Here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we believe that all surfers should act as environmental stewards and take care of the ocean from which we derive so much joy.
Why? Because the ocean supplies us with waves, food, energy, medicine, mental and physical health, breathable oxygen, and (above all) regulates our planet’s increasingly volatile climate.
As a follow-up to our Surf Gear Guide for Beginners, this blog will deep-dive into how you, as a responsible consumer, can avoid conventional, profit-driven surf brands and opt for sustainable surf brands instead.
We have also included a list of our six favorite sustainable surf brands producing surf products made of eco-friendly materials.
How does surfing affect the environment?
Did you know that the average surfboard produces nearly 400 pounds of CO₂ during the manufacturing process alone? Not to mention additional carbon emissions created throughout the entire life cycle of the surfboard, including transportation and waste.
Unfortunately, the global surf industry’s traditional supply chain, full of carbon-rich petroleum products and toxic chemicals, creates more environmental harm than good. Moreover, most surfers have higher than average carbon footprints due to surf travel.
In addition to manufacturing limited-lifespan surfboards, the global surfing market — projected to reach a valuation of over $3 billion by 2026 — produces vast amounts of petroleum-laden surf apparel, further contributing to the environmental crisis.
Making matters worse, surf apparel and accessories, such as wetsuits, surf leashes, surf wax, sunscreen, surf bikinis, and clothing are highly susceptible to conventional fast fashion cycles of manufacture-retail-purchase-use-dispose-replace.
In other words, the surf industry standard is to create products designed to be thrown away and replaced in short order.
It is this unfortunate dichotomy. The fact that we surfers love the ocean yet support an industry that has a negative impact on the environment. That must be addressed as soon as possible.
We can start by taking personal responsibility for our consumer behavior. Specifically, by making better choices with the purchases we make.
When surfers start favoring sustainable surf brands and products over conventional ones, the rest of the surf industry will have no choice but to meet consumer demands by reducing its carbon footprint.
How to find sustainable surf brands
As surfers, we derive a great deal of health and happiness from the ocean. It is in our own self-interest to ensure the perpetual health of our aquatic playground.
One way to do this is by voting with your dollar and only purchasing goods from sustainable surf brands. However, these brands are often hard to find.
It’s one thing to market a product as “eco-friendly,” but to actually uphold that claim takes some serious commitment.
“There’s a lot of confusing greenwashing out there,” says innovative sustainable surfboard shaper Fletcher Chouinard (son of Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard).
“I think if you shape the best board you can that lasts as long as possible, and you do it locally using the least toxic materials that don’t sacrifice performance — that’s all you can do. We do harm with everything we make, so the goal is to make less.”
As responsible consumers, we must avoid supporting companies that knowingly turn a blind eye to their own negative impacts. Or worse, those who try to cover them up with false claims of sustainability, otherwise known as greenwashing.
So how do you determine which surf brands actually care about sustainability? Here are some key indicators to look for:
- Eco-certifications, such as B Corp and Fair Trade
- Brands that value durability
- Use of recycled and innovative materials
Eco-certifications to look for
Before making your next purchase, you must ask yourself: Is this surf brand making a genuine effort to lessen its environmental impact? Or are they simply taking advantage of the market trend by fronting as a sustainable brand?
There is one surefire way to avoid greenwashing and ensure transparency. How? Purchase goods from surf brands that have earned one or more eco-certifications.
By choosing to purchase and support the following movements, you are dollar-voting for eco-friendly brands that are using business as a force for good:
Read a bit more about what each of these certifications is about.
Certified B Corporation
Brands that are Certified B Corporations believe in the equal importance of people, planet, and profit — otherwise known as the triple bottom line.
To become B Corp certified, companies first have to complete the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive audit that determines a company’s impact on all of their various “stakeholders” — community, employees, the environment, and beyond.
In 2016, Bodhi Surf + Yoga became the world’s first B Corp certified surf and yoga camp for having met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Since then, we have been honored with their Best for the World Community award every year that it was available.
1% for the Planet
Surf brands that join 1% for the Planet commit to giving 1% of gross sales each year to approved nonprofit partners through a variety of types of support. These vetted nonprofit partners tackle a wide range of issues that affect the surf world, such as plastic pollution, wildfire aid, and environmental justice.
Since August 2018, Bodhi Surf + Yoga has been a proud member of the global network of 1% for the Planet, including more than 5,000 businesses and individuals around the world.
From small businesses like ours to huge multinational companies like Patagonia, there is no shortage of diversity within the business community of 1% for the Planet.
Committing to 1% for the Planet is a simple way for a company to show that they care about their impact on the world.
The Fair Trade certification is earned by companies that meet rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards by putting people and planet first.
The Fair Trade mission is to create a more equitable socioeconomic model for global trade by ensuring safe and fair labor practices and supporting sustainable livelihoods for all supply chain workers, including farmers and fishermen.
To accomplish this, Fair Trade brands pay an additional premium for each product created to help support the workers’ community and families.
The Climate Neutral movement aims to eliminate carbon emissions by making climate neutrality something that all businesses strive for.
A Climate Neutral Certified brand earns the certification by performing an annual carbon inventory and offsetting CO₂-equivalent emissions by paying a carbon tax.
This carbon footprint offset tax is then invested in clean energy projects around the world.
