I currently build 2 styles of surfboard. The first is an epoxy composite style board and the second a full blown "glassless" eco surfboard.
1. EPOXY COMPOSITE BOARD
Epoxy resin is not new to the market by any means but in recent years the quality of these resins has improved dramatically. In stark contrast to Polyurethane (PU) resins on mainstream boards, epoxy is lighter, stronger, has better flex characteristics, is easier to work with and comes in a range of variety including bio plant-based resins. In addition, epoxy resins are not carcinogenic like their PU counterparts. While care still needs to be exercised when working with epoxy, many epoxies now can be cleaned up with natural liquids like vinegar, as opposed to acetone which can also be very hazardous to one’s health.
In addition to using epoxy resin, I chose to build my boards from EPS and XPS (polystyrene) foam. Although creating EPS/XPS foam is a chemical process, the fact that it is recyclable helped make it the right choice for me. Ultimately, there are better foams out there like those created from bio materials such as mushroom fungus, however until they are commercially viable and available, EPS/XPS suits my needs the best.
Lastly, in my mind, a “greener” surfboard would not be complete without using some sort of timber. From my hollow timber building days I found Paulownia to be the best board building timber by far. Not only is it extremely strong, it is very light, easy to work and resistant to moisture and mould. Through numerous tests, I found that vacuum bagging a veneer of paulownia skin to the deck created an extremely strong board that does not require a centre stringer. Not only does this technique give a huge amount of strength to the board it also aids greatly in preventing deck depressions.
The combination of EPS foam, vacuum bagged paulownia skin, multiple layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin result in a board that is not only extremely strong but is also very light. Most boards up to 6ft in length are under 3kg in weight. I have had these boards tested in a variety of conditions from long reeling point breaks, to heaving Samoan reef-breaks as well as a variety of beach-break conditions. These boards have stood up to everything we have dished out to them yet after many hours of riding look as good as the day they were made.
2. ECO "GLASSLESS" SURFBOARD
The second style of board I build is about as green as you can get in surfboard building. The boards start with an XPS (waterproof) foam core however is fully clad with a Paulownia wood skin. This creates a super strong yet lightweight board that easily stands up to its glassed alternatives with respect to performance.
The xps core is great because even in the unlikely event you ding it you can just keep surfing as no water will penetrate the exposed foam. This therfore makes them great as a travel board as the airlines will have a very tough time trying to damage one of these boards and even if they succeed you can still surf it.
These boards (though similar in weight) do feel a little different from their glassed counterparts however once you get used to the feeling you'll fall in love with this type of board. Boards can have a paulownia or cork deck and finished in either lanolin or aquacote. Dings can easily be repaired by anyone with little or no skills.