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Philosophy or Ethics

Does Surfing Hurt the Environment?

My Channel Island Al Merrick surfboard is one of my most prized possessions. This surfboard was given as a present to me for eighth grade graduation, and although I have since bought a couple different boards, my Al Merrick remains one of my favorites. Al Merrick is known as the most prestigious surfboard designing company and even sponsors such surfers as Kelly Slater, the most winning world champion surfer in the world.

While I was riding this particular board, my life concerns revolved around the incoming swells and the tides of the ocean. I was the prototypical “beach boy,” blind to the broader environment in which I lived. And then, suddenly, the surfing world screeched to a halt. Clark foam, the surfing world’s number one foam supplier shut down due to EPA (Environmental Protection Agencies) requirements. This had a two-fold effect on the surfing world. First, supply had significantly immediately ceased, causing surfboard suppliers to increase the prices of all surfboards and find new ways of building boards. Secondly, one of the most “environmentally conscious” demographics (the surfing community) recognized that their main tool harms the environment.

When the Clark Foam disaster occurred, I couldn’t help but look at my favorite possession differently. To understand the complaint about the foam manufacturer, one needs to understand the design of a surfboard. The surfboard is entirely constructed around the foam. Clark Foam manufactured the largest amount of foam “blanks”—as unshaped foam boards are called—and the process involves using a very toxic chemical known as Toluene Di Isocynate, which the EPA had regulations against. This foam is then shaped to the desired board’s specifications, a job that companies such as Channel Islands Al Merrick would perform, and then the foam is fiberglassed to make the end-product waterproof.

Therefore, the surfing industry went into a tailspin trying to invent a new way to design a surfboard, and my understanding of my favorite possession was forever changed. This anecdote shows the emphasis companies must pay to governmental regulations so that they are able to remain in operation.


About Derek

I am a senior at Bucknell University where I am double majoring in Management and Psychology.


4 thoughts on “Does Surfing Hurt the Environment?

  1. Derek, I have also fallen in love with surfing and sponging but I had no idea that the boards I was using could be dangerous to the environment, especially since I associate surfing with nature (aka waiting for swells and the amazing abilities of the ocean). My surfboard and body board have become such an important symbol for my personal identity that I never took the time to consider the affects that my prized possessions had on the environment. I feel as though the environmental implication of the boards create a contradiction on the easy going lifestyle of the typical “beach bum”.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | February 14, 2012, 10:13 pm
    • Amanda, thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree more with you. My entire childhood revolved around that beach mentality, and I cannot express to you the amount of confusion I experienced when I realized this seemingly environmental friendly sport revolved around a tool that was manufactured using a disastrous toxic. It really makes you re-evaluate the products you use and your role in their utilization. The good news is that the surfing industry has gone back to the drawing board and re-designed the basic surfboard, concentrating on a chemical known as epoxy. Though this is also a chemical, manufacturers have increasingly realized the need to control for any environmentally harmful by-products of producing surfboards.

      Posted by Derek | February 14, 2012, 10:32 pm
  2. THere is a burgeoning field of green chemistry, I think. I wonder if it has some answers. Surfing, given its reliance on, you know, the ocean, is probably particularly sensitive to environmental health.

    Posted by Jordi | February 15, 2012, 1:52 pm


  1. Pingback: Second Hand Surfboards Gold Coast | martyware.com.au - February 22, 2012

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