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About Sustainable Surf’s EcoBoard Certification

Updated: Feb 9

cord surfboards head shaper markie lascelles holding up a gold level certified ECOBOARD shaped for noah lane, against a white wall

In March we unveiled a gold coloured, Gold Level surfboard. It was a sustainable Swordfish, shaped for team rider Noah Lane, and it had a small decal on the bottom of it to show that it had achieved gold in Sustainable Surf’s ECOBOARD certification scheme. This means that it met the highest standards for reduced environmental and toxic impacts through the use of more sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, without compromising technical performance attributes. We believe that it’s the first “standard construction” foam and fiberglass surfboard to achieve this certification in the UK.

What Is The ECOBOARD Scheme?

The ECOBOARD scheme is a project by Sustainable Surf – a California-based not-for-profit with the ambitious but no-less important aim to “use the global appeal of surf culture to protect ocean health and reverse climate change.” In 2012 they created a third party global certification scheme for the surfboard industry to help surfers to make informed and more sustainable purchasing decisions, and to guide board-builders towards lower impact materials and manufacturing technologies. Overall, their aim is to “educate and engage individuals about the environmental impacts of their lifestyle through the lens of their surfboard.” Acknowledging that nothing is perfect, that making anything at all has a negative impact on the environment, and that surfboard purchases are often driven by performance characteristics over sustainability considerations, ECOBOARD certification requires a surfboard to exhibit comparable technical performance attributes but with significantly reduced environmental impacts.

“The simple act of choosing a more sustainable board can be an on-ramp into a dramatically more sustainable, ocean-friendly life.”

- Michael Stewart, Co-founder Sustainable Surf

close up of the underside of a gold coloured gold-level ecoboard with the ecoboard logo and a green arctic foam logo

What Are The Qualifying Criteria For An ECOBOARD?

There are two levels of ECOBOARD:

  • To achieve Level One a surfboard must be constructed by an approved ECOBOARD builder using either a core material with a minimum of 25% recycled or plant-based content (or wood that constitutes at least 50% of the core by weight), or be laminated using a resin with at least 19% bio-carbon content and low to zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions.

  • For Gold Level certification the surfboard must first be manufactured in a facility that has been validated to produce Gold Level ECOBOARDS by passing a sustainability audit with Sustainable Surf, identifying opportunities to reduce waste in the production process and improve energy efficiency, and demonstrating efforts to improve worker health and safety by minimising exposure to hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals. The surfboard must then be made using a Gold-level designated material and another material qualified to either Level One or Gold standard. Gold level designated materials must have higher organic content (and resins that have received USDA Bio-Preferred certification for the fully cured resin) and have been sourced from a sustainably managed supply chain, and have been the subject of a comprehensive lifecycle assessment (LCA) that has been undertaken or reviewed by an independent third party LCA practitioner.

a surfboard being laminated at the cord surfboards factory in cornwall

How Are Materials And Manufacturers Checked?

Sustainable Surf worked with sustainability consultants Pure Strategies to measure and analyse the lifecycle impacts of “standard” polyurethane foam and polyester resin surfboards, and surfboards built to Level One ECOBOARD qualifying criteria. Using complete “cradle to sale” data sets provided by Channel Islands and Firewire, Pure Strategies assessed the carbon footprint of shaping, laminating, sanding, transportation, and each material used to make a “standard” surfboard versus an ECOBOARD made using Entropy Super Sap bio-epoxy resin and a Marko Foam EPS blank with 25% recycled content. Their analysis revealed that the carbon footprint of the ECOBOARDS was 30% less than the standard PU/PE surfboards and there was a “significant reduction in carcinogenic chemicals emitted during the glassing phase when using epoxy-based resins.” It showed that waste is a huge problem in surfboard manufacture – the ECOBOARDS produced as much waste material by weight as was used in the final product, whilst for “standard boards the weight of waste material was double that of the finished product. So whilst the ECOBOARD was/is better, there’s still scope for improvement. And this problem with production process waste is not unique to the surfboard industry – for every one bin bag full of household rubbish that each one of us creates and puts out for the bin men, 70 bags of rubbish were generated in the processes that made the things in that one final bag. We just never see it. Pre-consumer waste is an almost invisible issue across the board, unfortunately.

“Like straws or single-use plastics, the current materials used in surfboard construction will have to go the way of the dodo.”

- Stab Magazine

cord surfboards head shaper markie lascelles shaping a surfboard

About Cord Surfboards’ First Gold Level ECOBOARD

This first surfboard of ours to get a Gold Level ECOBOARD decal under the glass was made with an Arctic Foam Bio Blank (that has nutshell oil as its primary ingredient - learn more about them here) and laminated using Entropy Super Sap bio-epoxy in our factory at Wheal Kitty Workshops. We’ve been trialing these materials for over a year now, and doing comparative team-rider-tests, so that we can be confident that Cord’s history and reputation for performance innovation is maintained whilst we make positive steps towards reducing our environmental impact. Being able to now put a badge on that and send a board out to Noah Lane confident that it will perform for him in waves of consequence is the result of a lot of work and a really positive step forward.

deck and bottom of a cord surfboards swordfish built to ECOBOARD gold level sustainability standards

If you’d like to make your next surfboard green in a gold way, then get in touch to talk it through. At the moment we're only carrying Arctic Foam Bio Blanks in certain sizes so Gold Level certification is dependent upon your desired surfboard dimensions and blank availability, but we're looking to offer this option over a broader range in due course.

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