How we make Eco-surfboards happen
As we explained in details in our last article (check it here!) there are lots of challenges to tackle when it comes to make surfboards more eco-friendly on their whole lifecycle, from the raw material to the product end of life, including distribution.
At HEXA Surfboard our mission is to lead boardsports towards technical and environmental excellence. This is why we totally rethink the production and distribution of surfboards to match our values, that we believe are massively shared among surfers.
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What is eco-design?
Eco-design is a design approach having special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product within its whole lifecycle. It means that from the raw material sourcing to its end of life, including the construction process and the distribution, every aspect of a the lifecycle is thought in order to minimize the overall impact of a given product.
At HEXA Surfboard, we are trying to integrate this design process for our surfboards to reflect our state of mind and values towards future generations. However we strongly believe that eco-design should never come at the expense of performance. Indeed, if we want eco-design to become the norm and lastingly change our habits, eco-surfboards should be as high-performance as more traditional boards.
Since we believe it is necessary to always re-question ourselves and push the limits of science and technical progress, we attach a great importance to our internal Research and Development (R&D).
Let's browse our eco-surfboards lifecycle to understand where we can act.
Cleaner materials are key to make cleaner surfboards. We are committed to keep on improving and exploring new materials to meet our ideal standards.
This includes the raw materials themselves but also their sourcing, which we want to be local. We try to collaborate as much as possible with the committed actors of the regions in which we produce our surfboards.
The honeycomb core structure of a HEXA Surfboard is today made out of bio-based plastic. Commonly called PLA, this bio-based plastic is produced by the polymerization of fermented corn starch.
But our true goal is to use recycled plastics from the waste polluting our oceans. Several companies are developing technologies and processes to collect, sort and extrude (make a usable form out of melted plastic) plastics that can have a second life (a few great projects to follow: Precious Plastic - Resak, Plastic Odyssey, I Clean My Sea, 4Ocean). As a first step, we are working on extruding shredded recycled plastic bottles (made out of PET) collected locally.
For glassing, we use a Made in France bio-epoxy. Certified with the ECOBOARD Project Gold Level, this bio-resin best conciles eco-responsibility with performance properties. This bio-resin is applied on a few fiberglass layers, that we wish to replace at a time.
If using a bio-resin could reduce between 30 and 50%* of the carbon emissions produced in a surfboard lifecycle, we are very aware that it still is a substantial limiting factor of the surfboard eco-responsibility. Because thermosetting composites are by definition non-recyclable, we are actively implementing our R&D to reduce the amount of resin used.
*La Green Session ACV, https://www.lagreensession.com/planche-de-surf-ecologique/
3D-printing is not only a great technological way to make a precise high performance design come true. It is also a great asset in terms of eco-design.
First, it produces much less waste. We indeed use a 3D-printing technology called FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), which is an additive technology: it is the superposition of material layers that make our product, nothing is to be "removed". Besides, our honeycomb core design aims to maximise the resistance of the structure in relation to the amount of materials used. By using just the necessary amount of material, there is no toxic nor unused loss as there are in a more classical manufacture.
Secondly, 3D-printers can be used with a large variety of materials, which means for us with more eco-responsible material.
Finally, 3D-printing allows us to make completely tailor-made surfboards, computed online with simple measurements and feeling inputs. The high level of personalization, that makes our surfboards unique and adapted to the surfer, is a key element for their environmental impact. Regarding the usage, they answers the surfer's actual needs but also his future needs in terms of technical progression. A better adapted surfboard has indirectly a lighter impact on the environment since it will suit you longer. And since our surfboards are tailor-made, there is neither stock nor over-production. Finally, 3D-printing allows us to build more durable and repairable surfboard designs.
We are aware that the process of 3D-printing a surfboard consumes energy, it is therefore important to ensure that the amount of electricity used has less impact than the classical steps of surfboard manufacture. Since we have an overview on all our production steps, we can optimize each of them in terms of energy and waste.
More specifically, we work on optimizing the printing time of a surfboard to minimize our energy consumption, at two levels. The first level is to physically optimize our printers in terms of mechanics to improve our printing speed. Indeed, speeding up the printing process means producing more surfboards with the same amount of energy. And the second level is to numerically optimize the file defining the movements of the printer to build a surfboard.
Local production and desintermediation
We are committed to work hand-in-hand with local actors and suppliers, in order to participate in the economical development of the regions we are located in, and to limit our carbon emissions.
It goes from the local sourcing of our raw materials to the collaboration with the actors innovating in the boardsport industry of the region.
Our manufacturing and distribution model revolves around our own local micro-factories. A micro-factory gathers everything necessary to produce a whole surfboard in a single place : from the 3D-printers to the cozy showroom, including the shape workshop. We locate them near main surf spots to limit transportation and to allow our community to come and visit our factories during their surf trips if they want to.
This desintermediation allows us to have an overview of all the production processes, but also to limit the waste and carbon emissions usually generated by all the intermediaries of a more classical supply chain. It also enables us to directly deal with our customers and thus hear their needs and demands.
Durability and Product end-of life
What is fundamental in an eco-design process is not to forget the usage and the end-of-life of the product. Particularly the durability of an eco-design product.
The first axis of our surfboards durability is the adequation it has with its owner. Indeed, a perfectly adapted surfboard (precisely tailor-made thanks to 3D-printing) has more chance to be used properly and longer than a surfboard more randomly shaped.
Furthermore, our surfboards last longer. Thanks to their design structure and materials, they are more solid ; but they are also easily repairable because of their hollow structure. If a ding has caused water infiltration inside the board, our simple valve system allows to quickly empty the board and recoat the hole in a few minutes. Because there is no foam inside, no need to heat-dry the core before repairing it.
Finally, the core of our surfboards is recyclable! If your surfboard is strongly damaged, we are committed to recover the materials inside it to recycle the plastic and create new surfboards.
How to be an eco-surfer?
We strongly believe that surfers are the best climate and oceans ambassadors. This is why we want to gather an authentic community of passionate surfers, which is eager to change the game of eco-surfboards. By sharing tips and nourrish our common values, we can only become better in our path towards a positive future.
Because knowledge is a key entry to be more awoken about our environment and our ways of consumption, we believe it is crucial to transparently describe and openly share facts and improvement axis to be tackled. It should not be about what brands have to say but what we as surfers need to know to minimize our impact.
And since sharing is caring, we recommend you to check the great advices given by the WSL Pure, on how to better protect our coasts, our climate, or prevent the plastic pollution in our oceans. #Stoptrashingwaves
You can also share with a surfer you care about, our last article about how more classical surfboards are made.
If you are a French speaker, we also recommend you the useful newsletter of the Green Session to get inspired with substantive advices on a weekly basis.
Stay tuned for our future advices to get closer to become an eco-rider.