Surfboard production is often a dirty business, involving toxic materials made from petrochemicals that eventually end up clogging a landfill, or worse. But with the huge strides made in recent years to create less toxic and more sustainable surfcraft, we now have plenty of alternatives. The only question is: how do we get people to actually ride these more sustainable craft?
Enter Cliff Kapono, a surfer and scientist pursuing a graduate degree from the University of California San Diego, and Kahi Pacarro, the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. The pair has a shared concern for the impact that surfers have on the environment and devised a plan to raise awareness for eco-better surfcraft with The ProTest: An ECOBOARD Challenge.
The ProTest is a submission-based video contest in which pro surfers are encouraged to test out high-performance, more eco-friendly surfboards in surfing's ultimate proving ground: the North Shore of Oahu. The best performance captured on video featuring an ECOBOARD will net the surfer a cool $10,000 prize (plus $1,000 for the videographer), which Kapono and Pacarro hope will incentivize even the staunchest polyurethane devotees to give these materials a shot.
“Cliff and I have experimenting with boards made from less impactful materials for years and have watched them get better over time,” says Pacarro. “It’s frustrating that not more people are riding them. Part of the problem is that our elite surfers aren’t taking the technologies seriously enough. If we can get the best surfers in the world to ride better surfboards, the masses will see that they work and be more likely to adopt these technologies. We want to see the worlds best surfers rip on better boards proving their efficacy. More demand for better boards will create a sufficient supply along with an economic incentive to create improved technologies surrounding surfboard materials and manufacturing."
The more than 30 boards built specifically for The ProTest will feature alternative cores (recycled content or bio-based) and bio-based entropy resin, earning ECOBOARD Gold Level designation by Sustainable Surf. But surfers can also ride their own boards if they qualify for either ECOBOARD Gold Level, or ECOBOARD Level One designation (which means they have either an alternate core or entropy resin). The degree of sustainability a board has will be required in video submissions.
"Sustainable Surf is proud to be partnering once again with Kahi and his Sustainable Coastlines HI team to focus on sustainability issues related to Hawaii,” says Sustainable Surf Co-Founder Michael Stewart. “And this time, it’s to help drive adoption and use of more sustainable surfboards through our ECOBOARD Project program, in the very place that the art of surfing was born. And as our surfer/scientist friend, Cliff Kapono, knows firsthand; surfing is an art, but real sustainability is grounded by hard science. Which is why all boards approved for the ProTest will need to meet the lab tested requirements of either our Level ONE or GOLD Level certifications, which focus on the use of qualified materials including: non toxic, low VOC plant based epoxy resins, and/or bio-based or recycled-content surfboard cores, that can demonstrate measurably better environmental impacts."
The ProTest quiver, which will be kept on the North Shore where pros can check out individual boards, is shaped by some of the most capable hands in the industry, including Jon Pyzel, Daniel Jones, Kerry Tokoro, Wade Tokoro, Owl Chapman, Eric Arakawa, Kamalei Alexander, Carl Olsen, Jeff Bushman, Glenn Pang, Matty Raynor, Carl Schaper, Kyle Bernhardt, Mike Mattison, Drew Sparrow and Brett Marumoto. The boards range from high-performance shortboards to big-wave guns, covering just about every conceivable condition the North Shore can throw at surfers.
The competition opens for submissions on November 1st. Surfers can send their videos to firstname.lastname@example.org and submissions will accepted until midnight Hawaii time on February 28th. Starting the first week in March, fans will be able to vote for the best performance on an ECOBOARD. Once competition finishes, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii will be bringing the ECOBOARD quiver to North Shore beaches, allowing any interested surfer to demo the boards used in the video clips. Eventually these boards will be put up for sale with proceeds funding beach cleanup efforts across Hawaii.
Stay tuned as Kapono and Pacarro post new submissions to SURFER.com throughout the North Shore season.