Surfing, plastic waste and climate change

Surfers love nature. And why not, when we benefit so much from its bounty, from the waves we ride to the natural settings where they are found to our memorable encounters with sea life. And it’s no surprise that so many surfers choose to advocate for ocean conservation, to preserve the environment in which we love to spend our time.

But surfing has a dark secret: our beloved surfboards, the very things that enable us to engage in the sport we love, make a considerable contribution to climate change. In fact, Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) studies have found that your everyday surfboard leaves a substantial carbon footprint.

As surfers, we have a responsibility to preserve the oceans we love.

Over the course of its lifetime, from manufacture to use and ultimately disposal, a typical 6’0” shortboard contributes more than 270 kilograms of carbon to the atmosphere. That figure is comparable with consumer electronics like mobile phones. 

What’s more, modern surfboards consist of foam, polyester or epoxy resin and fibreglass. Thankfully, our sporting equipment is amongst the sport industry’s longest lasting. However, as with other materials including regular plastics, surfboards take hundreds of years to break down. Even when they do, they turn into microplastics and other pollutants that never fully dissolve.

Given our passion for enjoying the ocean environment surfers, divers and other ocean enthusiasts should be at the forefront of preserving our water habitats, beaches and indeed nature in all its wonder. Thankfully, people are already looking at ways that not only surfboards but wetsuits and the other gear we use can be made more sustainably and with less pollution.

In the meantime, modern surfboards continue to have a considerable environmental impact. Upcycling – turning used boards into canvases for my art – is one way to make a difference today in a way that’s pleasurable and engaging.


Modern surfboards have a considerable environmental impact.

Recycle

Surfboards consist of mixed materials that can only be partially recycled. Old surfboards usually end up in landfill where they sit for many years. Decomposition never fully takes place. Instead, surfboards break down into smaller microplastics and other pollutants that over time find their way back into the ground and aquatic systems, ultimately the ocean itself. They can also end up in animal stomachs or even, through the food chain, our own. What better argument for minimizing waste as much as we can!

The Upcycle Option

Through upcycling, I give surfboards a second lease on life while preventing them from going into landfill. Maybe you have a board you love that’s beyond repair and you’d like to keep it on your wall as a nice art piece? What better ending for a board that’s given such joy than to live on as a reminder of waves ridden and good times had! If that sounds good to you – I do custom work too.  Contact me for more information.