By: Lucas Perez Contrary to popular belief a surfers carbon footprint has been reported to be five times greater than that of the average human. Many people wonder how this can be the case as surfers are often seen as an environmentally friendly group that does beach clean ups and raises money for wildlife restoration. While this may be the case, the production of the surfboard they chose to grab when they wake up in the morning had a greater carbon dioxide emission than a five hour flight. Production of just one surfboard can emit more carbon dioxide than a jet plane flying for five hours (Banymadhub). I first realized how toxic the production of surfboards is when I shaped my own for the first time realizing how many chemicals are used that cannot be easily disposed of. While surfers tend to take a more environmental attitude towards their sport the dark side of the industry is hidden, while each year millions of tons of petrol products end up in the ocean each year, environmental ethics is a question that should be placed upon the surfing industry. In our textbook environmental justice is defined as, “stressing the need of environmental goods and environmental bads between people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or gender. Conversely environmental injustice describes a condition where unhealthful or dangerous conditions are disproportionately proximate to minority communities” (Robbins) With an estimation of 23 million surfers worldwide and this number growing by the day the demand for surfboards is increasing alongside this interest in surfing. Each surfboard requires a certain amount of materials varying base on the size, thickness, and type of board. As surfers become more experienced they tend to acquire more surfboards whether they have one shaped custom, pick one out from a shop, or get it at a second-hand store is a personal choice. Personally I found my favorite board at a second-hand store for a ridiculously reasonable price, thankfully the person who used it before me didn’t simply throw it away as many do. The issue with surfing is that many surfers have a quiver or library of surfboards to choose from as one becomes a more avid surfer. The reason for a quiver is that every wave is different, so it is crucial to pick the right board for the conditions that specific day. Say it is 2-3 foot most would chose to grab a longboard at varying lengths or it is 7-8 feet out most would choose a shortboard thruster set up. These variations result in, “an average polyester resin 6’1″ shortboard has a carbon footprint of 400lbs CO2 emissions and an epoxy 9’1″ longboard around 1,000 lbs CO2 emissions. That’s more than the carbon footprint of a flight from LA to Hawaii (around 750lbs CO2 emissions)”(Banymadhub). A longboard has a greater carbon footprint than a flight from LA to Hawaii, this is because the larger the surfboard the greater the amount of materials are needed. These materials include the polyurethane or polystrene foam core, “Polyurethane is made when methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) react with polyols. MDI and TDI both need to be handled carefully during the manufacturing process. In particular, TDI is a suspected carcinogenic, is classified as very toxic, and is a known respiratory and skin irritant” (Emerson). The disposal method for polyurethane is either landfill, incineration, or recycling into materials such as carpet underlay. The polyurethane foam is cut and sanded into the desired shape by a surfboard shaper who wears a respirator as silica and other toxic elements fill the room he is working in. Lung cancer is a common cause of death among surfboard shapers causing many to die at a young age an example of such incidence is a shaper from where I grew up, “Gary Edgar never smoked cigarettes, but his family and doctors believe years of inhaling dust from shaping and sanding surfboards might have caused his illness” (Bailey). Shapers pursue their desire to create perfection whether it is through appearance or performance, they take pride in their craft while health concerns are often put to the wayside. Surfboard shapers tend to be people who have a passion for surfing and often have less opportunities in the workforce as is the case for many of my friends who became shapers and are subject to these toxic environments. As there is a demand for surfboards these people will continue to make surfboards because someone has to and this is the craft that they excel at. While these people have little choice in the materials available to them the people who create these materials for the surfboard industry should reevaluate the impact of their products.In our textbook environmental ethics is defined as, “the branch of philosophy dealing with morality,or, questions of right and wrong in human action in the world” (Robbins). The production of surfboards starts with the shaping the first toxic step towards creating a board that someone can enjoy for years until broken or unrepairable. The next step is layering the shaped board with fiberglass in order to increase the durability and strength of the board. When working with fiberglass the fibers get everywhere as they can bury in clothes, skin, and lungs. The surfboard layered in fiberglass is then coated with a ultra pungent petroleum based polyester resin. A chemical concoction that burns the nose whenever encountered and when used can easily fill the room with its odor. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report in 1992 stating that the production of polyester resins produces a significant emissions hazard and the primary chemical of concern is called epichlorohydrin. Epichlorohydrin is a volatile and flammable liquid that is said to have a chloroform-like odor and emits hydrochloric acid when heated, “Epichlorohydrin is used in the manufacture of epoxy resins, synthetic glycerin and elastomers. Exposure to epichlorohydrin irritates the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, and can cause chemical pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, and renal lesions” (“Epichlorohydrin.”). The use of the polyester resin for production of surfboards is universal as it is the outer-layer of the surfboard which allows the board to be waterproof and increases the stiffness. In modern surfboard manufacturing the surfboard are created with a fin box which allows the consumer to choose a fin type or sometimes a certain fin set up if there are more than two or three fin boxes. These fins are often created using fiberglass and resin similar to the outer-layer of the surfboard they are shaped into the desired model to optimize performance. In older surfboards the fins were often “glassed in” as a wooden fin would be layered in fiberglass then coated with polyester resin.Aside from the toxic nature of production the other environmental concern surrounding surfboards is where these surfboards end up after they are used or broken. These toxic surfing sticks end up in landfills where they will sit forever as they do not biodegrade like many other petroleum based products in today’s market. These locations for hazardous waste are often targeted towards minority, lon-income neighborhoods whom have no choice in the placement of these landfills. While runoff from these landfills can pollute soil, ground water, and the air surrounding the neighborhood, “Hazardous waste sites, polluting industrial facilities and other locally unwanted land uses are disproportionately located in nonwhite and poor communities” (Erickson). As landfills grow exponentially each day so does the surfing population, as a kid I remember paddling out into a lineup of 10 people on a good day at the most crowded spot in my area. I recently paddled out at the same spot and it is almost impossible to catch a wave without almost running someone over. The surf industry is growing exponentially as the people who live along the coast are typically wealthier than the average population thus more products and surf schools flood the coastal communities. According to Huck Magazine there are 35 million surfers in the water worldwide as of 2015. This leads to an increase in surfboard sales and production, in the end this simply means that more and more surfboards are guaranteed to end up in landfills unless a solution is proposed. A recent solution I stumbled upon scrolling through Instagram which was actually an ad is the mushroom surfboard. The environmental impact of surfboards is finally being recognized by the surfing community as the shapers at California’s Surf Organic Boards work toward creating a surfboard made out of mushrooms and organic material rather than petroleum based foam (King). Hopefully more solutions similar to these organic surfboards take hold in order to shift the direction of the surfing community in a more environmentally conscious way. Rather than conducting beach clean ups I believe the root of surfing should be remodelled because as it stands thousands of petroleum based non-biodegradable surfboards end up in landfills each year (King). If the industry focuses their energy towards a more sustainable way of operation then the industry can help divert tons of surfboards from landfills and ultimately help to preserve the sport as our oceans are being polluted at a large detrimental scale. While landfills and greenhouse gas production lead to an exponential acidification of our oceans the surfing industry should lead by example in changing the way surfboards are produced.