From surfboards and wetsuits to wax and boardies – time to get eco friendly with your surfing with my Sustainable Surf Guide!
Making the shift to sustainable surf brands should be a priority for all surfers – we pride ourselves on our connection with nature, but the harsh reality is our beloved sport is one of the most toxic out there.
Whether we’ve chosen to ignore it or simply are ignorant to it, almost every aspect of the surf industry – from wax to wetsuits – is incredibly polluting, toxic and to be totally honest unsustainable.
The good news is though, we have the power to change things and to create a more eco friendly and sustainable surf industry that helps make the planet better and in turn our sport a little more true to the roots it’s grounded in.
The Eco Friendly & Sustainable Surf Guide – Surfboards, Wax, Wetsuits & More!
What Are The Issues?
So before we get started on some of the awesome eco initiatives and companies out there, what’s the big deal with the surf industry at the moment and what are the environmental problems it’s creating?
This is by far the biggest issue with the surf industry these days – it’s incredible reliant on petrochemicals for the creation of products. Neoprene for wetsuits, fibreglass for surfboards, heck even the PU foam blanks that make the core of surfboards, right through to 99% of surf wax…yup it’s all based on nasty, toxic, petrochemicals.
Waste is another huge issue across the entire surf industry – from excess packaging and plastics to incinerating last years clothing ranges. It’s one of the simplest things to reduce with a huge impact – so why are so many companies still over-packaging and over ordering?
Surfboards are also another huge factor in waste – did you know the average surfboard creates twice its weight in un-recyclable waste?!
Many surf brands now ship boards worldwide or have factories in Asia popping them out. So on top of the manufacturing process there’s a huge carbon footprint on getting your board to the surf shop too.
The “support your local shaper” adage is not just for local businesses, it also helps your global footprint too.
Everyone seems to be talking about microplastics these days – how plastic products slowly breakdown into super tiny pieces and then work there way through the food chain.
Did you know this is a HUGE issue with traditional surf wax? Neither did I until recently!
Brands have realised that jumping on the eco train can be good for business, but unfortunately in the pursuit of profits they love to twist the truth and present their products as more eco friendly than they actually are. It’s a term called greenwashing.
One of the biggest things companies love to push are “biogradeable” products. Biodegradeable basically refers to anything that will eventually break down and there’s no legislation that means companies have to tell you how long that’ll take!
So sure that product might be labelled as biodegradeble, but if that’s going to take a 100 years to break down is it really that sustainable?
Compostable on the other hand is what you’re looking for. Compostable usually refers to organic matter that can quickly breakdown leaving no residual waste.
Don’t get me wrong though some biodegradable options are good – just read up on how quickly they degrade or whether they’re utilising new tech to help speed up the process
The fashion industry is famous for it’s un-eco practices, including incinerating last years unsold products, dumping chemicals and dyes into the water system and of course sweatshop manufacturing.
As a vast majority of the big surf brands are now arguably more in the business of fashion than hardware these are problems that have quickly overlapt into the surf industry too.
And the Solutions!
So how can the average surfer make a difference?
Well it’s all about being educated, being aware and taking actions – which is what this guide is all about!
One of the biggest impacts you can make is with your wallet – if big businesses see a spending shift towards eco surf brands, the chances are they’ll follow suit!
So I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite eco surf companies paving the way for a greener surf industry so you can check them out and make an informed decision.
Full disclosure – these products still aren’t 100% perfect and some are more eco friendly than others, but they’re the best options I can currently find!
…and of course if you have any other suggestions (or run one!) let me know and I’ll add them in!
The core of our very sport is the humble surfboard, but it’s also one of the most polluting pieces of sports equipment on the planet! The blanks, the resin, the sprays, it’s all pretty bad stuff!
Without a doubt it’s the part of the sport that needs the most work, but there are a couple of awesome brands out their paving the way…
Born in Sydney, Australia – Eco Evo use blanks containing up to 65% recycled materials, flax cloth and bio resins to create a much more environmentally friendly surfboard.
The mix of materials not only helps up-cycle waste products, but the swap from traditional fibreglass cloth to flax and the use of bio resins cuts out heaps of chemical nasties.
I’ve been testing out their Flax Flyer and not only is the shape super fun to ride (a quad fin fish) but I’ve been stoked on how the more eco combo feels under my feet. It feels solid and lively yet isn’t heavy.