Durability = sustainability
Finding products that stand the test of time is one of the best ways to mitigate environmental impact, as durability and sustainability go hand in hand.
Therefore, look for surf brands that value durability by manufacturing gear that is built to last, not to be thrown away and replaced like most items in the fashion industry.
Surf brands that value durability will offer long-term guarantees on their products and/or programs to keep waste out of landfills.
Take Patagonia’s Worn Wear program for example. It offers store credit to consumers for trading in their old gear and allows consumers to purchase used apparel at discounted prices.
According to Patagonia, “buying used extends a garment’s life by about two years, which cuts its combined carbon, waste and water footprint by 82%.”
Or take Outerknown, a relatively new sustainable surf brand founded by professional surfer, Kelly Slater, that strives to reduce textile waste in the fashion industry by committing to full circularity by 2030.
Full circularity means designing products that will last forever, through programs that focus on repairing, reselling, or recycling used clothing.
To date, Outerknown has prevented over 1,300 garments from being thrown away through their Outerworn platform — a program that allows consumers to buy and sell used Outerknown garments.
Sustainable materials: reduce, reuse, recycle
“90 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage.” – The Responsible Company
One of the best ways to reduce your impact as a consumer is to look for products made of repurposed materials. Particularly, marine plastics and recycled fishing nets, which pollute our oceans and endanger marine life.
It is estimated that there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic polluting our oceans, with millions of tons being added each year.
The simple fact is that every piece of plastic ever made still exists on our planet. This is enough reason to look for surf brands that are putting this non-degradable waste to better use.
The exciting news is that there are now plenty of surf brands using recycled, repurposed, and/or innovative materials in their products. These sustainable materials include repurposed coconut husks, discarded fishing nets, post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and 100% organic cotton.
Read on for a list of our 6 favorite surf brands utilizing these sustainable materials in their products.
Our 6 favorite sustainable surf brands
Patagonia’s mission statement says it all: “We are in business to save our home planet.”
Patagonia is both B Corp and Fair Trade Certified. It is also a founding member of 1% for the Planet, donating one percent of sales to environmental non-profits over the past 35 years.
One of the key ways Patagonia has been able to live up to its mission statement is by shifting its global supply chain to support organically grown or recycled materials. This includs swim trunks made from recycled fishing nets and wetsuits made from naturally harvested rubber.
What is more, Patagonia’s products come with an “ironclad guarantee” that holds true for the entire lifetime of the product. All of Patagonia’s products are built to last. If they don’t, the company will either repair, replace, or refund the product.
Bureo is a B Corp and 1% for the Planet member that produces NetPlus material — a fabric made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets. This keeps hundreds of tons of discarded nets out of the ocean each year.
Bureo is partnered with several other sustainable brands (including Patagonia, Outerknown, Costa Sunglasses, Carver Skateboards, and Futures Fins), which reduce their impact on the planet by utilizing the NetPlus material in the manufacturing of their products.
Bureo’s 100% recycled fishing net material can be found in t-shirts, swim trunks, sunglasses, surf skateboards, and even surfboard fins.
Outerknown is a Fair Trade Certified surf brand founded by 11x World Champion surfer, Kelly Slater, that is leading the conventional fashion industry toward a more sustainable future.
To reduce their carbon footprint, Outerknown garments feature organic and recycled cotton, NetPlus fabric from recycled fishing nets, and polyester made from recycled plastic bottles.
Additionally, Outerknown strives to keep its products out of the landfill and in circulation forever through its OuterWorn Program, an online platform that allows customers to buy and sell used Outerknown clothing.
Sensi Graves Swim
Sensi Graves Swim is a Climate Neutral Certified company and 1% for the Planet member that makes eco-friendly women’s swimwear from recycled fabrics.
These eco-friendly surf bikinis are designed for women by professional kiteboarder Sensi Graves. They use recycled fibers from Repreve and Econyl, and are packaged in compostable bags.
Additionally, Sensi Graves Swim’s factory partners abide by the fair labor practices outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Firewire produces 100% ECOBOARD certified surfboards verified by Sustainable Surf.
To earn this certification, Firewire utilizes less-toxic materials and minimizes resin, foam, and wood waste. They also up-cycle waste materials to manufacture surfboards with a measurably reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional surfboards.
In addition to producing high-performance surfboards with reduced carbon footprints, Firewire also manufactures the following innovative products:
- Surfboard leashes using recycled plastic bottles
- Paving stones from upcycled EPS surfboard foam
- Traction pads made from algae biomass
WAW Handplanes is a 1% for the Planet member that makes high-performance bodysurfing handplanes out of recycled marine plastics and responsibly-harvested timber.
The WAW Badfish Bodysurfing Handplane is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastics. Much of this plastic is collected from the waters surrounding Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, resulting in over 10,000kgs of plastic recycled to date.
Since 2016, WAW Handplanes has committed to planting one tree for every WAW Timber Fish Bodysurfing Handplane sold. In collaboration with Carbon Positive Australia, WAW Handplanes has planted over 7,000 native trees to date.
Get out there and surf!
In conclusion, there are many ways to reduce your environmental impact and be an Ocean Steward, and purchasing sustainable surf products is just one!
Remember that surfing is so much more than the industry or products that surround it. It’s about connecting with nature, getting great exercise, learning about yourself, and having fun all the while.