October 17, 2013
Biodegradable Technologies Could Save The Waves For Surfers
Surfers are kind of the tree huggers of the ocean. They’re free spirits who like to ride the waves. The problem is that the boards they ride are often made of polyurethane and loaded with nasty chemicals such as formaldehyde and covered in fiberglass. Not exactly the stuff of “good vibrations.”
Broken boards often create a type of flotsam that is hardly ideal for surfers.
Various companies have looked to alternative technologies, and one that has caught the wave in recent years is carbon fiber. The same space age material that is used in production of the Dreamliner aircraft, high-end performance automobiles and even high-end bicycles, is making its way to the surf crowd. Carbon fiber has advantages because it is durable, and it isn’t photodegradable – meaning that the sun won’t break it down, as can happen with foam-based surfboards.
The good news is that a carbon fiber surfboard will retain its shape, its strength and its rigidity for many, many years on the water. It can even be repaired if damaged. However, there is a dark side to carbon fiber.
First, it is dirty to work with; and worse it is neither biodegradable nor photodegradable. That means that if the board breaks it can’t be easily recycled. It could take centuries or more for it to break down.
All that is enough to ruin those good vibes, but a couple of companies are looking at alternate technologies and materials that might just be the next big thing in surfing.
TECHNIQ LLC is looking to develop the BIÓM (pronounced BY-ohm), a board that is reportedly the world’s first certified 100 percent biodegradable and 99 percent bio-based surfboard foam. Surfer Mag noted that the foam is made from sugarcane biomass (certified GMO-free) that is provided by Corbion Purac that is polymerized by Synbra Technology BV and expanded into the rigid foam.
The result is a board that is sweet in more ways than one. It is less toxic for the craftsman who do the shaping, provides a stable ride that reportedly doesn’t compromise on performance and can break down in time in the water at the end of its life.
Ecovative Design is also working on its own biodegradable surfboard, this one made of mushrooms! In this case Ecovative is looking to create blanks (the basic rectangular board that shapers craft from) that are made entirely from material that is otherwise considered agricultural waste and includes plant stacks, husks, and mycelium (the vegetative growth of the mushroom) reported Motherboard.
In the case of Ecovative, you could consider the Mushroom Surfboards to be a side business of sorts. The company already creates a type of living plastics that come from fungi. What really makes this process unique is that the blanks are grown to near final shape, instead of the rectangular blank where most surfboards come from.
The Mushroom Surfboards can also be grown to various levels stiffness, and this really opens the door for all sorts of customized options for surfers.
In a world where 3D printing is revolutionizing sporting goods, it will be interesting to watch how biodegradable materials fit into the mix, or rather mixing bowl.
Image Credit: Thinkstock