The Environmental Impacts of Surfing

The Environmental Impacts of Surfing

What role can surfers play to help save the environment?

While surfing may be among the least harmful tourist water activities, it can still have a harmful effect – to the environment. Sometimes, even the surfers themselves need to be made aware of these impacts.

The Environmental Impact of Surfing

Surfing was dubbed as one of the fastest-growing activities during the pandemic. It is up there on the list, together with basketball and soccer.

With people saying that surfing provides a feeling of bliss, it’s no wonder why around 196,000 people aged 15 or older took up the sport in 2020. What some people may not know is how surfing can have an impact on the environment.

Yes, surfing can negatively impact the environment, especially if there is no proper management in the area. Poor management may result in the following:

  • Overcrowding in the area
  • Trash accumulation
  • Water pollution
  • Erosion
  • Reef damage

Any surfing spot must manage its resources and ensure that it is aware of the proper capacity for its location.

5 Conservation Efforts to Reduce Surfing’s Environmental Impact

Apart from looking at the impact on communities, the surfers themselves can also pose a threat to the environment. These items can lead to negative environmental impacts – from the surfboards to the wax and even sunscreen. But there’s no need to worry because there are ways to manage and avoid these concerns. Here are some of them.

1. Think of the environment when choosing a surfboard.

Surfboards are usually made from a polyurethane (PU) foam core, which is covered with layers of fiberglass or resin. For this kind of surfboard, the materials used are made from harmful chemicals that are petrochemical by-products. They are notoriously known for causing air pollution and producing toxic emissions.

Apart from this, PU boards cannot be recycled are they biodegradable.

However, this type of board is popular they tend to be budget-friendly. After all, resin used is one of the cheapest types available. The downside is that this type of resin is the most toxic kind.

Fumes from this specific type of resin may cause skin and eye irritation and respiratory problems. It is also a known water contaminant.

So, what can a regular surfer do? Be knowledgeable about the components used in making your preferred surfboard. If there are eco-friendly or “green” surfboards in the area, then go for that option instead.

Look out for boards made of wood or other natural materials that reinforce the foam. Some of the sustainable materials include:

  • Coconut husk
  • Bamboo fibre
  • Basalt
  • Carbon fibre
  • Jute fibre

If this is too challenging, check out surfboards that have expanded polystyrene (EPS), like this one from DHD. The construction is similar in that it also has a foam core and has a resin seal. However, EPS boards are made from less toxic materials.

A young surfer boy in a wetsuit stretching on the beach with a surfing board

2. Wear eco-friendly wetsuits

Wetsuits can also cause environmental contamination, especially those that are made from neoprene. Neoprene is a non-biodegradable material that is a synthetic product of petroleum. Apart from its environmental impact, neoprene can also cause allergic reactions for users.

So, when shopping for wetsuits, be on the lookout for those made of plant-based materials or chlorine-free rubber. One notable plant-based rubber is called Yulex and Billabong has some options like this one.

For wetsuits that are already for retirement, consider upcycling or repurposing them. Give it as a gift to someone, especially for wetsuits that have been properly stored.

Old wetsuits can also be turned into other items like phone pouches, tablet covers, or even yoga mats.

3. Buy eco-friendly wax.

Surf wax is a necessity for any surfer, whether just starting out or already a pro. The most common ingredient in surf wax is paraffin which is a toxic petroleum by-product.

These kinds of chemical by-products are not only harmful to the water; they can also end up in landfills. They can likewise post a threat to marine ecosystems and cause damage to reefs.

Consider switching to surf wax brands that use organic ingredients such as beeswax or soy wax. Check out the Sexwax from Mr. Zogs as an eco-friendly alternative. It even comes in a recyclable paperboard box that can be reused for leftover wax.

4. Only use reef-safe sunscreen.

You’ve probably heard it before – yes, sunscreen can contaminate the water. That is why it is important to look for eco-friendly alternatives. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are the two common ingredients in sunscreen, both of which are harmful to marine life.

These toxic chemicals can also cause damage to coral reefs over time. So, when shopping for an alternative sunscreen, it’s best to look for the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

These are effective in protecting the skin from harmful sunlight but are not necessarily harmful to marine life. Observe the packaging too, and pick those that are made of recycled materials or plant-based materials that are compostable.

Check out this Sensitive Sunscreen from Feel Good. It is not only reef-safe but also suitable for sensitive skin because it’s gentle and fragrance-free.

5. Consider clothes made of sustainable fabrics.

For casual clothes before or after a ride, consider those that are made of natural fabrics. Look out for these shirts, shorts, or dresses that are made of the following plant-based fibres:

  • Organic linen
  • Organic cotton
  • Recycle cotton
  • Organic hemp
  • Organic bamboo

For semi-synthetic fabrics, go for clothes that are made out of modal, bamboo lyocell, or regular lyocell. Here’s a cute women’s overall made out of 100% lyocell. Going for a relaxed and casual look? Consider this graphic t-shirt made of 50% recycled cotton and 50% organic cotton.

Natural hemp yarn, indio dyed hemp thread, organic hemp product of Thailand

Find your surfing boards, gears, and accessories at Slimes Newcastle

We have been operating for over 10 years, and we offer a wide range of eco-friendly options for your next surfing session. We value the importance of preserving our environment, which is why we also carry brands that have their own conservation efforts.

Visit us at our physical store in Newcastle or visit our website to browse our catalogue. You may also call 02 496 13088 or email your enquiries to

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