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A team from The University of California, San Diego have built what they hope will be the world’s most environmentally friendly surfboard constructed from an algae-based material.

The surfboard was unveiled and presented to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at San Diego Symphony Hall.

Most people don’t realize that petroleum is algae oil

“Our hope is that Mayor Faulconer will put this surfboard in his office so everyone can see how San Diego is a hub not only for innovation, but also for collaboration at many different levels,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology and algae geneticist at UC San Diego.

Marty Gilchrist of Arctic Foam, champion surfer Rob Machado and Steve Mayfield of Cal-CAB present San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (second from left), with an algae-based surf board.

Marty Gilchrist of Arctic Foam – the largest blank builder in North America, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, champion surfer Rob Machado and Steve Mayfield at the presentation

Mayfield, a surfing graduate of 45 years, has been working with biology students making biofuels from algae. They then worked with chemistry students who were trying to work out how to make polyurethane foam from algae oil. Today a polyurethane surfboard foam is made entirely from petroleum products.

“Most people don’t realize that petroleum is algae oil,” Mayfield explained. “It’s just fossilized, 300 million to 400 million years old and buried deep in underground.”

The core of the board is made from the algae, but it is pure white and nearly indistinguishable from most petroleum-based surfboards – this is due to the algae oil being perfectly clear like a soybean oil.

Mayfield, like many surfers, released that often the sport was a contradiction – using the ocean as our playground, but building boards from some seriously toxic chemicals.

“As surfers more than any other sport, you are totally connected and immersed in the ocean environment,” Mayfield stated, “And yet your connection to that environment is through a piece of plastic made from fossil fuels.”

“This shows that we can still enjoy the ocean, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way” he added.

Algae Surfboard

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