They’ve got a huge range of boards from performance shortboards right through to nose riding logs – so no matter what you ride your next stick can be much more sustainable.
With bases in both France and The Gold Coast, Notox is one of the front runners in the eco surfboard evolution.
Board models run from the performance based Vampire right through to some nose riding goodness on Neo Classic, with plenty in between for all styles and skills levels.
Using recycled EPS, flax cloth, bio resin and with all materials sourced from as close to the production point as possible, Notox have some epic eco credentials.
They also do their own range of “softboards” too – made from cork, genius!
Based out of the bustling surf town of Montanita in Ecuador, Rasty has been shaping balsa surfboards for nearly 20 years! Sustainably grown balsa is a natural foam blank – as well as looking amazing when glassed!
He ships worldwide, or it’s the perfect excuse for a South American surf trip!
Second Hand Surfboards
If you really want to keep things eco when it comes to surfboards, then why not buy second hand?
As the saying goes, one mans trash is another mans treasure so have a look around the likes of Facebook Market place or your local surf shop and you might find what you’ve been looking for…at a fraction of the price too!
Zinc & Sunscreen
Sun and Earth
Out of the zinc options on the list Sun and Earth is my go to for sun protection in the waves and has been for the last 4 years. Made with natural, organic ingredients and manufactured using solar power in Byron Bay – Sun and Earth Zinc is as eco friendly as it comes!
I’ve played around with other options – but the consistency and protection of Sun and Earth is by far my favourite.
Surf Durt is another super popular surf zinc and much like Sun and Earth it’s reef safe, made with natural ingredients. Plenty of my surf buddies love it, but I found the constancy a bit gritty and it didn’t apply as well. Still, it’s a solid alternative and well worth checking out.
Although admittedly not super eco friendly in terms of chemicals and packaging, Sunbum sunscreen is however reef safe, so at least that’s a step in the right direction.
Out of all the areas of surfing with companies transitioning to more eco friendly products fins have been the thorn in my side and finding eco fins is proving to be the most difficult part of this guide!
I have however managed to locate a couple of options:
The most eco-friendly of all the surfboard fin options I managed to find, Marlin fins are produced in Portugal using reclaimed plastics.
Sure they don’t boast the same “performance enhancing” technologies and materials that heavily marketed fin models have – but for most surfers they’ll provide more than enough drive and turning ability.
If you’re anywhere in the beginner to mid intermediate range these will get the job done and help repurpose plastic waste – a win win in my opinion!
Scarfini Eco Range
Availible in thruster, quad and keel fin options the Scarfini Eco Range is created using a mixture of hemp, cork and bamboo and can fit either FCS1 or Futures fin boxes.
This combination results in a fin which replicates the feel of a solid flex fin.
Another plus for Scarfini is they also sell single fin replacements, so if you do snap one out or loose one you can simply purchase a replacement fin rather than a whole new set!
Created using a bio-epoxy and cork core the Shapers Eco-Tech range comes in thruster or quatro keel options, available with FCS1 or Futures options.
Alongside the above brands, as far as fins go the best advice I can give you at the moment is look after your fins and transfer them from board to board, avoiding necessary purchases. There’s also heaps of second hand fins available on the likes of Gumtree and Facebook Market place too, so shop around!
When it comes to eco friendly surf clothing Outerknown takes the title for the most sustainable brand out there. Started by 11 times world champion Kelly Slater, he and his team spent 2 years building Outerknown from the ground up with sustainability at the forefront of their operations.
New manufacturing processes, circular production, fair trade factories, recycled materials – their SEA Jean range even comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Outerknown isn’t about fast fashion – it’s about carefully crafted, timeless pieces that will withstand the wear and tear of surf life. From ridiculously comfortable t-shirts to the signature Blanket Shirts with their buttons made out of nuts, every little details and process from Outerknown is carefully researched and refined to make the minimal environmental impact.
I love the barefoot lifestyle, but on the occasion I have to wear shoes (usually when I head back home to the cold of the UK!) Cariuma footwear is my preferred choice.
They’ve exploded on the surf and skate scene in the last 12 months – with big names like Jamie O’Brien, Gerry Lopez and Italo Ferreira as their surf ambassadors they’ve making some big strides!
