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Publié le 06/05/2015, by : Jean Révé

A surfboard made from algae

The first sustainable surfboard in the world, shaped with algae oil...

Is the era of ultra clean boards, toxic materials finally over ?
It has always seemed strange that pure chemical materials could have been associated with a sport synonymous of natural elements like water, air, sun, and that the researchers have only looked back on the subject recently. So much funding is regularly spent on shallower subjects. Regarding the development of water sports and easy access to the ocean, choose to ride an ecological board will, hopefully, become a clear criterion in the future.

As such, americans first concerned by the issue, are looking at the subject and research many solutions. US students in chemistry and biology from the University of California San Diego (famous UCSD) come to develop the first sustainable surf board in the world, built based on algae oil.




Since last years, students of this famous university are working on the search for innovative and sustainable solutions to the environmental problems of the planet, starting in California, pool of surfing world. It took also time to find financial partnerships with the region's surf industry to develop the global project.

Its launch was announced on April 21 2015, a day before the World Day of the Earth, at the San Diego Symphony Hall, during the screening of the documentary "World's Smart Cities : San Diego" produced by National Geographic Channel (NGC), which deals with technology, talent and innovation to create a new urban environment, so that San Diego, the eighth largest city in the US "and surfing paradise, emerge as a leading city on these important topics.












To sit the launch, they needed famous sponsors. Stephen Mayfield, cool surfer for nearly 50 years, a biology professor and geneticist from the algae at the University of San Diego, convinced North America's largest designer surfboards, Arctic Foam to work with him and to present this unique board project to the mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, dynamic character and very concerned by marine environmental problems, and also recruted Rob Machado, classic figure of the surf scene and hard defender of the blue planet.






"We are convinced that our mayor will use this symbol of inovation and collaboration, as a message to the younger generation," said Stephen Mayfield. Professor led the overall work and designing of this board and argue "A surfboard made from algae goes in the perfect sense of the spirit of the surfing community, San Diego youth and their total connection with the ocean and surfing."

Passionate researchers students

The project was initiated several months ago at the University of San Diego. It is the result of a long work in the laboratory of Michael Burkart, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Robert "Skip" Pomeroy, a professor of chemistry. A handful of students in biology start to work on the production of biofuels from algae, all responsible for solving the problem of creating a polyurethane foam core comprised of oils algae. The challenge was to stop the major problem of the construction of polyurethane surfboards, today all exclusively coming from petroleum.

"The amazing thing is that no one will imagine that petrol oil is made from algae oil that has just been fossilized between 300 and 400 million years ago and buried deep under the ground." Mayfield says with a wink look.

But the process does not happen as simply. It was first necessary to study in laboratory the different chemical processes that would change the oil obtained, so that it turn into several types of "polyols".
Then mix with a catalyst and silicates, in the correct proportions, as these polyols are developing a type of substance "foam" that cures the polyurethane and can then form the core of the surfboard.

Mayfield, who heads the California UC San Diego Research Center for Algae Biotechnology, or "Cal-CAB," appealed to Solazyme Inc, a California company specializing in biotechnology and which produce oil and renewable and sustainable ingredients.
It provided them with 1 gallon of precious nectar in order to give birth to the first surfboard made from algae, but white colored. Then, Arctic Foam, specialist boards manufacturer had to take control of the process, coating layers of fiber glass and resin renewable kernel shape.

Like the soybean oil or safflower oil, both light-colored, algae oil is pure white and indistinguishable from the boards made from petrol oil.
"Marketing takes over and simply in the future we'll add some green algae in the mix to play on the sustainable side" explain the project partners.
"But the ideal would be that there would be ultimately no more boards from petrol oil and it should seems normal to have a clean environmentally board, without having to justify it by a symbolic green color".


New Surf Generation !

We now have faced for too long to the terrible contradiction of a relationship with the environment of the ocean and possession of petroleum made surfboards. "Psychologically difficult to tolerate that our connection with that healthy natural environment is done through a piece of plastic created from fossil fuels that generate a whole perverse and destructive system, add to the benefit of companies that don't care of the consequences."
To know and feel that the board we use, comes from a renewable and sustainable resource is a relief, and will help to avoid surfboards cemeteries made with material derived from petroleum.
"The ideal would be to come quickly to achieve 100% of the manufacturing process of the surfboard on such mechanisms - the fiberglass one day will also come from renewable resources, and the outer resin that produces heavy polluting effects. "

"This shows that although many surfers live in cities, in the heart of modern centers, not always very ecological, they develop an awareness and respect for the environment in general, and especially the marine environment already suffering from too much pain inflicted by men " concluded Mayfield philosophically.




About the author
Jean Révé

Jean Révé

Working for several years in tourism in France and abroad, Jean-Hervé Cristol (aka Jean Révé) also has a large number of kilometer mark traveling around Planet Surf  in search of endless summer waves.
In 2004 he created Destination Surf, the first agency specialized in Surf Travel , then Endless Summer a blog with tips, info and travel stories, in order to enjoy and share this rewarding experience with all surf travelers. → Learn more

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