Sustainable Surfboards Making Waves

5 Minutes with Woodpecker Natural Surfboards Shaper Bill Bulgen

Bill Bulgen is a master craftsman.

It shows in the surfboards he produces. His Woodpecker hollow wood sleds have a very different vibe when you pick them up, feel the weight and test the rail. You get a growing sensation that this board you're holding is ALIVE.

Bill has taken a leaf out of the original board builder's book a Mr Tom Blake. The legendary surfer and shaper was the first to produce hollow wooden framed surfboards in the 1930’s, based on the traditional boards from Hawaii.

We had a chat with Bill to get some insight into his journey.

TGS: Hey Bill we love your boards man, how did you get into this?

Bill: I started several years ago making hollow wooden surfboards on a "hobby" basis for family & friends. As more of my boards get in the water, and exposure increases, the demand is growing. I am currently producing at my maximum capacity!

TGS: Amazing. What were your reasons for going the timber and sustainable route?

Bill: The surf industry has been totally reliant on by-products of the petroleum industry for too long. Surfers are more in touch with nature, and the elements, than most people and we need to stand-up and be counted in defense of the environment.

TGS: So true. Tell us more about the boards themselves?

Bill: My surfboards are 100% natural. I use sustainable plantation grown timbers (as far as possible) and glass with SUPERSAP plant based epoxies. 
I concentrate primarily on longboards because we have found that the minor additional weight of a wooden board coupled with the extra buoyancy is actually an advantage in this category. These boards provide a true logging experience with outstanding nose riding potential. Even my wood chippings and sawdust are collected by a local NGO to up-cycle as compost for greening the poorer communities on the Cape Flats!

TGS: Love it. So what's the plan going forward?

Bill: Fortunately I retire from formal employment at end June and will expand my operations to satisfy the rapidly growing demand. Wooden surfboards not only offer an environmentally responsible option but look really great and surf exceptionally well!

Atta boy Bill. What a gentleman. Thanks for your time.

The Greener Surfer will be stocking Bill's boards in our online store soon but if you want to get your hands on one of these beauties you can get hold of Bill here.

Who wouldn't want to ride something this beautiful?

Imagine this flying down the line at Supers!?

3 of the "Pecker" models

From raw timber to sleek cruisers these boards are alive and shred ready


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Blowing Up or Bowing Out?

 Who Blew Up?

1. Grant 'Twiggy' Baker. Hats off, salute, cheers, WTF and CONGRATS brother! Twig won the Puerto Escondido Big Wave event held at “the Mexican Pipeline” in massive, heaving barrels. The Durbanite put on an absolute clinic to take the win from some of the biggest names in the big wave scene. 

Photography © Edwin Morales/WSL

2. Davey Du Plessis – Our favourite firebrand adventurer is back! The Project 1000 ultra marathon maniac is turning his environmental awareness campaign focus to Botswana. The participants are running and cycling North from Gaborone, crossing the Makgadikgadi Pans, traversing Botswana’s ‘Elephant highway’ and ending in Kasane on the banks of the Chobe River. We'd like to wish these environmental warriors a safe and successful adventure.

Familiarize yourself on Botswana's endangered species: Aves – Steppe Eagle(EN). Grey Crowned Crane(EN). Cape Vulture(EN). Lappet-Faced Vulture(EN). White Headed Vulture(CR). Hooded Vulture(CR). White Backed Vulture(CR).

Mammals – Black Rhino(CR). African Wild Dog(EN)

If you haven’t heard about Davey, meet him here. You can also live track their progress here.

Photography © Xavier Briel

3. Plastic free July. Ladies & Gents this is the first of many small step big impact projects we at theGREENERsurfer are supporting and participating in, and encourage you to do so too. It's pretty straightforward and the basic rules are:
1. Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.
2. Remember it's not going to be easy! It is a challenge, not a competition so don't worry about being perfect.
3. Collect any unavoidable single-use plastic you buy. Keep in a dilemma bag and share it with us at the end of the challenge.
4. It's up to you regarding how long you participate. You might decide to go plastic-free for a day, a week, a month or longer! However long you choose will still make a contribution.  Have a look at the awesome site to register or just find out more here.

