Unless you're riding a wooden surfboard, there's no getting around the fact that the deck under your feet is probably an environmental nightmare. Sure, there are more environmentally friendly materials out there now than there were 15 years ago, but your board is still likely to be petrochemical-derived foam encased in fiberglass.
So while it may lose its response in time, get dinged up, and fade in color, but it's not biodegrading any time soon—even on geologic timescales. That's why Ecovative Design's new Mushroom Surfboard blanks are really an exciting thing.
After first being announced as being in development a bit less than a year ago, these new blanks are ready for public showing, making their debut at The Boardroom Show, in Costa Mesa, California on October 5th. They're based on Myco Foam technology first developed in 2007, which uses shroom-based materials for its structure.
The blanks, which are entirely biodegradable, are made from a material that is grown from agricultural waste, such as plant stalks and seed husks, and mycelium ("the vegetative growth stage of a mushroom," as Ecovative puts it). The video above shows the production process, along with how it can be applied to home insulation.
As of late, mushroom materials have really taken off, with Ecovative using fungi as a living plastic. In 2011, Motherboard paid them a visit right as their myco-materials were really taking off. But beyond building materials, it's clear the company is trying to show its materials can be used just about anywhere.
Unlike conventional surfboard blanks, the Mushroom Surfboard blanks are grown to a near-final shape, rather than a rectangular blank which has to be cut away to form the board's shape. They also can be grown to various stiffnesses, "to give surfers the options they desire."
It's all a definite environmental improvement over conventional foam blanks from a materials perspective. But to make inroads with shapers—Ecovative says none of these blanks has actually been made into a finished board yet, which is an important point—these blanks will have to be either made into rougher shapes to be cut and sanded back, similar to other blanks, or offered in a great variety of outlines, rockers, and concaves. And while surfers are generally a pretty enviro-minded bunch, it'll take some serious performance and durability testing before Ecovative's offering takes off.
Part of the performance, art, creativity, and joy of getting a custom surfboard made is fine tuning the shape to exactly what you are looking for, rather than some stock shape. Custom boards are made with particular riders and particular breaks in mind. The variables are endless, even if they fall into broad categories of similarity.
For Ecovative to get serious surfers to buy into shroom boards, the company will have to prove that they can perform, and then offer surfers plenty of options to match their styles. Creating blanks with a less finished outline would fit in more easily with existing surf culture, and allow the level of customization that custom-shaped surfboard customers expect—as well as give shapers the opportunity to keep things traditional. It would also mean more waste in the shaping process than the current demo blanks, but it's probably a worthwhile compromise in order to get renewable blanks out into the water.