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Can a Merino Wool Surfboard Tackle This Surfer’s Enviro Hypocrisy?

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World surfboard large Firewire, part-owned by King Kelly Slater, is among the most eco-conscious board builders on earth. Each board they make is licensed by the non-profit Sustainable Surf, a gaggle that lays out a blueprint for environmentally-friendlier surfboards. Firewire is on the forefront of utilizing post-consumer foams in sensible methods and changing probably the most poisonous components of the surfboard with merchandise geared with the setting in thoughts. Like their brand-new surfboard glassed not with fiberglass, however with wool.


We freak out about carbon emissions and fossil fuels, but journey surfboards made with the nastiest of petrochemicals.

A ruined sweater began the entire thing. A New Zealand shaper named Pau Barron apparently spilled resin on his wool sweater someday and, although that sweater was now not for this earth, it produced one thing that resembled polyester resin-coated fiberglass (the substance that acts as a tough shell for foam core surfboards). Lightbulb second. Now, Barron is working with Firewire on a brand new line of surfboards made with wool, uh, fiberglass, referred to as Woolight.

However will surfers exit of their manner to purchase a surfboard just because it’s made in a extra sustainable manner than conventional boards? Corporations like Firewire and Sustainable Surf have made inroads, no query. However the market and ocean are nonetheless flooded with surfboards virtually dripping with DuPont’s chemical witch’s brews.

To be a surfer who is worried about local weather change and air pollution normally however to surf with standard gear is to teeter on the sting of an abyss of hypocrisy. However many people dwell on that razor’s edge. We wring our arms in fear about microplastics amassing within the sea, but enter the ocean carrying plastic (whether or not in a wetsuit or trunks), and depend on issues like urethane leashes and foam plastic traction pads. We freak out about carbon emissions and fossil fuels, but journey surfboards made with the nastiest of petrochemicals. Some surfers construct lives round decreasing the carbon footprint of their browsing obsession. Most of us don’t.

Unlikely, however cute supply for surfboard supplies. Picture: Anders Jacobsen

I’ve written about this earlier than, in lots of locations. Right here, learn this bit I wrote in a chunk on chemical substances and surfboards within the Encyclopedia of Browsing:

I compost my trash. Regardless of how horrible it smells, undesirable meals will get thrown right into a foul inexperienced trash can within the storage. If a visitor absentmindedly tosses a beer bottle into the common trash as an alternative of our recycling can, they get a agency scolding. I can’t truthfully bear in mind the final time I even sniffed processed, non-organic meals. However a picket surfboard? Pssshh. Don’t get me began. I’m as enviro-conscious as the following NorCal bleeding coronary heart till you begin speaking surfboards. Relating to browsing, give me probably the most noxious, poisonous, DuPont-bred hell-chemical you bought. I’ll even assist stir the pot.

Ahhh, polymeric foams. You’re so mild, so inflexible, so simply shaved with planing instruments. Are you made with skin-searing isocyanate catalysts? Positive. However I’m not doing the froth blowing, so, outta sight, outta thoughts, proper? Does burning polyurethane foam (what most board blanks are made from) launch hydrogen cyanide? A chemical as lethal toxic because it sounds? You wager. So I’ve determined to by no means ever EVER burn my boards.

And it ain’t simply my board that was cast within the chemical fires of Mordor (or, moderately, had its foam blown within the US Blanks plant in lovely Gardena, CA, earlier than being coated with poisonous polyester resin on the native glasser’s store). My wetsuit too comes courtesy of the carcinogenic polymers that make neoprene, together with my private favourite, chlorobutadine. You already know what smells nice? Surf wax. You already know what’s in it? Polyisobutylene Vistanex, a type of rubbery compound dropped at you by ExxonMobil.


The chief downside is two-fold. For one factor, many surfers, I firmly imagine, consider waves as, basically, transferring skate ramps, the ocean a mere skate park. Not a pure marvel to be protected in any respect prices. However for these of us who do worth the ocean because the attractive and essential ecosystem it’s, there’s lengthy been an enormous performance-based hurdle earlier than we undertake eco-friendly gear: Typical gear has all the time labored a lot, a lot better.

Conventional polyurethane foam board glassed with poisonous resins have, for probably the most half, tremendously outperformed their eco-friendlier cousins. They’re lighter, livelier, extra sturdy. They only really feel proper. I rode a number of boards made with natural foams and resins once they first began showing a decade in the past and so they had been terrible. And costly. I didn’t know a single surfer in these days who was prepared to drop $1,000 on a board they weren’t certain would work. Most of us get three, perhaps 5 surfs in per week, and sacrificing valuable board-buying cash and surf time on questionable gear is a large ask. For probably the most half, the perfect surfers on the earth haven’t gravitated towards ecoboards, or a minimum of, haven’t made a manufacturing out of doing so, and plenty of surfers need to journey what the world’s greatest are using.

Which brings us again to Firewire. Slater himself rides Firewire in competitors. Excessive-performance icon turned dreadlocked soul ranger Rob Machado has his personal line of boards made underneath Firewire’s label and sustainability requirements. If any firm has the products and market share to knock polyurethane boards from their pedestal, it’s Firewire.

The Woolight boards are made with Merino wool, sheared then drenched with bioresin, a resin that’s produced from plant supplies, usually corn or soybeans. Firewire claims the boards scale back CO2 emissions over the remainder of their lineup by 40 p.c.

I reached out to Mark Worth, CEO of Firewire, to get the products about the price and complexity of the wool builds. The value for one of many Woolight boards is $840. A typical board within the Firewire vary is $785, so there’s a little bit of a value bump. That’s more likely to come down, nevertheless, as Worth says: “The wool isn’t way more costly than conventional fiberglass, however the manufacturing course of is extra time consuming therefore the elevated value to construct and the resultant MSRP.”

I haven’t had an opportunity to journey one among these but, however hope to quickly.

So will surfers be tempted by the wool boards? Most likely, I feel. For one, they appear cool. Board costs have hovered round $800 for years now, so the price isn’t as a lot of a disincentive because it as soon as was. Plus, most images of the Woolight line present wider, flatter, easier-to-ride boards with a nuance-hiding quantity of froth that can disguise the delicate variations in really feel of the wool glass in ways in which a hyper-performance oriented board would possibly intensify.

main board firm like Firewire is even transferring on this route exhibits that a very powerful barrier to ecoboard acceptance is near lastly being eroded. Sustainably-made boards can lastly match the efficiency of the polyurethane-based building that has been the gold commonplace in surfboard making for 60 years.

As a hardcore surf addict and nerd, giving up efficiency has been an excessive amount of to ask. Quickly sufficient, seems like that might be a factor of the previous.

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