Technology

How This Young Aussie Created the Planet’s Most Sustainable Surfboard

This article is sponsored by HP.

A young Aussie duo are making waves in the surf world with their company Sine Surf, which makes wooden boards with classic looks and some savvy engineering that makes them not just more than 95% biodegradable, but carbon negative to produce.

This is a pretty huge deal when you factor in the surprising environmental impacts surfboards have. According to a prominent study carried out at the University of California Berkeley, the average surfboard creates 170kg of CO2 emissions in the production process (Schultz 2009). Over its entire lifecycle, the carbon impact of a typical 2.5kg shortboard is 272.1kg of emitted CO2. And this isn’t even factoring in the 20 million boards sold globally per year account for 160,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

Clearly this is not sustainable. So, in 2020, identifying this major problem in surfboard production, co-founder and surfer Emile Theau set out to make a beautiful wooden surfboard that was also sustainable and affordable. Many ‘wooden’ boards only have a veneer between fiberglass and foam inside, or are prohibitively expensive and heavy due to the materials used. But backed with a uni degree in chemical engineering and nanotechnology, Theau created a hollow wooden board with friend and co-founder Alastair Pilley using isolated air chambers, making it virtually impervious to flooding — cutting out the need for environmentally damaging and toxic foam, which can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Best of all, the lightweight timber used is from Paulownia trees, which capture a considerable amount of carbon. Even taking into account timber transportation, electricity use and the use of a bio-resin, each board captures at least 5.0kg more carbon than it produces. And the only non-biodegradable parts in the board are the fin boxes and bio-resin — an impressive feat, and one that only produces 0.5 kg of industrial waste per board, too. As a result, Sine Surf believes they make the most sustainable boards on the planet.

But as Theau and Sine Surf look at expanding and creating boards for others, too, they needed help to continue centering sustainability, and work out new ways to help mitigate ocean waste.

That’s why Theau entered — and then won — HP Australia’s Generation Impact, a program in partnership with Ocean Impact Organization to help uplift Australians trying to solve issues around climate change’s impact on the ocean. Theau and Sine Surf won $40,000, HP laptops and a tailored mentorship with HP and the Organization to help grow the business. With that, the company has already been able to buy new technology for their manufacturing, speeding up the process without hurting the environment.

It’s just one way HP is supporting sustainability and cleaning up our oceans, with the company using 1.7 million pounds and counting of ocean-sourced plastics in its products. Check out an interview with Theau below, and visit Sine Surf to take a look at his three board shapes on offer.

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