For surfers, it is a great irony that while their mindset is environmentally conscious, the materials for their boards degrade the marine ecosystem. This sentiment is widely known among consumers in the industry, as well as manufacturers.
The future is mushroom surfboards; companies like Wyve Surf, Notox Surf, and the Ecoboard Project all manufacture boards using recycled materials or eco-friendly materials to show that not only are environmentally friendly boards possible to be made, and they are, in many cases, better than conventional boards made with petrochemicals. This understanding that surfers deserve and want better than industry standard drives Steve Davies, a surfer and design student creating mushroom surfboards out of Mycelia.
Hailing from Porthcawl, Wales, Davies has known for a long time that the surf industry, for all its eco-friendly aesthetic, is lacking in manufacturing their boards. These petrochemical boards oftentimes break and are washed out to sea, releasing plastic into the oceans that inevitably make their way into flora and fauna and, ultimately, back into us.
Surfing for many demands respect and an understanding of the ocean and nature. Thus, the demand for an eco-friendly board is prominent in his market research. This is why he creates his mushroom surfboards entirely made of sustainable materials. His board is made by creating a natural mold of a surfboard, in which the mycelium can grow to create his all-natural board. The board is then coated with a natural waterproofing material; in his interview with the BBC, he is experimenting with beeswax and linseed oil.
He started collecting substrate for the mycelia, which he had access to due to living on a farm with lots of straw and horse bedding. He explained in his project journal, “This sparked an idea to start a business/surfboard manufacturer from an agricultural point of view — growing surfboards on a farm near the beach whilst using waste materials from that very same farm, reducing the transport of materials, and therefore reducing carbon released into the environment.” According to Davies, he can grow a mushroom surfboard in the right conditions in 21 days. He plans to upscale his project to commercial levels, providing an eco-friendly board that gives back to the oceans that surfers rely on instead of degrading them. This development can also be incredibly profitable, as the surfing industry is expected to expand to $3.2 billion by 2027, up from $2.2 billion in 2020.
Alternative materials are crucial to the green transition we are currently experiencing. The reliance on plastic materials has led us to create nearly everything we have out of petrochemicals. While this has been cheap and effective for us in the short-term, we will continue to see further degradation of our natural environment, which we truly rely on, if we don’t work further to make alternative materials the main way we create in our world. Apparel manufacturers are also looking to Mycelia to replace leather in their products.
Surfing, in particular, relies entirely on the oceans, and surfers are the ones who experience firsthand the amount of plastic pollution and its detrimental effects. It only makes sense to create sustainable boards for surfers, by surfers. And as the world continues to transition to a green future, sustainable surfers will potentially be poised to profit immensely from it.