A lot of surfers feel guilty about their most prized possessions being made from pollutants, but it hasn’t always been this way. Here’s a quick timeline of surfboard design (according to the Internet):
- 1,000s BC – Archaeological evidence suggests that ancient Peruvians stood up and rode waves in boats made of reeds long before JC walked on water.
- 1778 AD – In Hawaii, Captain James Cook “discovers” people standing up and riding waves on solid wooden planks made from ula, wiliwili and koa trees. Click here to learn how they were made.
- 1926 AD – California surf legend, Tom Blake, creates the first hollow surfboards made from redwood.
- 1948 AD – Bob Simmons creates a “sandwich board” made of Styrofoam covered in fiberglass.
- 2005 AD – Clark Foam, by far the largest supplier of petroleum-based surfboard blanks at the time, is forced to close its doors due to alleged EPA violations.
Word of Clark Foam’s demise spread rapidly throughout the surfing community. Some predicted the death of the hand-crafted surfboard; others felt it was a wake-up call and foresaw a green revolution in surfboard design. Five years later, neither of these scenarios has occurred. Hand-crafted – yet toxic – surfboards continue to dominate the industry. However, a few companies are going really retro and making boards from organic materials.
One company, Grain Surfboards, is based out of York Beach in Maine and only uses locally-harvested, sustainable-yield wood products. They sell finished boards as well as kits for the do-it-yourselfer and support a growing movement among the more conscious, like pro surfer/environmentalist David Rastovich. Click here to watch him prove that wood still works in the surf.
It seems unlikely that wooden boards will take over the surfboard industry, but if you have a lot of guilt and an open mind, they could be for you. I can’t personally attest to how they ride, but if the folks at Grain want to float me a loaner, feel free to leave a message below…