Arctic Foam and scientists from the University of California, San Diego Produce Algae-Based Sustainable Surfboard

Board to be presented to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in celebration of Earth Day 2015

Arctic Foam, the leading polyurethane surfboard blanks manufacturer, announces its collaboration with UC San Diego’s California Center for Algae Biotechnology (Cal-CAB) to produce the world’s first algae-based poly surfboard.

“Three years ago Arctic Foam made the commitment to be leaders in the industry in pursuing not only sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to replacing petrochemicals in the surfboard building process, but to do so with the goal of mimicking the high performance characteristics of WSL championship-winning polyurethane and EPS surfboards. Just as important, we needed to meet that goal with blanks and boards that would not be so exotic as to be out of the reach of the average surfer’s budget. In this partnership with UC San Diego, we’ve taken the first step,” said Arctic Foam CEO, Jose Lozano. “I also want to say thanks and give a big shout out to Solazyme up in the Bay Area, who have been more than generous in providing us with the algae oil we’ve used to test this concept.”

“What we’ve got cooking for the next phase will take us even closer to a fully “green” surfboard well within our most ambitious time frame,” Lozano added.

“I’m really excited to be able to work with Arctic Foam Oceanside and see them break new ground in eco-construction for surfboards,” said leading North Shore shaper, Jon Pyzel. “Algae could very possibly change the core of what we are making and let us move forward in a more sustainable way towards a greener future for the surfboard industry.”

Marty Gilchrist, Arctic Foam’s head of business development, said “We’re proud to announce our collaboration with UC San Diego in producing the first poly blanks made out of 100% sustainable algae oil.  We’ve been amazed at what we’ve been able to get done with Steve Mayfield, Mike Burkart and Skip Pomeroy at UC San Diego. Almost from the first blank out of the mold we were seeing the kinds of density, cell structure, flex, torsion and “shapability” we demand from our top-of-the-line P/U blanks. On top of that, we were able to keep to the aesthetics of our current line-up…avoiding blanks that look like something made out of lawn clippings. Our next step is to fine tune the formula and test the foam under the feet of the best surfers in the world.  Stay tuned…more to come!”

“Polyurethane foam derived from algae feedstocks will make a more “ocean-friendly” surfboard blank with a reduced carbon footprint. This is a dramatic advance for polyurethane foam and will accelerate the sustainable transformation of the surfboard industry. We are in the process of testing the Arctic Algae blanks for possible inclusion in the ECOBOARD Project Benchmark.” said Kevin Whilden
Co-Founder of Sustainable Surf.

Cal-CAB is leading the way towards innovative and sustainable solutions to the world’s environmental problems. The surfboard will be unveiled and presented to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at a public event on April 21, just before Earth Day, at San Diego Symphony Hall. Mayor Faulconer will host the premiere of National Geographic’s “World’s Smart Cities: San Diego” a documentary film featuring innovations from UC San Diego and other regional innovators, scheduled to air Saturday, April 25 on the National Geographic Channel.

For more information contact: Marty Gilchrist     +1 (760) 721-5100



Media Contact: Kim McDonald (858) 534-7572,
Comment: Stephen Mayfield (858) 822-7743,

UC San Diego Scientists Produce Algae-Based Sustainable Surfboard

Board to be presented to Mayor Kevin Faulconer before Earth Day

UC San Diego’s efforts to produce innovative and sustainable solutions to the world’s environmental problems has resulted in a partnership with the region’s surfing industry to create the world’s first algae-based, sustainable surfboard.

The surfboard will be publicly unveiled and presented to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer Tuesday evening, just before Earth Day, at the San Diego Symphony Hall, where the Mayor will host the premiere of the National Geographic “World’s Smart Cities: San Diego” documentary. The documentary, which features innovations from UC San Diego and others in the region, is scheduled to air Saturday, April 25 on the National Geographic Channel.

Journalists who wish to attend the event, which will showcase the surfboard as well as other innovations San Diegans have made toprepare the city for a sustainable future, should contact Darren Pudgil at 619-301-2884 Journalists will have an opportunity to interview Mayor Faulconer and the developers of the surfboard as well as photograph the surfboard after the event.

“Our hope is that Mayor Faulconer will put this surfboard in his office right behind his desk so everyone who comes to San Diego can see how San Diego is a hub not only for innovation, but collaboration at many different levels that allowed us to make something like an algae-based surfboard,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology and algae geneticist at UC San Diego who headed the effort to produce the surfboard. “It perfectly fits with the community and our connection with the ocean and surfing. And it also shows the biotechnology and innovation that we can bring to bear here in San Diego in a very collaborative way.”

