How can we reduce the environmental impact of surfing?

20/01/2022

Surfing has seen an exponential increase in the number of surfers. This evolution results in direct benefits in the circular economy of surfing, however, the environmental impact overrides.

 

Over the last few years surfing has been gaining space on the media agenda. The sport and its athletes have been exposed in the mass media, this has generated interest in surfing in the public space.

 

The main consequence is the increase in surfers. This results in a greater economy surrounding surfing. Portugal is no exception to this growth, and every year thousands of people start surfing in Portugal.

 

In 2016, a study done by Afonso Gonçalves Teixeira, pointed to an approximate number of 260,000 surfers in the country. Considering a study by FPS (Federação Portuguesa de Surf), an increase of 12% is expected in the number of people practising the sport, which which results in 450,000 surfers in Portugal by 2021.

Give a second life to your surfboard

If the focus were only on the economic side, and big business, there would be no problems with the growth of surfing. However, when we look at the environmental impact of the sport we realize that not everything is perfect.

Mass production is associated with the consumption of pollutants. The consequence of the increase in surfers is clear.

More surfers generate more consumption, which in turn results in more equipment production.

More surfers generate more consumption, which in turn results in more equipment production. The most common materials in surf equipment are still quite polluting, and many of them rely on the use of oil.

 

Using the example of surfing wetsuits, made from neoprene, the environmental impact is enormous. Apart from the whole chemical process that results in the creation of the material "neoprene", it is not biodegradable, so there are four solutions when you stop using a surfing wetsuit. The same applies to used surfboards.

 

First, simply put in the rubbish, where the equipment then goes to a landfill or is incinerated. In the case of being incinerated contributes electricity production, but by putting the suits in the regular trash there is no guarantee that this will be their end.

 

The second option is to put the suits in the used clothing bin, where they can have a process similar to recycling and the materials can be reused in other industries.

 

The third option is to leave the wetsuit/board stored at home gathering dust, this way we are only postponing the subsequent placement in the rubbish or used clothing bins. It is estimated that each surfer has, on average, 2.5 boards and 3 wetsuits in their possession, which could be useful for another surfer.

 

 

And finally, the most sustainable solution, the reuse of the material by selling it.

By selling a surfboard, we are not only giving a new life to that material that we were no longer going to use, but also avoiding the unnecessary manufacture of other pollutants.

 

It is true that surfing materials can suffer damage over time. However, repairing a used surfboard , for example, is a simple thing to do, and much more sustainable than buying a new one.

 

By repairing our surf materials so that we can later sell them, we are promoting the circular economy in surfing in Portugal. Thus, we extend the lifetime of the materials and increase the average number of owners per product. This, simply by increasing the consumption of second hand materials.

The impact of a single board

To give you a better idea of the environmental impact, we bring you some data regarding the manufacturing process of surfboards.

 

The production a 6'0 board releases between 170 and 250kg of CO2 during the whole process (study by Tobias C. Schultz).

 

Maintaining the trend of annual new surfers, 2022 will see an increase of 50,000 new surfers.

If together we manage to help 20% of these surfers to consume second-hand products, we will avoid the emission of 2,500,000kg of CO2. The same figure corresponds to the annual emissions of 500,000 Portuguese people.

Reuse is one of the solutions.

Reusing your used surfboard makes a difference

The environment is not the only one to suffer from consumerism in surfing. On a financial level, the surfer who wants a new quiver is forced to spend a large amount of money to change gear.

 

For those who are just starting out, surfing becomes even more expensive. You need a surfboard, wetsuit, fins, leash, wax, and if you're not lucky enough to live by the sea, the cost of fuel to get there.

 

An individual who is just starting out in surfing, and who will buy equipment at Decathlon, will spend around €300. Remembering that we are referring to the most accessible equipment, corresponding to the 100 gamma. On the other hand, an advanced surfer who wants to progress will need more advanced equipment. This can easily exceed one thousand euros when investing in a complete quiver.

 

But let's stick with the Decathlon example:

 

300 corresponds to 45% of the national minimum wage (2022). Taking into account that almost 10% of the national population lives on the minimum wage, it becomes almost impossible to invest in sports by buying new equipment.

The best way to reduce the financial strain on these practitioners will be by selling the equipment we no longer use.

By using second-hand material, we have reduced the quiver's value from 300€ to just 150€.

Conclusion

So how can we promote the growth of surfing while decreasing environmental impact?

 

After some thought on the matter, the solution to the problem is simple. That used surfboard, which is gathering dust, put it up for sale. You can do the same with your old surfsuit and other accessories you no longer use.

 

Not only do you reduce your environmental footprint, but you get money to upgrade your own quiver. On top of this, you're also helping people who are struggling to make ends meet to play the sport we love so much.

 

The Borasurfar project aims to promote the buying and selling of second-hand materials, thus reducing all the problems mentioned above.

 

Furthermore, we intend to help brands in their circular economy strategy. Our collaboration with Deeply is a result of this objective, where we are developing a new process in which we offer customers the opportunity to reuse, and give a second life to their suits.

 

At Borasurfar our mission is to support the growth of surfing in a sustainable way, where we help preserve nature, as well as the surfer who wants to upgrade their quiver without spending a lot of money.

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