Wavejets are surfboards with an electronic propulsion system. Users wear a wrist controller with a button that turns the board on and off. The company markets the high-tech planks to individuals who want to spend more time surfing and less time paddling, catch mushy waves, or drop into giants without a tow-in. Those uses are all interesting, but the most inspiring testament to the power of the invention was released yesterday.
Beach hazards abound. Your surfboard can knock you out. Corals might scrape your face off. A shark could mistake you for a seal or, more likely, you might bump into a jellyfish. Those are risks most of us willingly accept. But when you leave the beach vomiting, or with diarrhea or a fever due to fecal matter in the water, that's just not cool.
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its standards for recommended recreational water quality criteria—basically, the levels of water pollutants (like fecal-linked enterococcus in coastal waters and E. coli for the Great Lakes) above which it thinks states or municipalities ought to close public beaches due to hazards to public health. But the new recommendations are weak, says the Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC) as well as the Surfrider Foundation, because they are voluntary and offer multiple levels of standards.
The two main recommendations are set to levels of the bacterial pollutants, based on water samples, that could make 32-36 out of 1,000 beachgoers ill. But the EPA offered two even stricter (much stricter) water quality level alerts, called Beach Action Values, and is giving municipalities real incentives to opt for those—aside from a wish to better protect human health.
But, incentives or no, municipalities generally push to keep beaches open as long as possible to ensure a
steady stream of beachgoers and a strong local economy (remember Jaws?), says Mara Dias,
water quality manager for the Surfrider Foundation.
"I find it hard to envision a circumstance where a state would use the
most restrictive [level]," she says.
While competing in ASP junior events, Brazilian Gabriel Medina made a name for himself as an aerialist. As a 17-year-old, he won the most prestigious event in the ASP's Cash for Tricks series. Now 18, Medina is competing on the ASP World Tour and perfecting new aerials in his off time. A little more than a week ago, he took to the North Shore of Oahu and landed his first backflip. It's not the first backflip in the history of surfing, and it won't be the last, but it's still rare and impressive.
Here is the good news: Expanded polystyrene (a.k.a.
EPS, or the branded name Styrofoam) is recyclable. Here's the bad news: much of
it is not recycled and therefore EPS-based surfboards are made from
virgin EPS. Some more bad news: Only about 30 percent of surfboards are made with EPS. One more piece of bad news: The most commonly used resins* used in surfboard
manufacturing are toxic. Sustainable Surf, a non-profit aimed at helping the
surf industry reduce its environmental impact, is hoping to change all of that bad news.
The NGO celebrated the launch of its Ecoboard
program, which finally established an industry
benchmark that board makers can follow in order to boost the environmental
credibility of their products, last week in San Francisco. "Ecoboard is the industry's first
third-party science-based benchmark," Sustainable Surf's co-founder Michael
Stewart told me.
Stewart is a life-long surfer, and he looks
like one. But he's also all business, which becomes apparent as he starts to
talk shop, rattling off the attributes of recycled EPS and the potential
of using bio-based epoxy for glassing a surfboard instead of using polyester resins. The majority of surfboards on the market today are manufactured with polyurethane foam cores, which can be recycled but aren't in any meaningful quantity, and these boards are made with polyester epoxies.
Prior to launching Sustainable Surf, Stewart worked
at Underwriters Laboratories, a standards-setting organization serving the
electronics industry. He knows from standards. And he's quick to point out that
Sustainable Surf is still a long way from developing a sustainability standard
for the surf industry—doing so will be major undertaking. "We're going
to build a standard," he says. "But first it's a [bench]mark."
Surfer Julian Wilson won his first ASP event after scoring big during the final seconds of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, leaving his competitor Gabriel Medina stunned and with tears in his eyes. “I’m overwhelmed,” Wilson said. “I lost to Gabriel (Medina) on the
buzzer last year in France and to beat him back again on the buzzer, I
don’t even know how to describe the feeling."