Mayfield, an avid surfer for the past 45 years; Cardiff professional surfer Rob Machado, and Marty Gilchrist of Arctic Foam, an Oceanside, CA company that is the largest surfboard blank manufacturer in North America and that produced the algae-based polyurethane foam core and glassed the board, will present the board to Mayor Faulconer.

The project began several months ago at UC San Diego when undergraduate biology students working in Mayfield’s laboratory to produce biofuels from algae joined a group of undergraduate chemistry students to solve a basic chemistry problem: how to make the precursor of the polyurethane foam core of a surfboard from algae oil. Polyurethane surfboards today are made exclusively from petroleum.

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

Students from the laboratories of Michael Burkart, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Robert “Skip” Pomeroy, a chemistry

instructor who helps students recycle waste oil into a biodiesel that powers some UC San Diego buses, first determined how to chemically change the oil obtained from laboratory algae into different kinds of “polyols.” Mixed with a catalyst and silicates in the right proportions, these polyols expand into a foam-like substance that hardens into the polyurethane that forms a surfboard’s core.

To obtain additional high-quality algae oil, Mayfield, who directs a research entity at UC San Diego called the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, or “Cal-CAB,” a state-wide collaboration of academic and biotech scientists working on algae, called on Solazyme, Inc., a California-based biotech that produces renewable, sustainable oils and ingredients, to see if the company could supply a gallon of algae oil to make the world’s first algae-based surfboard blank. Solazyme agreed and after some clever chemistry at UC San Diego, Arctic Foam successfully produced and shaped the surfboard core at its factory in Ensenada, Mexico, then brought the shaped blank to its headquarters in Oceanside to be glassed with a coat of fiberglass and renewable resin.

Although the board’s core is made from algae, it is pure white and indistinguishable from most plain petroleum-based surfboards. That’s because the oil from algae, like soybean or safflower oils, is clear.

“In the future, we could make the algae surfboards green by adding a little color from the green algae to showcase their sustainability,” said Mayfield. “But right now we wanted to make it as close as we could to the real thing.”

Besides a UC San Diego logo, the board bears logos from Arctic Foam, Solazyme, Cal-CAB, the U.S. Department of Energy, which funds Mayfield’s research through its Bioenergy Technologies Office, and the Biofuels Action Awareness Network, the UC San Diego student organization that help produces the polyols from the algae oil.

“The great thing about this project is that it could only be accomplished by all of these groups working together; none of them could have done this on their own,” said Mayfield. “We as biologists can produce the algae oil, but then we need the chemists to convert that into polyols, then we needed the surfboard companies to blow that into foam and shape the boards. We needed Solazyme, the big commercial algae company, to give us enough oil so we could do this at a commercial scale.”

The algae surfboard not only represents the kind of collaboration that is the hallmark of UC San Diego, but the fusion of biotechnology, surfing and environmentally conscious thinking that has made the La Jolla campus and its environs such a desirable place to work and live for scientists, innovators and those who cherish the coastal environment.

“Many of us live here because of this fantastic research university and nearby research institutes,” said Mayfield. “This is a biotechnology hub so a lot of us have a biotech background. But it’s also just a fantastic beach community and the surfing here is world class. The surfing community here is very tight-knit as is the biotech community here in San Diego. So this surfboard represents a wonderful fusion of all of these things.”

“One of the things we focus on very heavily here at UC San Diego is not just how do we produce things like polyols but how do we do it in a sustainable fashion. So all of the research we do here has that as an underlying principle. We try to do this with less fresh water because we produce these algae in brackish water. We try to do this with less energy input. All of this is so we can have a sustainable future.”

Mayfield said that like other surfers, he has long been faced with a contradiction: His connection to the pristine ocean environment requires a surfboard made from petroleum.

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

But now, he explained, surfers can have way to surf a board that, at least at its core, comes from a sustainable, renewable source. “This shows that we can still enjoy the ocean, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way,” he added.

“In the future, we’re thinking about 100 percent of the surfboard being made that way—the fiberglass will come from renewable resources, the resin on the outside will come from a renewable resource,” Mayfield said.

In the future algae oil will not only allow surfers to enjoy an environmental sustainable surfboard, but construct their boards in a way that can make them more adaptable to different kinds of surf, surfing styles or even the weight of surfers.

“The really interesting thing is that the chemical and physical properties of the surfboard depend upon the chemical and physical properties of the oil you made it with,” he adds. “And because we can engineer algae we can engineer our algae to make different oils and that means we can change the physical attributes of the final product. So I think the really exciting thing is that now instead of just relying on the one oil we have, now we can think of engineering these surfboards with new physical properties. Some of them maybe stiffer, some more flexible, some with more rigidity. And when you change the physical properties you’re going to change the way the surfboard reacts with the wave. So I think that with these surfboards we’re going to be able to enhance the properties of surfing and take it to a whole new level.”