Could the future of surfing involve using mushrooms instead of plastic?
Steve Davies, a board designer from Porthcawl who is 23 years old, undoubtedly holds that opinion.
Mr. Davies is creating his own plastic-free surfboard using a novel material made from the resemblance of mushroom roots.
It may sound a little crazy, but there are alternatives to polystyrene, polyurethane, and resin boards that won't decompose for hundreds to thousands of years, he said.
Every year, over 400,000 boards are produced, according to Mr. Davies.
Eighty percent of them are not sustainable.
"And even when it does break down, it can enter the ecosystem of fish and bio-accumulate, so in the end, people will eat this polystyrene plastic," he continued.
The idea was developed by the former design student as part of his final year project at Cardiff Metropolitan University, where he sought to address the negative environmental effects of the sport.
Mr. Davies then began investigating fungi.
Many different types of fungi contain a substance called mycelium. It develops a root-like structure that has numerous advantages for all natural ecosystems.
A significant potential for other man-made uses of its properties has also been discovered.
A natural skeleton structure that Mr. Davies forms in a mold is held together by mycelium, which serves as glue.
The mycelium roots form a polystyrene-like material that is perfect for shaping a board between the skeleton, which is made of materials like straw.
Mushrooms wouldn't suffice by themselves. If there were no waterproof coating, the organic material would just wash away, which is not ideal when looking for waves.
Mr. Davies has tested a number of organic sealants like bees wax and linseed oil in an effort to find a solution that will benefit the ride and have no negative environmental effects.
"Mycelium's properties can be similar to those of a foam like polyurethane," he said.
"There is no reason why mushroom boards couldn't be used in the top elite level of surfing, all the way down to beginner level, eventually. It will just take a little bit of modification and the right species of mushroom to grow it. ".
The surfing community places a great deal of importance on the sport's environmental impact because they personally experience the effects of plastic pollution.
Projects like Steve's, in Izzy Ross' opinion, are exactly what the neighborhood needs, according to the advocacy group Surfers Against Sewage.
"The business community is not acting sufficiently. While I think it's wonderful to see these small projects and the brilliant minds behind them working to address this, the issue is more systemic than that, she said.
"Many water sports enthusiasts and surfers are aware of the harm that individual factors can cause. I believe that the majority of us are very interested in it; we're just waiting for the innovations to occur. ".
Of course, if mushroom boards cannot be manufactured commercially, this innovation is essentially useless.
Is it actually viable in the face of established, quick production lines?
Other board designers have tested comparable materials in recent years, but they have not yet been able to displace the plastic-heavy materials that are a staple in the production of boards.
Mr. Davies thinks that if supported and organized properly, these boards could provide the solution.
We can develop a mycelium board in about 21 days under the ideal circumstances, he claimed.
"To make it the new standard would be the dream. The new design principles would emphasize connecting with nature, and a lot of other cool things would result from that. ".
We should give back to the sea because we are using it, Mr. Davies continued, and the model should be circular.