this and consider more sustainable alternatives. This can include using more eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo and cork, instead of petrochemical-based materials, and implementing more energy-efficient and water-saving practices in the manufacturing process. Additionally, surfers can also consider buying second-hand boards or renting boards to reduce the overall demand for new boards and decrease the environmental impact of the industry.