Shaping the Future

A North Shore-based company turns sugar, soy and hemp into surfboards.
Country Feeling Surfboards

Shapers Jeff Bushman (left) and Kyle Bernhardt have answered the call for eco-friendly surfboards.

Photo: Courtesy of Country Feeling Surfboards

Kyle Bernhardt doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist, at least not in the strict sense. The North Shore-based surfboard shaper does what he can—recycles, uses natural fibers, rides his bike—but knows he could do more.

“I can’t say I’m a no-carbon-footprint guy,” says Bernhardt, who still drives a Chevy van to deliver his surfboards. “But every little thing you do can make a big impact.”

That’s the philosophy behind Country Feeling Surfboards, a new line of eco-friendly surfboards he developed last summer with veteran shaper Jeff Bushman.

The boards—from retro twin-fins to stand-up paddleboards—aren’t entirely green. But they’re made mostly with sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp and soy. Going entirely green is the larger goal, he says.

“It’s a constant evolution,” Bernhardt says. “This is definitely a viable alternative and the response from people has been incredible.”

In just a year, the company has been flooded with inquiries and orders, many from surfers around the globe looking for a rideable board that’s kinder to the environment.

Soy- and sugar-based foams replace synthetic blanks; durable hemp replaces fiberglass deck inlays. Even the resin used—one that’s catalyzed by the sun—allows 70 percent fewer volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. These materials, and the additional labor it takes to produce the surfboards, do mean a higher price tag. Shortboards start at $695; stand-up boards cost about $1,500.

A high-performance board that can function on a competitive level may still be a few years away, however.

“Shapers have used the same materials for the past 30 years, and everybody’s grown accustomed to the way the boards feel,” says Bernhardt, who’s been shaping for 21 years. “When you bring in new materials, you can’t guarantee that same feeling. That’s our biggest hurdle.”

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