Yow Surfskates

overall rating:



Lydia Dai
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Yow surfskates are a special type of skateboard made in the Spanish Basque country designed to help surfers train surf moves on land. They are produced by their umbrella company, HLC distributions, which has several skateboard brands under its name. It was disappointing to see HLC mostly providing slogans without information to back them up and that no information could be found relating to sustainability on Yow’s website, despite Yow being a seemingly very sustainable, locally produced skateboard brand. Indeed, the involvement of green-washing cannot be excluded. Even though the materials used are mostly sustainable, the environmental impacts of the production process are unclear due to the lack of information. Overall, Yow surfskates do not appear to be any more sustainable than traditional skateboards.

What it's made of:


Nothing could be found relating to the material specifics on the official Yow website. After some digging, I found that Yow is one of the brands belonging to HLC distribution company, a skateboard factory producing boards for several brands. HLC’s website states that they only use environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, however, they do not specify them, so this statement is questionable. Yow surfskates’ decks are built using timber wood, which the same material that can be found in an average skateboard. Wood as a material itself is recyclable, but more focus needs to be given to the wood production and sourcing process, where the risk of being unsustainable is very high. Not many specifics could be found on the reel system of Yow, but it isn’t much different from traditional skateboards either. The reel system is usually made of aluminium or other metals (steel, brass, or another alloy), the process of mining them creates heat, and a lot of energy is required. No information is given regarding the sourcing of these materials. The wheels are usually made of polyurethane (a synthetic rubber polymer), which is considered a highly versatile and environmentally friendly material. It doesn’t contain any chemicals that interfere with hormone systems, nor does it contribute to PH change in soil or water. Moreover, polyurethane contributes to only 2% of all plastic wastes, because it lasts far longer than most thermoplastics and there are several ways to recycle it. The planet rating is reduced because of the lack of information given on the material specifics.

How it's made:


Even though wood in itself can be recyclable, the major maple deforestation caused by the skateboard industry is still a serious environmental issue. Maple trees grow in the cold regions of Canada and the US where they need about 30-80 years to mature enough to harvest. It is a time and space-consuming process before you can have the right quality wood for a skateboard deck.
HLC’s website states the decks are built from eco-friendly wood from sustainable harvesting sources to create a smaller carbon footprint (100% from areas under forest conservation law). This would be great if there was any proof of their practices. On Yow’s sister company, Jart Skateboards' website, it can be found that their boards are produced using US hard rock maple. Since they are both from HLC distribution, it can be assumed that Yow is no different. I hope they are indeed putting in the effort for forest conservation.
It is good to know that all Yow surfskates and truck adapters are designed, produced, and assembled in one local factory in the Spanish Basque country, giving Yow full control over the production process and carbon footprint. Using robots and cold-pressing in the manufacturing process, a significant amount of CO2 emissions can be reduced in the deck and truck production process. Additionally, HLC is achieving net-zero waste distribution in their production process and 100% of their production waste is recycled according to Basque industry law. However, none of this information is backed up with any real numbers. Additionally, the wood waste generated through traditional skateboard production can contain pigment, glues, and grip tape, which can release hazardous chemicals into the air when burned for energy - a very environmentally unfriendly process. 

Who makes it:


Many eco-slogans are found on the HLC websites, but very few facts to back them up. I did not receive any reply from neither Yow nor HLC after reaching out to them directly. Therefore, sadly, it can’t be excluded that Yow and its distributor HLC are practising green-washing.
No information could be found regarding the social well-being of their employees or their impact on local communities, but there was another slogan stating that HLC takes part in a social program that creates jobs for disabled persons and that their products contribute to social reinsertion. Yet, again, no project name, numbers, or other specifics are given. Despite the boards being produced locally, the fact that they are shipping worldwide is a sign of concern due to the high level of carbon emissions involved. Their main distributors are UPS, FedEx, and DHL, which seem to have their own sustainability practices, but neither Yow nor its umbrella company HLC seems to be putting in the efforts to offset their carbon emissions from shipping. Therefore, I wouldn’t mark either of these companies as sustainable.