In recent weeks, two significant events signalled a noteworthy shift towards embracing eco-friendly surfing gear at the highest echelons of the sport.
Firstly, a historic moment occurred when Cainã Souza became the first surfer ever to compete on a hollow-wooden construction surfboard at a World Surf League event, held in Portugal earlier this month. Representing Brazil, Cainã rode a board crafted by Bosiny Surf, a British team based in Portugal. Undoubtedly, this marks a substantial stride towards the integration of low-impact, sustainable surfboards into competitive surfing, and is poised to exert pressure on other shapers and brands to follow suit.
Secondly, Torren Martyn, the nomadic free-surfer known for his fluid style, reached out to his Instagram community to inquire about alternative construction materials. He expressed a desire to stay updated on the latest developments. What followed was an extensive thread of responses from seasoned shapers, all of whom possess a deep understanding of the grassroots experimentation taking place beneath the surface.
Leveraging their global influence and substantial social media presence, a handful of top surfers are emerging as influential advocates for eco-friendly surf equipment. These athletes serve as role models, trendsetters, and ambassadors for the sport. Their eco-conscious equipment choices possess the potential to reshape the mainstream narrative and drive widespread adoption of sustainable surf gear.
Pacha Light, a top surfer celebrated for her prowess on the waves, is also making waves of her own by embracing eco-friendly surf equipment. Pacha proudly rides a timber surfboard crafted by Varuna Surf, a company dedicated to sustainable surfboard manufacturing. Her choice extends beyond mere style; it conveys a powerful statement. Pacha's decision to ride a Varuna timber surfboard sends a clear message: professional surfers can utilise their platform to advocate for sustainability and inspire their fans to make environmentally responsible choices.
Varuna has initiated collaborations with leading shapers to develop boards based on popular designs. Beau Young, a two-time world longboard champion, is among those and has recently launched two Varuna boards—the Quokka and Wombat. Set to be available in October/November of this year, these boards underscore Varuna's commitment to partnering with progressive shapers keen on promoting sustainability. Notable shapers such as Maurice Cole, Renaud Cardinal, Joel Fitzgerald, Stuart D’Arcy, and Chilli Surfboards have also collaborated with Varuna.
Sine Surf, a Sydney-based company, has similarly partnered with a top shaper, Steve O'Donnell, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Steve, alongside Emile and Alastair from Sine Surf, have designed a sustainably grown paulownia timber board, which two-time Australian longboard champion and WSL competitor Declan Wyton now uses.
Gary McNeill, the go-to shaper for Dave Rastovich, a free-surfing environmentalist and Patagonia ambassador, represents another commendable eco-conscious collaboration. Gary and Dave have a long-standing partnership, with Dave consistently riding flax-clad boards for years. These boards offer exceptional performance and have a lower environmental impact. In a recent interview with Wavechanger, Gary shared his insights on flaxseed cloth as a low-impact alternative to fiberglass and discussed the art of building durable boards.
While a small group of passionate professional surfers are making significant strides in promoting eco-friendly surf gear, there are still challenges to overcome. Sustainable options can often come with higher price tags, limiting accessibility for some surfers, regardless of skill level, but as demand grows and economies of scale come into play, we can anticipate more competitive pricing in the future. However, a notable trend has emerged in recent years – the marked improvement in the performance of eco-friendly options. This advancement is gradually narrowing the gap between traditional EPS and PU boards and sustainable alternatives like those offered by Bosiny Surf.
Cainã Souza's historic achievement emphasises the enduring importance of eco-friendly surfboards, placing them within a critical evolution rather than a passing trend. This has heightened the pressure on shapers and brands to adopt low-impact options, promising a future where sustainability and performance harmonise in professional surfing. Elite surfers face the delicate task of balancing sustainability, performance, and sponsor commitments.
Ultimately, these surfers can demonstrate they are not just athletes but also stewards of the ocean, and by setting a positive example, they will elevate the future of eco-friendly surfboards like never before.
Main image from @bosinysurf featuring @cainasouzabt