Fahlén SurfShop satsar på ekologiska surfprodukter, senast i raden är Imagine-Eco Surfboards

Mars 04, 2009 @ 22:25:58   Foto photo by www.imaginesurfboards.com

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The worlds most ecological surfboard

In the spring of 2006, after the US government shutdown of Clark Foam, the worlds no one producer of Polyurethane surfboard foam cores, because of their use of TDI, and the death of Imagine surfboards founder Corran Addisons’ long time friend Frankie Hubbard (who died from lung cancer as a result of prolonged exposure to fibreglass dust and polyester resin), Imagine began doing research into a better and cleaner way to make surfboards.

Surfboards are known as “surfings dirty little secret”. They are still made today using the same materials and technology that was developed back in the 1950’s, a time when environmental concerns were non-existent. The basic make-up of a surfboard consists of a Polyurethane core, and fiberglass shell impregnated with polyester resin. The core is made and fused using the highly toxic TDI, and then laminated with the shell which is sanded to a polished finish. All of the boards separate elements are independently devastating to the environment, and combined create a surfboard which is neither recyclable, nor made from any kind of sustainable materials or process. Finally, the manufacturing process is a severe health hazard to the workers – from the production of the cores, the fiberglass and the resin, to
the combination of these and laminating and sanding of the final board.

The problem with surfboards is that they have an interesting requirement. Low weight, high strength, and specific performance requirements like flex, and customizing ability to each surfers needs as well as a market driven specific look – whiter than white!

In the past attempts have been made to produce more ecological boards using expanded polystyrene cores and hemp fiber with epoxy resins. The results were disappointing, with the expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam absorbing large amounts of water from even the smallest holes in the laminate, strange flex patterns from the hemp fiber, an overall brownish (and thus unacceptable) look, and overall reduced strength with increased weight. The boards did not perform, looked bad and were rejected out of hand by the industry and the surfers who use them.

The challenge was thus to create an ecological surfboard that looks and feels exactly the same as what the customers are familiar with. To achieve this, the board needed to accomplish the following in descending order of importance:

1. Provide at least the same level of performance as traditional boards
2. Look like a traditional surfboard
3. Be made from recycled or sustainable materials wherever possible
4. Last longer and need to be replaced less often

At a glance the problem was that performance takes precedence over any ecological aspect. This is because of the simple fact that no matter how ecological a surfboard is, if points 1 and 2 are not met, the board will not be accepted and therefore not replace the non ecological alternative in the surfers quiver of boards.

We achieved these criteria by finding the best solution to each step. The Core: After considering using polystyrenes made from natural polymers, we decided that the larger environmental issue of reusing the massive polystyrene waste was a more pressing problem than changing the source material from a petrochemical to a natural polymer. Our cores are thus made from 100% recycled polystyrene. These are extruded, not blown, so the core is also 100% waterproof. A damaged board will not absorb any water, therefore making it last longer than either a traditional polyurethane or EPS core both of which absorb water to a greater or lesser degree. The cores can be recycled again after the boards are no longer rideable.

The Fiber: Testing of several natural fibers lead us to bamboo fibers. A bamboo plantation absorbs 5x more carbon dioxide and puts out 35% more oxygen than the equivalent plantation of trees.  Bamboo is also one of natures most resistant fibers, and we were able to weave these fibers together in such a way as to create a very active and responsive flex pattern in the surfboards. Bamboo fiber is also biodegradable and can be disposed of after the boards life is over.

The Resin: Epoxy resin emits up to 50% fewer VOC than polystyrene resin. It is also stronger, which combined with a compression molding process allows us to make the boards which are either lighter, or stronger for the same weight as traditional surfboards. While today the epoxy resin is made from petrochemicals, new steps are being taken in the development of bio resins. Unfortunately, these are not as strong, and are not clear as the epoxy, resulting in boards which are not longer lasting, and not completely clear (white).

The combination of these steps has allowed us to produce surfboards which are lighter, stronger, arguably more performing than standard surfboards and look exactly like a normal surfboard, while using sustainable materials to produce the boards. In addition, the materials used are individually environmental (from the recycling of polystyrene waste to the growing of bamboo), and during production are better for the workers health as they are not exposed to harmful gasses or cancerous dust.

We have however taken this one step further. Since most surfers tend to travel with airlines a lot with their surfboards, this has presented another environmental dilemma. Airlines charge anything from $200 to $400 per surfboard, per flight. In addition, they generally break the surfboards in the cargo holds. As a result, most surfers choose to fly without a board, and buy one at the destination, which they dispose of before returning home. The result is twofold in its negative impact. The first, that they are buying more surfboards a year than they should, and 2, that invariably these surfboards are not ecological. We have thus created a surfboard that splits into 2 or three pieces, fits into a “standard size” protective case, and can be checked into flights as regular baggage for no extra cost. The same board the surfer already owns can thus be taken, safely at no extra charge, used during the surf trip, and then return home with it.

The board is cut in half during production and is assembled again by sliding it onto two tubes creating a seamless join. The whole process takes a minute or less.

Thus, fewer (eco and non eco) boards are bought and sold, fewer are damaged by the airlines or are disposed of after a vacation and end up in landfills. This “split system” was accomplished in such a away as to ad almost no extra weight to the board, not affect the natural flex pattern of the board in an objectionable way, and can be applied to any board shape we make so each surfer can have the exact board style they prefer with the system built in.

This is how Imagine Surfboards has begun to tackle “surfings dirty little secret”. We are continuing to work on the process and are constantly refining it, and are incorporating better and new sustainable materials and processes as they become available and are tested.

For more information, please visit our website at www.imaginesurfboards.com.

Corran Addison
Cel (514) 583 3386
Fax (514) 768 4237
email: corran@2imagine.net
Skype: corranaddison
Imagine Surf Company
Tel (514) 504 5522
01320 Charlevoix
Montreal QC H3K 2Z9


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