Can a Merino Wool Surfboard Handle This Surfer’s Enviro Hypocrisy?

World surfboard big Firewire, part-owned by King Kelly Slater, is without doubt one of the most eco-conscious board builders on earth. Each board they make is licensed by the non-profit Sustainable Surf, a bunch that lays out a blueprint for environmentally-friendlier surfboards. Firewire is on the forefront of utilizing post-consumer foams in good methods and changing essentially the most poisonous components of the surfboard with merchandise geared with the surroundings in thoughts. Like their brand-new surfboard glassed not with fiberglass, however with wool.


We freak out about carbon emissions and fossil fuels, but journey surfboards made with the nastiest of petrochemicals.

A ruined sweater began the entire thing. A New Zealand shaper named Pau Barron apparently spilled resin on his wool sweater in the future and, although that sweater was not for this earth, it produced one thing that resembled polyester resin-coated fiberglass (the substance that acts as a tough shell for foam core surfboards). Lightbulb second. Now, Barron is working with Firewire on a brand new line of surfboards made with wool, uh, fiberglass, known as Woolight.

However will surfers exit of their manner to purchase a surfboard just because it’s made in a extra sustainable manner than conventional boards? Corporations like Firewire and Sustainable Surf have made inroads, no query. However the market and ocean are nonetheless flooded with surfboards virtually dripping with DuPont’s chemical witch’s brews.

To be a surfer who is worried about local weather change and air pollution usually however to surf with typical tools is to teeter on the sting of an abyss of hypocrisy. However many people stay on that razor’s edge. We wring our fingers in fear about microplastics amassing within the sea, but enter the ocean carrying plastic (whether or not in a wetsuit or trunks), and depend on issues like urethane leashes and foam plastic traction pads. We freak out about carbon emissions and fossil fuels, but journey surfboards made with the nastiest of petrochemicals. Some surfers construct lives round decreasing the carbon footprint of their browsing obsession. Most of us don’t.

Unlikely, however cute supply for surfboard supplies. Photograph: Anders Jacobsen

I’ve written about this earlier than, in lots of locations. Right here, learn this bit I wrote in a bit on chemical substances and surfboards within the Encyclopedia of Browsing:

I compost my trash. Irrespective of how horrible it smells, undesirable meals will get thrown right into a foul inexperienced trash can within the storage. If a visitor absentmindedly tosses a beer bottle into the common trash as an alternative of our recycling can, they get a agency scolding. I can’t truthfully bear in mind the final time I even sniffed processed, non-organic meals. However a wood surfboard? Pssshh. Don’t get me began. I’m as enviro-conscious as the following NorCal bleeding coronary heart till you begin speaking surfboards. In the case of browsing, give me essentially the most noxious, poisonous, DuPont-bred hell-chemical you bought. I’ll even assist stir the pot.

Ahhh, polymeric foams. You’re so mild, so inflexible, so simply shaved with planing instruments. Are you made with skin-searing isocyanate catalysts? Positive. However I’m not doing the froth blowing, so, outta sight, outta thoughts, proper? Does burning polyurethane foam (what most board blanks are manufactured from) launch hydrogen cyanide? A chemical as lethal toxic because it sounds? You guess. So I’ve determined to by no means ever EVER burn my boards.

And it ain’t simply my board that was cast within the chemical fires of Mordor (or, slightly, had its foam blown within the US Blanks plant in stunning Gardena, CA, earlier than being coated with poisonous polyester resin on the native glasser’s store). My wetsuit too comes courtesy of the carcinogenic polymers that make neoprene, together with my private favourite, chlorobutadine. You already know what smells nice? Surf wax. You already know what’s in it? Polyisobutylene Vistanex, a sort of rubbery compound delivered to you by ExxonMobil.


The chief drawback is two-fold. For one factor, many surfers, I firmly consider, consider waves as, basically, transferring skate ramps, the ocean a mere skate park. Not a pure surprise to be protected in any respect prices. However for these of us who do worth the ocean because the attractive and essential ecosystem it’s, there’s lengthy been an enormous performance-based hurdle earlier than we undertake eco-friendly tools: Typical gear has all the time labored a lot, significantly better.

Conventional polyurethane foam board glassed with poisonous resins have, for essentially the most half, drastically outperformed their eco-friendlier cousins. They’re lighter, livelier, extra sturdy. They simply really feel proper. I rode a couple of boards made with natural foams and resins once they first began showing a decade in the past they usually have been terrible. And costly. I didn’t know a single surfer in these days who was prepared to drop $1,000 on a board they weren’t certain would work. Most of us get three, possibly 5 surfs in every week, and sacrificing treasured board-buying cash and surf time on questionable tools is a large ask. For essentially the most half, the very best surfers on the earth haven’t gravitated towards ecoboards, or at the least, haven’t made a manufacturing out of doing so, and plenty of surfers need to journey what the world’s greatest are driving.

Which brings us again to Firewire. Slater himself rides Firewire in competitors. Excessive-performance icon turned dreadlocked soul ranger Rob Machado has his personal line of boards made below Firewire’s label and sustainability requirements. If any firm has the products and market share to knock polyurethane boards from their pedestal, it’s Firewire.

The Woolight boards are made with Merino wool, sheared then drenched with bioresin, a resin that’s constructed from plant supplies, sometimes corn or soybeans. Firewire claims the boards scale back CO2 emissions over the remainder of their lineup by 40 %.

I reached out to Mark Worth, CEO of Firewire, to get the products about the associated fee and complexity of the wool builds. The worth for one of many Woolight boards is $840. An ordinary board within the Firewire vary is $785, so there’s a little bit of a value bump. That’s more likely to come down, nevertheless, as Worth says: “The wool is just not far more costly than conventional fiberglass, however the manufacturing course of is extra time consuming therefore the elevated value to construct and the resultant MSRP.”

I haven’t had an opportunity to journey one among these but, however hope to quickly.

So will surfers be tempted by the wool boards? Most likely, I believe. For one, they give the impression of being cool. Board costs have hovered round $800 for years now, so the associated fee isn’t as a lot of a disincentive because it as soon as was. Plus, most pictures of the Woolight line present wider, flatter, easier-to-ride boards with a nuance-hiding quantity of froth that can conceal the refined variations in really feel of the wool glass in ways in which a hyper-performance oriented board would possibly intensify.

main board firm like Firewire is even transferring on this course reveals that an important barrier to ecoboard acceptance is near lastly being eroded. Sustainably-made boards can lastly match the efficiency of the polyurethane-based building that has been the gold customary in surfboard making for 60 years.

As a hardcore surf addict and nerd, giving up efficiency has been an excessive amount of to ask. Quickly sufficient, seems to be like that shall be a factor of the previous.

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