Who Blew It?

1. Environmental activists are being taken out mafia style for their opposition to mining, agribusiness and hydroelectric companies., a new report by the NGO Global Witness has revealed. “This is a rapidly growing crisis that is showing no signs of abating,” said Global Witness. As climate change and population growth continue to put pressure on land and natural resources, “without urgent intervention, the numbers of deaths we’re seeing now will be dwarfed by those in the future”. It was found that in 2015 alone there were 185 recorded killings worldwide.

2. Brexit has been effectively termed as an "environmental disaster" by the U.K's The Green Party's leader Natalie Bennet. Will Britain grab the bull and cut the crap? The ruling Conservative party has done very little in advocating and advancing green energy policy and now they have voted themselves away from the partnerships formed within the EU. Many of the important climate agreements will have to be 're-calibrated' and some very important environmental protections may no longer apply and fall away completely.

3. The SABC. No one escapes the cross hairs of the TGS secret agents. We feel 99% sure most of you know but if you've been napping under a palm tree or climbing Everest then you may have missed this. The South African Broadcasting Commission has duly jerked it's knee and decided that they would no longer cover violent protests in its news reporting. Um. Ok. But that's called censorship isn't it? It sounds like they may have just become the official state trumpet. Moral (pun) of the story? Get your news elsewhere.

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Some Sexy Winter Swell This Week

26 June 2016
Pick of the bunch: A great week of winter swell hits this week.
DBN: Small waves on Monday and possibly some great waves on Tuesday.

COFFEE BAY: 7 days of cooking surf coming up in The Kei.

EL:  Tuesday and Friday are going to be off the hook, enjoy.
PE: Monday and Friday are going to be real surf days.

CT: Monday and Friday are gonna be gangbusters, dust off the Rhino Chasers!

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Global Brands Going Green


"If we don't have water, if we don't have clean air it doesn't matter how good of a business you run today, there will be no business in the future. We want to go outside, take hikes, and we want to leave that to our children and their children." - Helen Sahi Director of Sustainability at Avery Dennison.

Simple. This is where it's at - on a macro level. 

Hence Outerknown & Avery Dennison have teamed up to effectively reduce their environmental impact.

Outerknown is a menswear company, founded by the king of surfing, health and sustainability, Kelly Slater. They use upcycled materials salvaged from waste such as nylon fishing nets to produce stylish gear. 

Photography © Mr. Porter

Avery Dennison is producing care labels and tags made from 100 percent recycled polyester yarn, and the labels are made from harmless starches which dissolve naturally. The printing is done with soy ink. Pretty darn epic really.

Photography © Avery Dennison

This is exciting and revolutionary. Two well respected brands committed to the earth. But it goes without saying, however, that they shouldn't be glorified and admired for doing this. Why? Well in fact this is our duty. Most certainly they deserve a pat on the back, and a good old high five, but ultimately the game changer will be in how many other companies follow suit.

Have a look and a listen to the scheme:

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Creating a GREENER Future


There is a significant shift happening. Across the globe there is agreement that the current economic model is unsustainable – on a planet with finite resources. The widening gap of inequality between rich and poor has reached outrageous levels. At dinner tables and in boardrooms the dialogue is focused on global warming, leadership and change.

One of the buzzwords is sustainability and in 1989, academics devised a business model.

The Green Economy.

L. Hunter Lovins summarised it as “Sustainable ways of living and working that honor the interconnections between healthy human communities, intact ecosystems, and prosperous economies for current and future generations.”

Utopian dream, anybody?

