Surfers Against Sewage

Cornwall has long been a favourite destination for surfers and nature enthusiasts, who travel regularly for its breath taking coastline and thriving surf culture. However, beneath the crashing waves lies a growing concern: surfboard waste.

I recently saw an article on the BBC which highlighted this problem. When holidaymakers have finished their stay, they leave without the surfboards and paddleboards that they have bought during their holiday. The BBC article showed piles and piles of these boards on the beach, left by inconsiderate holidaymakers for someone else to clear up, without a thought for the impact this waste has on the environment.

As the popularity of surfing continues to soar, so does the environmental impact of discarded surfboards. These boards, typically made from non-biodegradable materials such as fibreglass, polyurethane and polyester resin, are very harmful to the planet in both manufacture and disposal.

The BBC article reported on a woman who has found a way to incorporate cashew nuts into the manufacture of surfboards, to make them more sustainable and biodegradable.

Fortunately, in the heart of this eco-conscious county are some other designers who have addressed the issue by making boards from alternative materials. Researching this further, it seems that designers are using a variety of materials to attack the problem from different angles.

I recently wrote a blog about how mycelium – which is a network of fungal threads, mostly from mushrooms – can be used as a strong building material. It occurred to me at the time that this was a product that would lend itself to many uses and it seems that is the case.

Steve Davies, a designer in Cornwall, has started to use mycelium as a part of the structure when making boards. He uses it to entwine around other components to knit everything together. All components are biodegradable, which is a massive step forward from traditional boards. There are around 400 thousand boards sold every year and over 80% are not made from sustainable materials.

And if traditional boards do break down, particles from them find their way into the ecosystem of fish and accumulate, ending up with humans eating plastic – not to mention the larger particles which snare marine life and pollute the oceans.

Another company have launched a board called The Floater. It’s made from ocean waste, using recycled materials and raw sewage, turned into a resin. Obviously it included the raw sewage as a way of raising awareness of the problem of the nasty stuff being pumped into the rivers and oceans around the British Isles which again, I reported on recently in another blog.

Designer Niall Jones has included two transparent windows in the design, at the top of the board to display sewage water contained in a tank to add impact to the concept. The Floater is a collaboration with Surfers Against Sewage and was recently launched simultaneously around the country.

So the same problem is being tackled by different methods, designers who think outside the box and usually are passionate about the environment. It’s that passion that usually drives people to do something about a problem, and the fact that several solutions have emerged for the same issue indicates the size of the problem and the desire of people to do what they can to make a difference to the planet.

I always say that small steps taken a by a few can add up to big changes and make some kind of a difference, and this is a case in point. It’s just a shame that there is a percentage of society that either don’t seem to care about the environment, or are ignorant of the facts and what their actions do to this planet we live on.

Everything on the planet should work in harmony with each other, so when one of those things is removed, reduced or damaged, something else is affected, and then that affects something else, and so a chain reaction affects so many things that the world’s bio-diversity and ecosystems are out of balance. We can address these actions and attempt to restore the balance but it takes thought and constant sustained actions gained from research and well thought plans implemented in the right way.

Couple this with education at an early age so that children grow up with the right attitude to do things the right way. If they are taught properly they won’t know any other way than the right way, and hopefully then the balance will tip in nature’s favour. They won’t buy harmful surfboards, they won’t leave them on the beach or throw litter around and they will be able to enjoy nature as it is intended.