As surfers, we would like to believe that we have our planet and oceans' best interest at heart. After all, we live our lives in the great outdoors and we see more than most how much of a bad influence mankind has on nature. We get angry when we see plastic bags and straws washed up or blown onto the beach – or even worse: floating by whilst on a surf. But how much are we contributing towards damaging the environment?
There are very few activities where we really are one with nature as we are when surfing. The wave we get to surf has, in many cases, travelled thousands of kilometres from the eye of a storm, hurricane or cyclone. We romanticise this and see it as purely us and nature. But what about our equipment?
Surf Equipment is Toxic – but does it have to be? Most surfing equipment is really, really bad for nature.
- Surfboard blanks are made of polyurethane. Not only is it extremely toxic to produce and work with, it also doesn’t break down in landfill. 400,000 new surfboards get produced every year.
- Surfboard resin, especially the most commonly used polyester resins, is extremely toxic and non-biodegradable. These volatile compounds can cause a number of health issues, including memory loss, central nervous system damage and even cancer.
- Wetsuits are made of neoprene, basically a toxic rubber made from petroleum and is non-biodegradable. They will stay in landfills forever. In fact, neoprene is so non-biodegradable, they were used for the linings of landfills!
- Wax is made from 70% petroleum and contains the chemicals benzene and toluene which have been shown to be harmful to humans and marine life.
With over 20 million surfers around the world, we can only try to imagine the amount of harm we do while ‘being one with nature’. Luckily, we can turn this around too, we just have to think about what we do.
- Surfboards: Luckily surfboard foam is being reinvented. Biofoam has 50% of its toxic material replaced with natural plants. Instead of just dumping your old board, pass it on to a grom down the road, or donate it to an organisation such as Waves for Change, or sell it on a second hand surfboard forum such as Second Hand Surfboards South Africa.
- Epoxy resin contains 75% less toxic material than polyester resin – you can use epoxy repairs on any board.
- Wetsuits are now available from major wetsuit manufacturers using NaturalPrene. NaturalPrene is being harvested from renewable rubber trees and 15% synthetic chlorine-free rubber (made from plants).
- Wax is now available in 100% eco-friendly form, made from real strawberries, raspberries and jasmine flowers.
With 6 million blocks of wax used each year around the world, just imagine all the toxins we leave behind in the ocean. Start saying no to petroleum based wax – there’s an alternative that doesn’t cost more and will not reduce your performance: Matunas. Matunas is an organic surf wax from their 25 acre farm in Santa Cruz, California. They use 100% natural ingredients and grow the ingredients on their farm. Matunas wax is non-toxic, biodegradable and their wrappers are even printed with recycled ink on recycled paper! To top it all, they are also the official suppliers to the World Surf League (WSL)
Remember, the only way we will leave this place better than what we found it, is to act responsibly every day. Support the good causes and the good companies.
Join movements such as ‘Take 3 For the Sea’ by pledging to pick up three pieces of plastic every time you go to the beach (or even better, extend it into your everyday life!).
Support eco aware companies such as Northcore – they have eliminated plastics on 80% of their packaging, they’re ditching products where they can not eliminate plastic packaging, they are using sustainable material such as bamboo, they use recycled plastics in many of their products and focus on quality products that lasts. The USB Rechargable Head Torch, for instance, is not only a great head torch, but also saving landfills of all those alkaline batteries.
While we are in nature, lets also be one with nature – it is up to us to save our planet: be the change you want to see.