Surfers have a connection with the natural world that many of us never get to experience; their joy depends on the movements of the ocean. They have to respect the water, or they will be dangerous repercussions. So it’s more than a little incongruous that surfers practice their craft on boards made from petroleum-based plastic.
A group of undergraduate biology students at UC San Diego (of course) decided it was time for a change. Their creation: a surfboard made from algae.
Instead of using petroleum to make the surfboard’s polyurethane foam, they teamed up with biotech company Solazyme to come up with a pure, high-quality algae oil that would make for a good replacement. Then the students worked with Arctic Foam, the biggest manufacturer of surfboard blanks (the material blocks that make up a surfboard) in the U.S. to make the algae-based polyurethane core. Arctic Foam coated the finished product with renewable resin and fiberglass.
And voila, they had a surfboard made from algae.
“It was an interactive process. It’s good example of what you can do with oils,” says Tyler Painter, Solazyme’s CFO and COO. “In this case, exciting to have it not just be in a lab, but to be able to have a professional surfer out there on the board.” Solazyme has worked on high-performance sporting gear in the past, but the company won’t disclose specifics.
There are no concrete plans yet for a widespread rollout of the surfboard, but Painter says that he believes it would be competitively priced compared to other boards on the market. But first, Arctic Foam hopes to give the algae-based surfboards to professional surfers for testing in the near future.