They’ve got heaps of eco friendly and sustainability initiatives going on too – including planting 2 trees for every pair bought, renewable raw materials such as bamboo, cork and sugar cane, recycled packaging and carbon neutral shipping.
They even have a range of vegan sneakers too – with the Ibi Stone Grey Knit being what’s currently on my feet!
One of the original breakthrough companies with sustainability at their core – Patagonias clothing line up carries these values into surf fashion.
From walk shorts and tees through to fleeces and jackets – the motto “buy less, demand more” is pushing Patagonia towards the forefront of ethical shopping.
Free repairs on damaged clothing, upcycling, organic cotton and other green initiatives all add up to a solid choice for any eco clothing you’re looking to buy.
As mundane as surf wax seems – it’s actually one of the easiest changes we can all make as surfers. Sure brands like FU Wax and Sex Wax are readily available and solid products, but it’s essentially a giant lump of petrochemicals which shed microplastics into the ocean.
There are heaps of eco-waxes on the market now – with beeswax being one of the major contenders for a wax replacements. So make the swap and start making a difference!
Sticky Honey surf wax has been my go to surf wax for over a year now – made in Byron Bay from local beeswax and infused with the delicious scent of lemon myrtle it works and amazingly as it smells!
Another beeswax based eco wax, Good Wax is based up in Noosa, Australia and is one of the most popular eco waxes out there. They’ve also release a line of wax combining waste coffee grounds!
Geez the Aussies are loving their eco wax aren’t they?! Green Grip was created on the Gold Coast and creating some amazing things with their beeswax based grip.
If you want to get rid of wax altogether the RSPro traction is worth checking out. Yes admittedly
Sympl Supply Co
Sympl Supply Co have recently released their ReLeash range (say that 4 times fast!) which claims to be the most eco-friendly leash ever, so they’re making bold statements!
Made with post consumer plastic bottles they’re still designed with strength, performance and comfort in mind, and come in 6, 7, 8 and even 9 foot options, as well as a slimline 6′ Comp leash too. Oh and you can choose from 8 different colours as well.
I’ve put both the 6′ and the 9′ through some serious testing as they’re going great, with really comfortable ankle cuff, so there’s no complaints here!
Touting the slogan “Pollute Less, Surf More” this collaboration between Slater Design and Revovlwe is created using 20% recycled content urethane cord, a Yulex cuff, and 100% recycled PET bottles used to make the ankle strap, rail saver webbing, and labels.
The use of Yulex alone apparently cuts the CO2 emissions for leash production by 80% compared to the industry standard.
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics or only surf on tropical holidays then it’s more than likely you’ve got some rubber in your cupboard to keep you warm in the water.
Unfortunately the wetsuit industry is far from perfect – but there are some awesome companies making strides in reducing the impact of wetsuit manufacturing…
As well as opting for Limestone neoprene (a non petro based alternative) they’ve also gone for water based glues and also use recycled rubber for parts of their suits too.
Or you can go a step further and go with their Eco Recycled Steamer range – which also utilises 45 recycled plastic bottles as part of the suits construction.
And their 2021 range also now includes a selection of Yulex suits made with Hevea Rubber, which is the base of a lot of eco wetsuit production.
Alongside the move to more sustainable materials Project Blank also run a heap of other initiatives to further reduce the impact of all their suits and gear – including planting a tree, removing 1.2kg of ocean plastic and a 10kg carbon offset with every order.
Oh and their factories are solar powered and packaging is plant based not plastic. Good work guys!
As one of the front runners in surf brands creating a more sustainable industry, Patagonia created one of the most well known eco wetsuit on the market – the Yulex range.
It utilises the same Hevea Rubber base that most eco wetsuit are leaning towards and are also the first Fair Trade certified wetsuit on the market.
Alongside all this they also include an industry leading warranty – with lifetime repair or replacement. Sure any wear and tear damage is chargeable but from a friends experience with Patagonia it’s well worth the extra money on the suit for the epic customer service you receive.
When it comes to most sustainable wetsuits South Australian brand Cheer is one of the forerunners with their Hevea Rubber based suits.
By developing renewable, sustainable methods to “tap” rubber trees they’ve created a premium suit that has significantly less footprint than a traditional wetsuit – both in terms of materials and manufacturing.
