MODERN SURFBOARDS may look beautiful, but they're inherently filthy—almost every material in them is toxic. Efforts to use green alternatives—think soy- and sugar-based cores—have fallen short because they don't surf like normal boards.
That's why Joey Santley decided that instead of re-creating the surfboard, he'd just reuse it. A San Clemente, California–based surfer whose father was a board manufacturer, Santley founded the ReSurf Foundation in 2006 along with several friends with the idea of recycling the waste created in board-making. They started with the dust that piles up when shapers carve polyurethane-foam "blanks" into surfboard cores. Initially, they worked on using the dust in concrete and asphalt mixes, then decided to try to recycle it into new blanks.
That's the simple idea behind Santley's new company, Green Foam, which produces blanks made of 40 percent recycled polyurethane. They perform just like standard blanks and are being ridden by top pro surfers, including Rob Machado, who has a signature Green Foam board with celebrated manufacturer Channel Islands. Santley expects to sell some 3,000 blanks this year and 12,000 in 2011, thanks to a licensing deal with industry goliath US Blanks.
Of course, partially recycled boards hardly solve surfing's waste problem. But by infecting the mainstream board-production process, Green Foam is having a real impact. "It's a great success," says Frank Scura, executive director of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, "and they're going to stimulate more change."
That's what Santley is after. "This is a step," he says, noting that he's researching recycled neoprene. "We'll keep pushing forward."