I rated the Happy surfboard, which is made similarly to many other traditional PU boards, as a 1 out of 3 overall. Although CIS is a member of the ECOBOARD Project and offers customizable boards that are more environmentally responsible, they lack transparency to their customers regarding the materials used, and the surfboard manufacturing process. In addition, traditional materials used on boards such as the Happy are very environmentally unfriendly and unsustainable, as they are derived from crude oil and almost impossible to recycle. Overall, the big deterrent from buying an ECOBOARD is price, as the increased cost of materials makes the sustainable boards more expensive. The 5’8 Happy made with a traditional polyurethane blank and polyester resin is $665. The custom board, with the exact same dimensions and fins, costs $825 for the recycled EPS blank and the bio-resin.
Most boards made by CIS, including the Happy, are constructed using a polyurethane (PU) blank, a polyester resin, and fiberglass. Polyurethane, which is derived from crude oil, is not recyclable and is not a sustainable material. Polyester is also formed through a process involving coal and petroleum (from crude oil). Therefore, traditional surfboard manufacturing is very unsustainable, as it relies on processed fossil fuels and involves carcinogenic materials. The only plus side to using polyurethane boards with a polyester resin is that they are often more durable than boards made with other foam alternatives, such as expanded polystyrene. Polystyrene, another common foam core, is also derived from petroleum but is more easily recycled, making it generally considered to be a greener material. In terms of resin, the CIS representative that I spoke with informed me that 40% of the boards that CIS sells are made with a bio-based eco resin, which is promising for the future of the company.
An article in Surfline referred to the term “sustainable surfboards” as an oxymoron, meaning that the two terms are contradictory. The article continues, though, to describe ways that the surfboard building and manufacturing industry has begun to incorporate more sustainable materials. From Marko Foam, that ranges from 25% recycled expanded polystyrene (EPS) to 100% recycled EPS, to bio-based resins and plant-based alternatives to fiberglass, the surfboard industry is making strides towards sustainability. CIS is a part of this movement towards sustainable surfboards by taking part in the ECOBOARD Project, but the Happy board I am reviewing is a traditional, un-customized board.
While there is little information provided on the CIS website regarding the manufacturing process, Sustainable Surf, the certifying entity of the ECOBOARD Project, performed a lifecycle assessment of a standard polyurethane blank with a polyester resin versus an ECOBOARD. When comparing total greenhouses emissions of the manufacturing processes of each board, there was a 30% reduction, from 105 pounds down to 74 pounds of carbon dioxide, attributed to the construction and production of an ECOBOARD. In addition, the waste accumulated during the manufacturing of an ECOBOARD was almost halved when compared to the waste produced after making a standard PU board. Much of this waste is attributed to the resin, of which 80% can be lost due to not capturing drips, and the shaping process. The main recommendations provided by the ECOBOARD Project are to choose a recycled or plant-based blank, a bio-based low-VOC (volatile organic compound) resin, and an organic or renewable alternative to fiberglass. Custom ECOBOARDS made by CIS can have up to a 40% reduction in environmental impacts and a far lower toxicity and VOC level.
Channel Islands Surfboards (CIS) is a company that is headquartered in Carpinteria, California, only about a 30 minute drive south of Santa Barbara. The surfboards are shaped and manufactured at the headquarters facility and can be shipped within the continental United States or to the Hawaiian Islands. After live chatting with an employee of the company, I learned that CIS uses UPS to transport their boards. Although there is limited information regarding sustainability on CIS’s website, there is information about the ECOBOARD Project, of which CIS is a part. Nonprofit Sustainable Surf verifies surfboard builders and materials to be used for certified ECOBOARDs, and CIS offers custom ECOBOARDs. The barrier to access, though, is the higher prices associated with custom boards that utilize more sustainable materials. CIS also offers little transparency to their customers regarding what their surf boards are made of and how they are made.