We recognize it as a blueprint for the sustainable cultivation of global economies that synchronously meet the development of human potential. Most importantly it’s designed to preserve, protect and restore the earths natural resource systems. Furthermore, picture this: A holistic blend of environmental, financial, government and human systems integrated together to provide and restore well being. Dad, are we there yet? All the solutions are at our disposal. Right now! There’s a huge push toward recycling, water management, renewable energy and organically produced agriculture. Naturally, business opportunities arise and many jobs will be created in these sectors. Here we have the foundation of a fledgling Green Economy.

Intact communities and functioning eco systems give trillions of dollars worth of resources and services, but these are all treated as having a value of zero. Is this good business or even good capitalism? Far from it. Our generation has the opportunity to usher in this revolutionary transformation of life as we know it. Therefore its our collective and personal moral obligation to ensure that sustainable actions are taken to improve conditions of life on planet earth.

Imagine a world where our kids are taught about Natural Building, vegetable production and water management. These are the basic human rights laid out in our celebrated constitution.

As the world shifts from the wasteful, polluting technologies of the industrial revolution, our mentality is also shifting. Let’s support the alternatives proposed to ensure the generations to come inherit an earth to flourish on and care for. This is our collective responsibility.

Human consciousness is always evolving. Yet it is important to remember our roots and use our phenomenal understanding of technology to rekindle our connection to the land and sky.

Exciting times of transformation are afoot, and it starts with us as individuals. Let us embrace the words of the enlightened Ghandi and “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Words by Brett Shearer

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Surf Alerts - Get Your Buzz on at Coffee Bay

Monday 20th June
Pick of the bunch: Pic of the bunch this week is Coffee Bay.
DBN: Monday is the day!

COFFEE BAY: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all cook.

EL: Monday and Tuesday are the days to get your surfing done.

PE: Monday and Tuesday should see some leftovers.

CT: Some leftovers on Monday, then a wait until Sunday when the next swell starts to fill in.

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Obama? Big Oil? Cape Nature? The BMT's Ahoy!

Who Blew Up?

1. Barack Obama

The American president personally attended and addressed the the 100th anniversary commemoration of the USA's national park system. Since 2009, Obama himself has set aside as protected areas more than 265 million acres (100 million hectares) of public lands and waters across the country, more than any of his predecessors did. A large part of that involves a marine sanctuary around islands and atolls in the Pacific. Like him or not he's got 7 months left and you can bet he's going to be missed.

Photo © Joshua Roberts/Reuters

2. Coral Reefs
Good news! While we previously reported on the severe bleaching being found on extensive parts of the Great Barrier Reef, a major new study has also found "bright spots" where corals are doing significantly better than anyone expected. And the reason for the improvement is simple: it comes down to how much the coral reefs are fished by people. Reportage via Nat.Geo

3. Gary Linden Tequila Surfboard

“Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that it should be possible to make the whole board from agave. Not only did this appeal to my ‘waste not, want not’ nature, but I wanted to prove that a sustainable, all-natural surfboard is possible,” says Linden. “This could not have been done without the Jose Cuervo Foundation, which provided me all the materials, research, and guidance I needed in working with the agave plant. This is only the beginning of the many innovative uses we can find for the agave plant.”

Who Blew It?

1. Casey Nocket
This is not a fresh or trending story, but, hell can you get anymore unconscious than this?!
The 23-year-old American was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service. Why? Well She unleashed her “art project” on some of the country’s finest parks! She painted a number of different rock outcroppings and formations with abstract faces and characters in a serial vandalism string she dubbed “Creepy Tings.” The problem is she did so using acrylics and markers instead of chalk. Can the idiocy run any deeper?

Photo © The Inertia

2. British Petroleum
Man, these oil companies just don't give a hoot. BP have hatched a risky plan to sink an oil and gas drill in one of the world’s most volatile oceans, on Australia's Southern Coast, threatening thousands of kilometres of amazing waves and wildlife.If BP’s drill goes belly up, as one did in 2010 when they caused the world’s biggest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (releasing 800 million liters of oil into the ocean), they will destroy dozens of world class waves. Not to mention one of the most unique and fragile coastlines in the world. It's been rejected for now but the reapplication is already in the post.

