Catch waves sustainably with our guide to the best eco surf brands and surfing essentials with protecting the oceans in mind.
A surfer’s love for the ocean is undeniable. After all, what better way to show reverence for nature than with an intimate dance with the sea? However, from chemical-laden surfboards to toxic sunscreen and non-biodegradable wetsuits, surfers may be causing more harm to the ocean and its wondrous inhabitants than good. Thankfully for those looking to catch the perfect swell, there’s a new wave trending in the surf industry—and it’s sustainable.
Is surfing sustainable?
Whether you’re a newbie at riding the waves or a pro, essential surfing gear includes a surfboard, surf wax, and a wetsuit. Plus, there are all the accessories—leashes, traction pads, board bags, etc. And for a day spent in the sun, a surfer would be remiss not to apply generous amounts of sunscreen. But much of the equipment used in surfing features toxic ingredients.
“It is fair to say that the surfboard manufacturing process can be considered rather toxic,” Sean Smith, former executive director of the non-profit Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “Many of the materials used and processes involved in board building are not environmentally friendly.”
Surfboard wax and leashes typically contain petroleum, a fossil fuel that’s known to contribute to polluting emissions, not to mention adverse health effects. Surfboard waxes, like ski wax, can also contain toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene.
Similarly, chemical sunscreens can contain toxic ingredients like octinoxate and oxybenzone. In addition to being harsh on the skin, these ingredients have been shown to harm marine life and coral reefs.
Of the 16 active ingredients commonly found in sunscreen, a 2019 ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that only two of them—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—were “safe and effective.” The ruling also found that the skin is capable of absorbing certain sunscreen ingredients and dispersing them throughout the rest of the body.
Sustainable surf brands
Catch waves sustainably with our guide to the best eco surfing essentials.
1. Eco surfboard
Take on the perfect ocean swell with an Ecoboard, courtesy of Notox. The custom-made surfboard company creates its eco surfboards using organic, natural, non-toxic, and recycled materials.
According to the company, “a classic surfboard generates twice of its weight in waste, among which nothing is recyclable, and everything is highly toxic.” Notox’s surfboards carry a considerably smaller environmental footprint. The boards generate about one kilogram of waste, 75 percent of which is recyclable. In comparison, a traditional surfboard produces about six kilograms of waste.
2. Recycled leash
A leader in sustainable surf gear, Firewire has everything a surfer needs to tackle the ocean, including surfboards, fins, and accessories.
The Slater Designs/Revolwe Eco-Lease features a 20 percent recycled content urethane cord and an ankle strap made with 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. By using recycled materials, the company is able to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent compared to a conventional leash.
3. Eco wetsuit
Did you know that the average wetsuit consists of fossil fuels? Neoprene, a synthetic rubber that’s often used in conventional wetsuits, is primarily derived from oil. It can also be limestone-based, which requires mining in order to retrieve it. Although it is great at providing insulation and a flexible quality to materials, it’s not good for the planet.
Ditch the toxic wetsuits in favor of Patagonia’s 100 percent natural rubber suits. In lieu of neoprene, the company uses Yulux, a neoprene-like material that’s derived from natural rubber harvested from rubber trees, which are Forest Stewardship Council-certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
4. Surfboard wax
Conventional surfboard wax is made from paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum. Made from organic, non-toxic, and biodegradable ingredients, opt for Matunas surf wax instead.
In addition to being petroleum-free and vegan, the eco-friendly wax is packaged in 100 percent recycled paper with soy ink. It’s also naturally scented using the likes of organic strawberries, raspberries, and jasmine.
5. Non-toxic sunscreen
All Good knows a thing or two about sustainable sunscreen. The company has a variety of vegan-friendly and cruelty-free sunscreen options, including the SPF 30 Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion.
For more sustainable sunscreen options that are as gentle on your skin as they are on the planet, click here for Ethos’ complete guide to reef-safe sunscreens.