Coastal Currents: EIR For Your Surf Session

Mike Dronkers / Wednesday, July 25, 2012 @ 10:03 a.m. / Environment, Ocean, Podcast


Podcast Nutshell: Researcher Tobias Schultz of Sustainable Surf Coaltion discusses the environmental impact of the surfing [drive less]and Beth Werner reveals her genetic secret [Uganda].


Surfing itself is a relatively simple sport - it's just harnessing energy from distant storms for a few moments.  You don't need to ride a ski lift, reserve a bowling lane, or pave a racetrack. As sports go, it's considered to be fairly green.

But from the manufacture of polyurethane foam to driving to the surf spot, surfing isn't without its environmental impact.

What will it take to make surfing truly sustainable?

Enter Tobias Schultz. Via Surfline:

Santa Cruz-born, UC Berkeley grad student Tobias Schultz is neither a grizzled surfboard shaper nor a SUV-driving industry insider. And despite the Berkeley credentials, he's no crazed eco-activist Luddite, either. He's a scientist, and like all good scientists, when he sees a problem, he figures out a way to analyze it in a logical, formulated way.

Now working with the Sustainable Surfing Coalition, Schultz authored the Surfboard Cradle-To-Grave Project, a surprising must-read for any surfer interested in clean water and healthy seas.

"I separately assessed the six components that contribute to the lifetime footprint: the manufacture of blanks, fiberglass, resin, catalyst/hardener, surfacing agent, and the emissions resulting from board shaping. Ding repairs are included in these numbers. Using this strategy, I was able to identify the “dirtiest” parts of surfboard production."

Schultz goes on to compare new board technologies against more classic PU foam, the merits of maintenance, and carbon emissions at the factory level.

Above all, the gas needed to get a pickup truck to the beach accounts for the bulk of environmental damage. In fact, one surf trip can account for the same emissions required for the manufacture of a single board.

Today's Coastal Currents:

Coastal Currents Audio

[Tips for surfers, excerpted from Schultz's paper, below the pagebreak.]

Tips for surfers:

1) Live closer to the ocean. If you can walk or bike to your break, there are no carbon emissions associated with surfing-related driving, taking an enormous chunk out of your carbon footprint.  

2) Purchase a more fuel-efficient vehicle. The difference in CO2 emissions between a pick-up truck and a sedan is large. If you drive a pickup with fuel economy below 20mpg, you can halve your carbon footprint if you upgrade to a vehicle which gets 40mpg. This does not mean you have to shell out dollars for an expensive hybrid; changing your ride from a low efficiency pickup truck to a medium economy sedan (25-30mpg, for example) will mean large carbon savings—and this can help your pocketbook, rather than hurt it.  

3) Buy used surfboards from your local surf shop. By purchasing a used board, you can skip the manufacturing process entirely; this will result in an absence of toxic emissions, and big reductions in the carbon footprint of your board. But shop local! Driving two cities over to get that 1960’s single-fin from craigslist might be great for your style, but the driving emissions will overwhelm the carbon savings.  

4) Buy a board made with “green” resins or blanks. As noted, these are by far “dirtiest” parts of a surfboard. “Green” substitutes for fiberglass or catalysts will not result in significant environmental improvements.  

Based on this analysis, one recommendation stands out for both board producers and general surfers: If you want a truly green stick, look for resin and blanks which have carbon footprints proven to be less than the UPR and epoxy baselines set here.