Surfboard Construction – Environmental Impact Assesment

Surfers in general are viewed as environmentally conscious individuals; however, the boards that almost all of them ride are not considered green.

The surfboard has evolved from the 100% recyclable, sustainable wooden board used by the Hawaiians. In the 1950s and 60s board manufacture moved away from wooden boards due to the invention of foam core boards; A much lighter, more manoeuvrable design.

Foam core boards now represent 70% of the current market (Schultz, 2009), Figure 1 shows a cutaway image of the typical construction:


Figure 1 – Surfboard Cutaway

In this type of construction, a foam core is encapsulated by fibreglass soaked with hardened polyester resin.

Interest is growing in the surf community to design a surfboard from “green” materials (Schultz, 2009), surfboard manufacture results in Co2 emissions and toxic by-products.

For the purposes of the study performed by (Sullivan, 2007), Surfers were surveyed and interviews were conducted with surfboard shapers and others involved in the surf industry. This showed that the concept of environmental pollution due to surfboard manufacture within the surf community is general; furthermore, those who showed interest in the creation of as sustainable board haven’t voiced this to shapers and sponsors. Since this study there has been a movement in the industry to find alternatives to the foam/fibreglass construction. This movement was sparked by the closing of Clark Foam, the largest producer and supplier of foam surfboard blanks. The plant was forced to shut down because of increasing environmental regulations. (Hole, 2011)

The emissions from wooden board production and classic foam boards was compared in terms of environmental impact, the results show that wood surfboard production produces far less emissions of CO2, CO, SO2, NOx, VOC, and PM10 than foam surfboard production does (Hole, 2011). From an environmental point of view wood surfboards are a much better choice than the foam boards in use now, however the challenge is marketing such a board.

A awareness campaign would be of great value to the surf industry with regard to reducing their carbon footprint.


Hole, B. (2011). AN ENVIRONMENTAL COMPARISON OF FOAMCORE. Vancouver : University of British Columbia Library.

Schultz, T. C. (2009). The Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave Life Cycle – Assessment of a Common Surfboard: Epoxy vs. UPR . California.

Sullivan, S. (2007). Sustainable Surfboards. Brisbane: Independant Study Project (ISP).



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