Why choose a sustainable SUP

Every day, every hour, every minute we make decisions that impact our environment. The amount of water you use in your morning shower, the type of food you eat and where you buy it, the type of swimsuit or wetsuit you choose to wear, and even the type of board under your feet.

Surfing began gaining popularity back in the 18th century, but it’s only been in recent years that board manufacturing supplies and processes have been taken in to consideration. Standup paddling is still young and already there are a number of sustainably made boards available on the market.

What goes into making a SUP?

You might not have given much thought to the process of creating the sled under your feet, but it’s an extensive one. Initially, the raw materials must be gathered and extracted—the oil used for the resin and fins is drawn from the earth and the wood for the stringer is harvested and treated. Next, the oil must be turned into plastic, which requires a large amount of energy. After that, the foam is manufactured, requiring yet even more energy and supplies.

Roughly 750,000 surfboards are manufactured each year, resulting in 220,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere.

Between each stage of the production process, materials must be transported, emitting CO2 along the way. Throughout the life of your board, repairs may be necessary and fins and fin plugs may need to be replaced, further adding to your board’s carbon footprint. At the end of the board’s life it may be recycled for another purpose, but sadly the majority of boards end up in a landfill.   

What can you do?

So the question lies: how can we continue to pump out high performance boards without causing the environment to take a major hit?

There are a number of SUP companies out there committed to making quality boards while simultaneously protecting the environment. Shapers are experimenting with unique materials and are using innovative technologies to reduce the environmental impact of standup paddleboarding. Sustainable boards are being manufactured from materials such as bamboo, hemp, cork, coconut fiber, and plant-based resins, among others. Companies such as Surftech, NSP, Glide, Starboard, Solace, Infinity, Invert, and BIC are paving the way for sustainably made boards in the SUP industry, with many others following in their footsteps.

The ECOBOARD Project

In 2012, the ECOBOARD Project launched with the goal of “reducing carbon footprints, increasing the use (and reuse) of renewable, recycled and up-cycled inputs, and reducing toxicity within the surfboard manufacturing process.” In order to qualify as an ECOBOARD, companies must manufacture their boards from one of the qualified materials listed on the ECOBOARD Project website.

To be designated as a Level One ECOBOARD, the board must use at least one qualified material in its construction as well as be manufactured by an approved ECOBOARD builder. To be designated as Gold Level ECOBOARD, the board must use at least one material with the Gold Level designation as well as another qualified material of any level and must be manufactured in a facility that has been certified to produce Gold Level ECOBOARD. While ECOBOARDS aren’t the only sustainably made boards available on the market, it’s a good certification to look for if you’re unsure.

Here at SUP Examiner, we are committed to protecting the planet and preserving the environment for future generations to come. While we do paddle traditionally made boards, we are excited to explore sustainable SUP options as the industry becomes more eco-minded. Through this column, we hope to provide alternative options as well as reviews and feedback as to how they hold up. Our industry is headed to a greener future and we couldn’t be more excited to be apart of it. Stay tuned!


Rebecca Parsons

Rebecca is a seasoned writer and longtime ocean lover. A resident of Orange County, CA, she can be seen paddling and surfing at many of Southern California’s most scenic coastal locations. Rebecca is interested in sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives and heads up “Keep it Green”, our column on the environment.