Surfboards are 100% toxic, but not for long
New kids on the block in the 'surf ghetto' of California are changing the surf industry's impact on the Earth and the sea.
Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 01:37 PM
Matt Biolos of Green Foam Blank shapes a surfboard. (Photo: J. Emilio FLores/The New York Times)
Long-haired, free-spirited, health-conscious, nature-loving fan boys is what comes to mind when you hear the word “surfing”, isn’t it?
Well guess what, “The dirtiest thing about surfing is under our feet — a conventional surfboard is 100 percent toxic,” Frank Scura, a surfer and executive director of green retailing organization, the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, told the New York Times.
Though surfers do a lot for the environment and the pollution of the world’s oceans and beaches, one company is beginning to pick up the trash in their own back yard, as it were. A new start-up company called Green Foam Blanks is changing the face of the $7.2 billion surfing industry.
Joey Santley and Steve Cox started Green Foam Blanks when they realized that something had to be done about the way that surfboards were being made. Santley told the New York Times, “Every day in Southern California, about 800 boards are being shaped and as much as 40 percent of each blank, which contains toxic materials, ends up being put into landfills.”
So what is Green Foam Blanks doing about it?
They are collecting those polyurethane cuttings from other surfboard factories and using a proprietary system to combine the trimmings with virgin foam to create new surfboard blanks that are 60-65 percent recycled waste. Impressive!
The goal of the whole process is to reduce the production of new foam that is typically made with a carcinogenic compound called toluene diisocyanate, or TDI.
So are Santley and Cox having any success in changing the ways of the surfing industry? Yes … and no.
So far, they’ve sold about 1,000 recycled surfboards since launching earlier this year. The surfing world is a fairly tribal one and as a result, they don’t take well to change or to outsiders. Luckily for the crew at Green Foam Blanks, Santley is a long-time surfing insider.
Santley and Cox are currently financing Green Foam Blanks with sea-soaked money from their very own boardshorts, but getting Hollywood surfer celebs like Cameron Diaz and Jason Mraz may help get them the exposure they need to make a serious impact on the surfing industry.
Will Green Foam Blanks catch on through increased visibility and big name surfboard shapers or will naysayers and traditionalists successfully halt it before it even really gets going?