The What’s in Your Board exhibit at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, CA explores the concept of sustainability – Past, Present and Future – through the lens of global surf culture.

Go ahead, take a look around, and take your time too…this exhibit isn’t your usual shallow-end of the pool celebration of surf culture. Take a deep dive in and explore the roots of the Polynesian culture that invented (and perfected) the act of surfing, and the post-war material technology boom (and radical cultural shifts) that brought surfing to the masses. Come get hands-on with the new greener materials and chemistry (and “Bluer” attitudes) that could transform the surfing lifestyle into a more sustainable and “mo betta” path for dealing with the world’s environmental and social challenges, popping up like a big set on the horizon.
Enjoy the ride!
Michael Stewart
Co founder – Sustainable Surf


A special note by Scott Hulet, Editor of The Surfer’s Journal:

It’s become axiomatic that surfers are conservative beasts. While that fact might surprise Middle America, your shaper will confirm it in an instant.
Consider your next board. The first thing you’ll probably concern yourself with is length. You’ll likely have an idea of how you want it finned, so next you’ll conjure a tail template and maybe color. Finer points of volume will be rapped out on the day it gets shaped.

Left unstudied? How about the very basis of construction? How about the materials themselves? A sentence you’ve never heard uttered in a surf shop, at a glassing factory, or on the beach: “Is this board sustainably constructed?”

Given our greater cultural awareness of finite resources, environmental considerations, and best practices, you’d think it would be a common refrain in the surf sphere. But almost never uttered?

That was the basis for my editorial interest in the topic of sustainable surfing. I was hoping to have questions answered regarding past equipment, current iterations, and future possibilities. I suspected that our readers would like to know how close we are to the intersecting lines of performance and responsibility. One measure of that would be on the world stage. Are we nearing the time when recycled materials are used in the boards of the WCT pros? (Answer: coming soon.) How about the “shapeability” of recycled material cores—ready for prime time? (Answer: depends on whom you ask.) How about cost: are the barriers of owning a sustainably sourced board reaching some sort of parity (Answer: not quite yet.)

While such questions were mere editorial touch points for a surf magazine’s interests, they are at the gravitational center for Michael Stewart and Kevin Whilden of Sustainable Surf. That organization, the TSJ article, and this groundbreaking show here at the SHACC might well mark a beachhead of sorts.

Like the article, the show establishes a history of surfboard materials. Don’t expect many surprises here. As with all other facets of the human experience, the surfboard “industry” underwent a massive shift with the advent of petrochemicals and the plastics they enabled. Where the jump from wood to foam-and-glass is concerned, we essentially never went back.

The current landscape of environmentally aware materials feels as if we’re on a cusp. Recycled foam from broken and discarded surfboards; cores blown from sugar; the use of cork and bamboo fasciae…all point to a heavy supply-side push for cleaner, more responsible wave tools. But the supply side can only do so much. That’s how this show can help propel us forward. Once we become aware of the options, both extant and in development, things start getting real. And what would be more real than a human-powered endeavor that leaves no trace—on a surfboard that does the same?

Scott Hulet
The Surfer’s Journal