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EcoBoards, Eden, and the Chris Hines Connection

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

When we got our hands on the first shipment of Bio Blanks from Arctic Foam, they were snapped up quickly. A few were destined for Cord Surfboards team riders and our neighbours at Surfers Against Sewage ordered a quiver of six surfboards to use at their paddle-outs and protests, but before all of those, our old friend Chris Hines was the first cab off the rank getting an order for a gold-level EcoBoard in the books. This was entirely fortuitous, and really special. There are a couple of reasons why, and a great backstory:

When Cord Surfboards moved back into Workshop 3 at Wheal Kitty Workshops at the start of 2023, Chris heard and stopped by to congratulate Markie. When Wheal Kitty was first developed from an old mine working site into commercial units thirty-odd years ago, Markie’s dad Chops and Surfers Against Sewage, co-founded and led by Chris, were two of the first tenants and nextdoor neighbours. When Chris came in back in January the new Arctic Foam Bio Blanks, blown with 52% nut oils, had just arrived and Markie knew that Chris would be interested. Chris had only that morning read an article in Sustainable Surf’s email newsletter about alternative core materials so when Markie showed him the Bio Blank his response was “brilliant, I’ll buy one!” and he put his name down for one right there and then. For Chris, surfing the cutting edge of more sustainable surfboards and supporting the surfboard makers pushing the envelope is just what he does and always has; for that to mean riding a Cord board shaped by a Lascelles is extra sweet.

surfers against sewage co-founder chris hines standing on a beach wearing a wetsuit and gas mask, photographed by andy hughes in the early 1990s
Chris on the campaign trail for Surfers Against Sewage in the early 1990s, photographed by Andy Hughes

At the turn of the millennium, Chris had moved on from Surfers Against Sewage and was the first Sustainability Director at The Eden Project. Surfers never stop thinking of surfing, though, and it was here that he was involved with the first Ecoboard and the development of lower impact materials for high performance surfboards since the transition to foam and fiberglass in the 1960s.

“A balsa tree that was growing in the tropical biome at Eden had to be managed because it had grown too big. Pat Hudson who worked in the Horticultural and Education team came to see me and said maybe we could make an eco-surfboard with some of the timber. We then looked at what other alternative, less toxic materials were available. We grew hemp (under licence) at Eden so we could make that link to a hemp cloth. We also managed to source a resin made from cashew nuts.”

Chris, Pat and the team at Eden approached Tris Cokes, formerly of Tris Surfboards, who was blowing foam blanks in the UK under the Homeblown label. Tris shaped and laminated the first Eden Ecoboard, and the late Chris Jones made the fin for it.

balsa wood eco surfbaord in front of a biome at the eden project in cornwall
The Eden Project Eco Board was a concept from Pat Hudson and Chris Hines and delivered by a Cornish crew, UK.

They ended up making a total of three surfboards using the same materials and construction. “The idea was that it was a provocation to the industry” Chris said. “We held an exhibition called Full Circle, of boards through the ages from an original balsa board through fibreglass and foam of varying designs and then the circle was completed by the Eden EcoBoards.” Mike Stewart, co-founder of Sustainable Surf who run the Ecoboard certification scheme, has previously cited these Eden Ecoboards as being the first occasion when he heard the term “Ecoboard”. The first of those balsa boards was surfed by Britain’s top pro surfer and Top 44 competitor at the time, Russel Winter.

British professional surfer Russell Winter with an eco surfboard made from balsa wood, flax cloth and bio resin at the Eden Project, Cornwall, 2004. Photograph by Nick Gregory.
British professional surfer Russell Winter with an eco surfboard made from balsa wood, flax cloth and bio resin at the Eden Project, Cornwall, 2004. Photograph by Nick Gregory.

Eden’s surfboard project triggered both Tris at Homeblown and Norm Frost at Sustainable Composites to look at developing alternative materials and Homeblown produced a blank called BioFoam that contained 26% plant based oil. “The foam was too soft and a bit of a nightmare to blow and shape. About a dozen or so boards were made but it was hard to engage the industry.” Chris recalls. “There was a lot of push back against the fact that they weren’t white. This seemed narrow sighted: were surfers really more obsessed by appearance than the environment? It was a bit like saying white bread is the best when we all know that wholemeal or grained bread is better for our health. Now, just like with electric cars, the technology has caught up and those sorts of arguments are moot points.”

The original balsa Ecoboard is still on display at the Eden Project in the tropical biome, slowly but surely breaking down and decomposing as it is intended to. Chris also has two of the early biofoam Ecoboards, now two decades old, in his garden behind his house. The whole point of a more sustainable surfboard is that, as well as performing optimally at the same level as a “standard” construction surfboard it uses lower impact materials in its construction and then at the end of its usable life, breaks down or can be recycled rather than adding yet more toxic mass to landfill. Chris has left those original boards outside, covered in snails and dead leaves, to observe how they slowly degenerate.

chris hines uncovering an early experimental eco surfboard in his garden.

Pat and Chris’ project was a seed from which a new wave of interest and work into lower impact surfboard materials grew. They were ahead of their time culturally although not environmentally, sadly, and the movement didn’t get the buy-in, research and development, or funding from the surf industry that it needed to succeed. Now however the environmental impact of a product is a consideration for a lot of consumers, surfers included. Sustainable Surf run multiple schemes including the EcoBoard accreditation scheme that promote lower impact and more sustainable choices. Chris knows the team at Sustainable Surf and in early February he emailed them to let them know that he’d ordered a board from Cord using a new Arctic Foam Bio Blank laminated using Entropy Resin’s BRT Super Sap bio- epoxy, and would that make it eligible? It turned out that it met the criteria for Gold Level EcoBoard certification. Chris was keen to get the badge on his new board, so we went through the process with Sustainable Surf and our EcoBoards were the first standard construction surfboards available in the UK certified to that standard of sustainability.

chris hines with his brand new cord surfboards gold level ecoboard
Chris' new gold level Ecoboard from Cord Surfboards features the latest in lower environmental impact material technology.

For Chris, his new board represents the coming together of two branches of his surfboard tree – his surfboards shaped by friend and neighbour Chops Lascelles, and his work with EcoBoards and lower impact materials. Hanging on the wall in Chris’s home is a 6’6” Beachbeat surfboard shaped for Surfers Against Sewage by Chops sometime in the 90s, complete with glassed-on fins made using one of Chops’ old sarongs whilst he was away on a surf trip.

chris hines with an early surfers against sewage protest surfboard made by chops lascelles

Chris surfed Chops’ boards but also took ones like this with him to protests both on beaches and the pavements of Whitehall – an association that continues to this day with the quiver of sloganed gold level Ecoboards that Markie shaped for Surfers Against Sewage, who are still our nextdoor neighbours, being held aloft at actions this summer.

woman stood in the sea holding up a eco surfboard with the slogan sick of sewage written on it at a surfers against sewage protest

chris hines holding his 7 foot 3 cord surfboards gold level ecoboard

We currently offer regular EcoBoards (laminated using Entropy Super Sap bio-epoxy) at any size and gold-level Ecoboards using Arctic Foam’s Bio Blanks at 6’4” and 7’3”. If you’d like a gold level board at a different size then get in touch so we can look to add more Bio Blanks to our next UK shipment.

Chris Hines SAS Gas Mask - Photo credit Andy Hughes - circa 1992

Eden Eco Board - Credit Eden Project, 2002

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