Photo © Reuters

3. Cape Nature
CapeNature has killed many leopards in the past. In fact CapeNature is recorded as the most prolific killers of leopards in Southern Africa. Cape Nature’s Corne Claasen shot and killed this leopard on Saturday that was caught in a gin trap and broke from its anchors. The Police was present and so was a veterinarian that attempted, unsuccessfully, to dart the leopard, says the Landmark Leopard and Preditor Project of SA. Nature conservation? Doesn't sound like it. This is senseless murder of a protected animal. Watch this space for more on this.

Photo © Landmark Leopard  and Predator Project of SA

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The Strongest, Greenest Surfboards Ever Made?


First come first serve, no reserve.

We have 2 X 6’2" and 2 X 6’4” Hemp flax bio composit surfboards on offer this week.

They were shaped and laminated by Chippa Williams of South Coast Surfboards.

They have 5 fin setups with FCSII boxes.

These surfboards were made with fabric (hemp and flax special weave) supplied by the CSIR as an experiment and laminated with Entropy Supersap Bio-resin.

In the strength tests we did using these fibres and resin compared to regular glass and resin we reckon they are around 4-5 times stronger than a regular board, but similar in weight.

Due to the cost of producing boards like this, it is highly unlikely they will ever be available to the mainstream.

We’re asking R8500 for each of them, please note this is a subsidised cost, the real cost of the materials and labour in a board like this would be closer to R15K. .

If you are a hard charging eco-warrior maybe one of these should be your next magic carpet ride.

If you are in the Durban area you can go and check them out in theGREENERsurfer rack situated at the back of The Surf HQ at 65 Sylvester Ntuli Road.

Other interested parties can email

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Surf Alerts - 7 days straight of pumping waves!

12th June 2016
Pick of the bunch:  Looks like you want to be checking into the Transkei this week…
DBN: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday all have some surfable options.

COFFEE BAY: Waves for a week, Coffee Bay cranks for 7 days straight!

EL: Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all cook!

PE: Thursdsay and possibly Sunday look like the best bets in PE this week.

CT: A slow start to the week (totally normal for Cape Town) turns into a nice pulse, from Thursday into the weekend.


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Who Showed Up, and Who Should'nt Have? Taj Retires, Kids Sue U.S Gov.


Who Blew Up?

1. Taj Burrow. Skull dragging (a highly intoxicating funneling of spirits) his career to a close. The eternal grom is calling it a day on a stellar, albeit titleless, career after a couple of decades on the world surfing stage. Everyone’s favourite surfer, at some point, is fittingly retiring in a blaze of alcohol, fun and hair clippers, which pretty much sums up his world tour ride. His last hurrah went down on the Fijian island of Namotu, and he decided to mark this occasion by buzzing his mates with some memorable hairdos.

Taj's curtain call on a spectacular career. Photo © John Respondek

2. Edible beer rings? Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida, recently released edible six-pack rings, a brand-new approach to sustainable beer packaging. They’re 100 percent biodegradable and edible—constructed of barley and wheat ribbons from the brewing process. This packaging can actually be safely eaten by animals that may come into contact with the refuse.

3. 21 kids sue US government. The plaintiffs are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, by permitting, encouraging and enabling continued exploitation, production and combustion of fossil fuels. This is undoubtedly a landmark case. Can’t fight against the youth!

Who Blew It?

1. The WSL banning Tour registered surfers from competing in the Cape Fear mayhem. Short sighted, or just plain corporate? Either way the highly successful event was somewhat deprived of a high profile influx of hard charging participants, from around the globe. Let’s see how this one plays out. See the nut cases charging below. 

