Surfers are some of the most ardent environmentalists, yet the sport is awash in petrochemicals and carcinogens, from neoprene wetsuits and urethane leashes to polyurethane boards and epoxy. Danny Hess thinks there’s a better way, and he’s made bringing sustainability to surfing his life’s work.
The 37-year-old surfboard shaper is making waves in the $7 billion surfing industry with his adoption of salvaged wood, natural finishes and organic resins. Hess wants to transform how surfboards are made — and how they’re used. His boards are built to last, an anomaly in a sport where surfers might trash a board or two every season.
“What I’m trying to do is build heirloom surfboards that are passed on from father to son over many generations, rather than these disposable things that we’re just consuming,” Hess says. “The idea is that you just buy one and take care of it and hopefully you don’t have to come back and buy another surfboard.”
His work as a contractor provided a solid foundation for his work as a surfboard shaper. “One day I had this “aha” moment where I realized I could create these molds, like the ones I was using to bend wood for cabinet doors, for surfboards,” Hess says.
Wood surfboards are nothing new, of course. Boards have long been made of wood and natural oils, and some surfers have never ridden anything else. But polyurethane has been the standard for half a century, mostly because it is cheaper, lighter and easier to use than wood.
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