4 minutes to read

Waves of change: Polyola and the quest for sustainable surfing

Surfers share an unbreakable bond with the ocean, a profound connection rooted in the exhilaration of riding waves and the awe-inspiring beauty of the marine environment. Yet, within the realm of this passionate pursuit lies a dissonance that cannot be ignored—the materials and practices employed by the surf industry pose a threat to the very ocean that surfers hold dear. As surfers traverse the waves, they become acutely aware of the fragile balance between their love for the ocean and the environmental consequences of their sport.

The surf industry, like many others, grapples with the challenge of sustainability. Certain manufacturing processes, transportation emissions, and plastic consumption leave an indelible mark on the health of our marine ecosystems. Surfboards often contain materials like polyurethane foam and fiberglass, whose production contributes significantly to the industry's carbon footprint. The resulting emissions and waste impact climate change and degrade the ocean which serves as surfers' playground.

Moreover, the pervasive use of single-use plastics within the surf industry adds to the mounting crisis of plastic pollution. Wax packaging, water bottles, and food containers find their way into the ocean, endangering marine life and tarnishing the very environment that surfers hold sacred. The alluring surf spots that gather wave enthusiasts also face the consequences of coastal development, leading to erosion, habitat destruction, and disturbance of natural ecosystems.

But amidst these challenges, companies like Polyola—a sustainable surfboard brand–are pioneering change within the industry. Their dedication to minimizing environmental impact, from the materials they use to their commitment to recycling and conservation, embodies a surf ethos that embraces responsibility and stewardship of the ocean. Polyola is reimagining the connection between surfers and their boards, demonstrating that a love for the ocean can and must coexist with sustainable practices.


Fotografia concessa da Polyola

While on a trip to Portugal almost six years ago, Polyola founders Daniel Guntschnig and Aristide Schöndienst noticed too many things they didn’t like—the water was polluted and the beach was covered in litter. The horrible conditions of what should have been a surfer’s paradise made them realize that also their beloved surfboards lacked sustainability. They had to find a solution.
Galvanized by the experience, they began analyzing the materials inside the surf box to better understand manufacturing processes and acquire the necessary knowledge to shake things up. The answer sat within the surfboard itself.

“If you want to change something on a bigger scale, we thought, we needed to find a scalable solution that could be applicable across the industry and not only ourselves,” says Daniel. “The first thing that came to mind was wooden surfboards, but it’s not the same. They are beautiful, but manufacturing is super tedious.” he continues.

Fotografia concessa da Polyola

With wood out of the picture, they needed to come up with a plan that would allow them to combine innovation and efficiency: they had to reform the way polyurethane was made.

Many initial ideas were at play but eventually, they found the right partners to develop low-input products made with recycled and recyclable materials and also provide an end-of-life solution for them. In 2020, they founded Polyola. 

polyola_for-shapers Fotografia concessa da Polyola

After a few trial and error attempts, they finally brought their first product to life: a surf box core made of 38% recycled polyurethane engineered in a way that makes it possible to be reclaimed over and over. But their commitment doesn’t stop at the core, they are currently working to develop a special resin made of 70% renewable content. 

Serving mostly professional manufacturers and a few artisanal workshops, for the past five years, Daniel and his team have been looking to fix the issue at the root by getting their product out to the world—and since they have yet to invent the time machine to go back to when pollution wasn’t a thing, the only way forward is to continue investing in brands like theirs who put the wellbeing of the Ocean at the forefront of their business.


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