They also boast up to 30% reduction in material blowout (keeps its shape), 20% increase in warmth and 15% improvement in stretch – and if it’s warmer, stronger and more flexible that’s a big win.
They’ve also worked on some collaborations with Outerknown too.
Outerknown Apex Trunk
When 11 times world champion Kelly Slater strips boardshorts back to the drawing board in terms of construction, design and processes as part of his sustainable surf brand Outerknown you have to pay attention!
The Outerknown boardshorts (aka the Apex Trunk) combines 86% Recycled Polyester, 8% Recycled Spandex with 6% Spandex – all made in a FairTrade facility. The Outerknown team have spent years really tweaking the manufacturing process of all their products (Apex Trunks included) to be super sustainable and the recycled polyester is one of the biggest steps in this process.
Basically it combines the highest end technical build and performance with some amazing eco credentials – so kudos to the Kelly!
Another entry from the team at Project Blank who have recently launched their Eco Recycled Boardshort range – containing 93% recycled materials, with each pair containing 8 plastic bottles.
And of course their boardies are also backed up by their waste collection and tree planting initiatives too.
Simple and to the point, they’re super comfortable both in and out of the surf – available in both black and khaki.
Kelly Slater is at it again! The Slater Designs tailpad is made from Bloom Algae Foam – which not only reduces its carbon footprint through the use of eco materials – but the process of growing the algae also greatly impacts it too, win win!
With a few shapes and styles to suit your board they’re durable and most importantly comfortable underfoot.
The Firewire tailpad range utilises the same tech as Slaters (since he part owns the company!) so it’s another solid option, although they do come in more limited options and styles.
Made from cork, the eco pro range is certainly more eco friendly than the traditional tail pad. Sure you loose options in terms of design, colour and style, but its worth the trade for a more eco conscious purchase.
Creatures of Leisure
I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on the tech that Creature of Leisure have implemented into their Eco-Pure tailpad range as initially I’ll admit I wasn’t convinced.
Essentially they add some organic additives to the product, which accelerates the speed at which the plastics degrade which exposed to enzymes present in landfills.
The good news – it means they wont take hundreds of years to disappear. The bad news – it’s certainly far from perfect and still relies of the same processes and materials.
It’s a good first step – but I would certainly suggest the Slater Designs or Firewire options over it.
Launched in Feb 2021, with pro surfers investors like Jordy Smith, the DB Board Bag range features two bags – the Shelter (a day bag) and The Bunker (a coffin style bag) – the main materials in both are both 100% recycled polyester from post consumer waste.
So not only are you getting one of the best board bags on the planet, full of protection and innovation, it’s also heaps more eco friendly than many board bag brands, which is a big win.
Palm Bay Bali
One of my favourite surf brands, Palm Bay Bali have been hand crafting up-cycled surfboard bags for years now. Using reclaimed vinyl banners they create a range of custom board bags to your personal requirements, all delivered direct to your guesthouse.
So if you’re heading to Bali anytime soon and need a new board bag hit them up!
One thing surfers love to do is travel – and the hunt for empty, usually tropical waves, certainly
If you’re keen to offset your surf travel carbon footprint then check out the likes of Sea Trees – which allows you to balance out your car trips, flights or using their “Wipe Out” climate impact initiative.
This is done through tree planting, which helps capture CO2, provides sustainable and long term employment for locals as well as protecting bio-diversity too.
Good news all round!
Many companies like Stoked Surf Adventures include carbon offsetting as part of their booking process, allowing you to travel knowing your impact has been minimised.
What’s The Perfect Sustainable Surf Purchase?
Ultimately though, the most environmentally friendly purchase you can make is actually the one you don’t make!
In a world filled with mass consumerism it’s makes a huge difference to straight up limit what you buy – so next time you go to buy anything (surf or not) have a solid think about whether you really need it.
The other thing to remember is in most cases if you buy cheap, you buy twice.
Some brands (especially clothing!) may appear super cheap, but the chances are they’re sub par in terms of construction and won’t last as long.
Make a long term decision, spend a little more on something eco friendly and built to last – in the long run it it’ll work out better for both your wallet and the enviroment.
Any other epic sustainable surf brands you’d add to the list?
Add them to the comments and I’ll check them out!