Surfers may soon watch their old boards ride the wave of the concrete industry's future. The remains of beat-up boards will be ground and entombed in concrete, saving contractors money on aggregate and preventing toxic foam from languishing in landfills.
Solana Beach-based ReRip and green architecture and engineering firm KV Company Inc. are partnering to make the project a reality. ReRip was created in 2007 to find ways of lessening surfers' impact on the environment, said co-founder Meghan Dambacher.
"Surfboards are probably one of the most damaging things for the ecosystem," Dambacher said.
The company allows surfers to post their surfboards on its Web site for resale and reuse. When gear becomes unsalvageable, ReRip collects the boards and puts them to more creative use, such as concrete. Solana Beach lifeguards have jumped on board, agreeing to collect dented and broken boards for ReRip.
"The guys there are all stoked on what's going on," Dambacher said.
Over the past few months, KV has been experimenting with concrete and foam mixtures concocted with surfboards donated to ReRip. Thus far research and development has yielded light-weight concrete that can be used for landscaping and sidewalks, said Sarkis Vartanian, who is heading up the project for KV.
Composed of approximately 30 percent foam, the material is more pliable than conventional concrete and has the potential to hold up better in earthquakes. However, because the concrete is so new, its longevity and resistance to high temperatures is not yet known, Vartanian said.
One major challenge in mixing surfboard foam into concrete is the material's buoyancy. One way of holding the foam inside of the block involves sandwiching it between two layers of wire. It is also possible to anchor the foam by patting it down on poured concrete and after the first layer has dried, topping it with another.
KV has already sold a small quantity of the concrete to pave driveways and landscaping at two of the company's projects in Temecula and Santa Monica. The company also plans to use the material to create outdoor furniture for La Tierra de la Culebra Park in Los Angeles.
Some examples of the concrete are available at HomeBlown, a San Diego-based company that manufactures Biofoam flats for shaping surfboards. Biofoam is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional surfboard flats, using soy to make polyurethane rather than petroleum, said owner Ned McMahon. HomeBlown sees the concrete project as another way to reduce the impact of surfboards on the environment.
"As a manufacturer we can't just make the foam and not be concerned about the impact," McMahon said.
Although surfboard foam is a promising addition to concrete, it is unlikely to resolve the county's aggregate shortage, McMahon said.
"The surfboard industry is frankly too small," McMahon said.
KV's immediate plans include experimenting with incorporating ski and snowboard equipment, which ReRip also collects. Long-term goals include mixing in foam cups and plates, which are more widely available, Vartanian said.
The company is hopeful future research and development will yield concrete that meets standards for structural walls, highways, bridges and potentially even asphalt. If such materials are produced, the KV plans to sell it to other companies and manufacturers, Vartanian said.
"Our goal is to be able to incorporate any type of foam to prevent it ending up in the landfill," Vartanian said.
Words: Monica Unhold, The San Diego Daily Transcript