We have to praise and embrace the eco and sustainable movement that’s happening all around us, how ever weird and bizarre, even the concepts that look unusual to what we might be accustomed to. This is especially true within the surfing industry and in particular the materials used to make surfboards, which are highly toxic and mostly non-recyclable. Let's take a leap of faith, let's try something different and help nurse Mother Earth back to health.
OK, so there is a lot of so called ‘green washing’ tactics going on and one has to tread carefully. We have to make sure to sift through all the jargon and get to the facts. Are the products we are buying really making a difference, or are we just being duped into buying things that advertise themselves as E&S, when in fact their full of B&S!!
I’m pleased to report that on our search for eco & sustainable products and informing you of smarter buying choices that actually work as they are deigned to, we came across a shaping company that seemed to be legit.
A few years ago before the ‘green movement’ was in full swing, around 2011, I was at a surf event in France. Whilst drifting about, I came across a stand with a handful of brown surfboards. I’ll be honest, they looked weird and different. Now I’m not talking about the shape of the board, they were really well shaped, but, they were brown in colour, the whole board!
Yup, the whole board was brown! They weren’t made of wood either, the rep informed me they were made of organic flax linen sourced from Belgium. I was drawn into to take a closer look. The sleds really looked earthy and of course natural. This was before the big eco movement we have today, so to see a surfboard that was completely brown, was maybe a little hard to swallow for some surfers. I mean, let’s be honest, we love the look of our white boards with a beautiful wooden stringer down the middle. Some will like colour tints, but this funny looking brown material, I wasn’t so sure!! I’m happy to be proven wrong though… and this brand has gone and done just that!
Let me introduce you to Notox Surfboards, established in 2006. These folks hail from the Basque country in France and are at the forefront of making performance surfboards with a massive focus on the global environmental impact.
I went to visit these guys at their workshop to see how legit they really were and I came away with my mind blown, inspired and more hopeful about the future of our planet and this industry. They are the real deal and it was great to see the team at work. It was a hive of production and a very impressive workshop.
OK, so their main focus is board shaping and design. They started off with surfboards made from flax fibers, bio resin and recycled EPS foam. Their range now includes clothing made from 100% organic cotton, wooden skateboards from locally sourced wood and a new range of very cool looking surfboards made from cork!! It’s very exciting stuff.
What Makes them Eco
So their website isn’t the simplest to use. It’s a little confusing being tab heavy and tricky to find facts about materials and where their sourced. So having spoken to Notox, I can fill in a couple of questionable areas.
• Recyclables: Nothing goes to waste in the lab and everything that can go into the boards, goes in the boards, it’s that simple. One thing that was very cool is they collect all the off cuts of already recycled PSE foam and store it upstairs. They then invest time, a lot of time, to communicate with various local lorry delivery companies to collect the bag loads of scrap PSE. They focus and organise this with lorries that are already in the area on other jobs. This is amazing, it really makes a difference on their carbon footprint and for the lorry companies alike. The pieces get taken to a local company that recycles the off cuts into new surfboard blanks for Notox to make more boards!! This is a marvelous way to minimise waste and their carbon footprint!!!
• Natural Materials & Organic: They use a lot of organically grown flax lined cloth instead of fibreglass weave and are also making boards from cork! Both these ingredients are at the forefront of eco and sustainable materials.
Notox quote: "Our boards produce waste for less than half their weight, 75% of which is recyclable."
Here’s a website for flax facts and here’s one on cork. They also use a French bio resin to coat the flax fibers.
Locally sourced: Eco products are all well and good, but what if sourcing the materials means importing from far away. The fellas at Notox have this covered and source materials from less than 700km away from the Notox lab so that the carbon footprint is kept as low as possible. 80% of materials sourced in France and 20% from Belgium.
What about the production?
OK, so the materials sourced are eco, organic and sustainable, but what about the working environment. This often gets over looked and is a huge part of making and being an eco &sustainable enterprise. If you’ve ever been in a shaping bay, it feels and smells toxic, because if the work space isn’t designed properly, then it is!!!
The Notox lab is by far the cleanest and most pleasurable shaping bay I’ve ever been in, every detail has been thought out. They take their own and their team's health as a top priority. They’ve custom designed their workspace with state of the art equipment to keep the environment clean and safe.
Do the Boards Perform?
Sadly, I had an accident that landed me in hospital this year and was unable to test one in the water. That being said, I know a few who have…
Here is a firsthand account story though. My friend ordered one of the flax boards and when I held it in my hands, I could feel the quality of the build. These thing are solid, so solid that in the first 2 days of receiving the board, someone decided to back a 9 seater van over the nose of my friend's board by accident!!! We all stood, shock and horror visible on all our faces, tentatively looking at our pal's face to see the reaction, he calmly picked up the board and to all our surprise, the board was fine!!!! It was incredible, just a small hair line fracture, but that was it!!! So I think it’s safe to say the boards are solid.
One of our writers in Byron Bay, Australia managed to get hold of a 'Green One' Notox board, give it a rip around and put it through its paces so look out for that review coming very soon on Surf Bunker.
I’m backing Notox. I believe they are one the closest companies to constructing a legitimate ‘100% green’ surfboard. I will be purchasing boards from them in the coming seasons, that’s for sure.
That fact they’ve managed to cut down their environmental impact by half is incredible, we just have to hope that the rest of the industry follows suit.
Note from the editor: Our 'man on the ground' in Byron Bay met up with Lou Dever from Eco Surf Supplies who kindly agreed to lend him a Eco Flax board to test. Look out for Matt's article coming soon and see how he liked it. Real people testing real products that make a difference. Merry Christmas to one and all.