2. City of Cape Town sewerage. The debate around the issue of untreated raw sewage being pumped into ‪Cape Town's oceans in truly astounding volumes has gone very quiet. After photographer Jean Tresfon exposed the situation more than a year the City is yet to respond on the situation. It's estimated that millions of tons of sewerage is being pumped into the Atlantic and Indian oceans every year unchecked. This is a massive environmental and human health hazard.  

3. One of the world’s largest producers of palm oil has drained and planted on areas of peatland supposed to be protected by Indonesian law, claims a new report from Greenpeace, with levels of damage potentially worse than previously reported. We have the ability to stop this, Peeps. Deforestation has drastic effects on the ocean, our playground. Lets continue to check the ingredients in our food products, take a zero tolerance stand, and not support these devilish endeavors.

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World Oceans Day


John McCarthy fully appreciating the oceans treasures - Photo © Ryan Janssens

Healthy Oceans, healthy planet.

This is the theme for this years World Ocean Day

Why do we need a day dedicated to the Ocean? Well quite simply, marine ecosystems are being affected by climate change worldwide. Individuals and organizations across the planet are taking action for prevention of plastic pollution in our ocean. The marine environment around southern Africa is one of the most diverse, complex and variable anywhere in the world.

Let’s take a look a simple look at the oceanography of SA’s east and west coasts.

East - The oceanography of South Africa’s east coast and south coast are strongly influenced by the warm, fast flowing Agulhas Current. This is a well-defined western boundary current with origins in the Moçambique Channel.

Derek Hynd - East coast sliding at Supertubes, Jeffrey's Bay. Photo © Alan Van Gysen

- The West Coast is completely different, being dominated by the cold Benguela upwelling system one of the largest eastern boundary upwelling systems in the world. Primarily driven by the South Atlantic High Pressure (anticyclone) and associated south-easterly winds.

Josh Brodie deep in some icy west side perfection. Photo © Ian Thurtell

Pretty darn fascinating, and that is barely scratching the surface.

Now let us look at the role the ocean plays in our day to day lives:

• They generate most of the oxygen we breathe
• They help feed us
• They regulate our climate
• They clean the water we drink
• They offer a pharmacopeia of medicines
• They provide limitless inspiration!

As surfers and ocean users, we have a big responsibility to protect and conserve our playground. The ocean is not simply a large body of water; it’s a highly complex ecosystem.

theGREENERsurfer will be honoring the ocean and organizing a beach cleanup soon, because every day should be World Ocean Day!

Watch this space...

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Transkei to the Weskus lights up Friday and Saturday thanks to a good winter front making landfall.

6th June 2016
Pick of the bunch: Coffee Bay - Firing on all cylinders for the whole week.
DBN: Get on it on Monday as the rest of the week the wind is going to howl.
COFFEE BAY: Cooks for 7 days straight.
EL: Friday and Saturday are the days you want to be surfing.
PE: It is going to be very small this week until Friday when there is a sudden surge in swell height. Possibly some leftovers on Saturday.
CT: It looks like Friday and Saturday are the best days this week in and around The Mother City.

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John McCarthy - Living & Breathing theGREENERsurfer Lifestyle


It’s easy to talk the talk. Walking the walk, sometimes, not so much.

So we look for direction from leaders. Those who’ve “been there, done that” and continue to soldier on triumphantly wearing the hard earned T-shirt. Some start early on, others much later, but you’ll recognize these individuals by a steely glint in the eye, and a granite-like integrity in their actions.

John McCarthy, the founder of theGREENERsurfer, falls into this category. He’s led from the front, flying the green flag high, come storm or shine. But how does one measure to what extent your example has impacted on others? Well, during the shooting of “A Greener Surfer” a film about John’s salty path, the crew got inspired to look at how they could “green” the tools of their trade. What they came up with is truly AWESOME.

Take a look at the BTS clip for real ingenuity and artistic creativity in action.

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BMT Rankings - Surfing in the Olympics, