I picked up a couple of recycled EPS surfboard foam blanks from Marko Foam as a birthday gift to myself.
Up until this project, I hadn’t really shaped a board from a fresh blank. I’ve reshaped old boards, built hollow wooden boards, built some hand planes out of palm tree branches, and plenty of surf fins, but never a new board from a new blank.
I’d heard about Marko Foam’s recycled EPS blanks and their recycling program for a while, and I knew that I’d definitely like to give these a try whenever I got around to shaping some boards.
Sourcing the Recycled EPS Blanks
I got in contact with MarkoFoam to ask about their recycled EPS blanks.
I wanted to know if they were kept stocked, the price, placing small orders, and the recycle-ability of the recycled foam blanks itself.
The got back to me pretty quickly and told me:
- A few blank models were kept stock in recycled EPS.
- Price was pretty comparable to virgin EPS.
- Small orders were cool – especially if you can pick it up yourself and don’t need to worry about shipping.
- Recycled EPS blanks can continued to be recycled – both the foam off-cuts and dusts in the production process and the EPS foam core assuming the surfboard becomes completely destroyed at some point.
Recycling EPS Foam
I ordered two 6’6″ M recycled EPS surfboard blanks, payed through the website, and headed up to Irvine a few days later to pick them up.
When I arrived, I took a mini-tour of the Irvine factory where stringers are added to blanks and CNC machines rough cut custom shapes.
All the foam dust and off-cuts that’s created in the factory is collected and used to make more recycled blanks.
I was curious though, I knew these recycled EPS blanks had been around for quite some time now, but I wasn’t sure how many shapers were actually using them.
I learned, that while a lot of people like to talk a big game when it comes to recycling and sustainability, the majority of shapers – professional and amateur – are still opting for the virgin EPS blanks. Bummer!
Quality-wise, the recycled blanks do have more of a chance of contaminates getting into the blank during processing – e.g. wood sawdust, glue, etc. – but from my experience, this was minimal if it was even noticeable at all.
Working With the Recycled EPS
The EPS blanks are made through some process that expands and binds the foam particles in aluminum blank molds. (I learned that this all happens in Salt Lake City – coincidentally where Wave Arcade began!)
The EPS blanks have a nice density to them and gave me no trouble when I began rough-cutting the profiles of my boards with a hand saw.
It should be noted that my shaping set-up is real budget. I used a makeshift space in my garage and minimal tools.
That said – the blanks took to the planer just fine. After the planer I used sanding blocks with 120 grit on up and sanding screens.
In retrospect, my shapes could have benefited from a few passes of the variable speed sander to remove some scratches/divots I’d created, but they still turned out pretty nice.
I glassed the blanks with fiberglass and Resin Research bio-resin that I pigmented.
I did not seal the blanks with Q-cell or spackle and had no problems with glassing them.
All in all, the blanks were super easy to work with. One of the best parts of it is that I ended up with a pile of off-cuts and a few bags of dust that I’ll eventually get back to Marko Foam to be made into more recycled EPS blanks.
More to come on the actually boards I made another time.
Sneak-preview: Final appearances are subjective, but they are extremely fun to surf!