Around 400,000 surfboards are produced each year. Most are made of materials that not only are unable to biodegrade, but are also chock-full of toxins. Bamboo Surf Company offers a shining alternative to this. An emerging company in the surfboard, skateboard, and apparel industry, Bamboo Surf Co. sells highly sustainable bamboo boards. The most evident downside to this is the price. While a board can be purchased from Costco for a couple hundred bucks, the average Bamboo Surf Company board is upwards of $700. While sustainable, this option is inaccessible to many because of its high cost. Therefore, if spending more on a surfboard is an option, I highly recommend going for the Bamboo Surf Co. boards. Hopefully in the future, the use of this technology will be more widespread, and sustainability will not be in battle with cost. Because Bamboo Surf Company is so new and just launching their line, there is also little to no data to support their bold claims of sustainability and sustainable community involvement. Thus, it will be important to hold them accountable to their mission as their company continues to grow and flourish.
Spot on with the company name, the performance shortboard is made of 100% bamboo with a thin layer of plant based epoxy resin and a deck pad made of cork. Bamboo is an incredibly sustainable material when sourced and manufactured right. It grows rapidly compared to other similar materials and has great durability. Cork is also a great material when sourced right. This will be discussed more in the next section. Bamboo Surf Co. asserts that all these ingredients are made with zero pesticides! The makeup of this board means that unlike normal surfboards, this shortboard is biodegradable. Typical surfboards (made of foam, resins, and fiberglass) are toxic, filled with carcinogens, and don’t biodegrade. They end up in landfills where they leech chemicals into the earth. Not only is the Bamboo Surf Company’s performance shortboard biodegradable, but the nutrients in the bamboo are actually beneficial for the environment. It isn’t super clear how long exactly the board takes to biodegrade, as depending on the environmental conditions it can likely take anywhere from a year to ten years. But small pieces chipping off the board, or disposing of the board in an eco-conscious manner are still far better alternatives to the disposal of normal boards. Aside from providing traction, the cork deck pads also decrease the need for a lot of wax. Bamboo Surf Co.‘s boards are also are marketed as lasting up to five times longer than a normal board. So overall the performance shortboards are indescribably better for the environment. And it doesn’t seem like there is any tradeoff here between performance and planet. These boards are eco-friendly and are of equal if not greater quality than a typical board. It’s hard to think of a way that the materials for this board could be improved.
The manufacturing process described on their website goes into great depth and lays out very sustainable product harvesting practices. The bamboo is sourced from Southeast Asia, and only the tops of the bamboo stalks are cut off. This is so that the whole plant isn’t killed, and within only a few years the plant is back at its original height. They assert that they use all the leftover bamboo for smaller products as well as enriching ‘super soil’ that they use in local communities to build houses, provide clean drinking water, and grow crops. The cork is sourced from Portugal. The initial cork harvesting is done sustainably, removing the bark in a way that doesn’t hurt the tree. But Bamboo Surf Company doesn’t even use the main cork harvest, they just use the scraps from this process for their products. So the cork pads are made from waste product. These boards in theory meet all of the qualifications required to be classified as an ECOBOARD. An ECOBOARD is a certification that affirms a surfboard’s sustainability and quality. So it’s interesting that no boards from the Bamboo Surf Company are listed on the ECOBOARD website. Perhaps it has to do with the newness of the company; time will tell.
One important detail that isn’t thoroughly addressed by the company is where the boards are manufactured. Nowhere on their website is it mentioned where the boards are put together, and the only manufacturing location information provided is that the factory is solar powered. The Bamboo Surf Company Instagram page’s bio, however, states that the boards are designed in San Diego and made in Cambodia. Because labor is outsourced to another country, there could be important implications regarding labor laws and ethics standards here. Some more clarity on labor and production from the company would be greatly appreciated. The other note is that despite how sustainable the products themselves are, worldwide transportation of products is sure to increase the carbon footprint of this product.
Bamboo Surf Co. is a San Diego based surfboard, skateboard, and swim apparel company. They claim to be 100% sustainable and renewable. For every board sold, Bamboo Surf Co. will plant a tree and donate 5% of the profits to fund renewable projects around the world. As noted above, transparency on their labor force in their assumed factory in Cambodia is low — it is not noted anywhere on the website who exactly is producing the boards and to what labor standards the operation is held to. There is also no information on who’s doing the material harvesting, particularly of bamboo in Southeast Asia and cork in Portugal, and accompanying labor and ethics questions arising here. Increased transparency on these subjects is vital for holistic sustainability.
Bamboo Surf Company seems to have all their environmental morals in the right place, and have clearly put a ton of effort and thought into the design and makeup of their boards. They also have several community engagement initiatives that go the extra mile, like planting trees and making the Super Soil for local communities. As they grow, I hope that Bamboo Surf Company will hold themselves to these standards and maintain their community involvement promises.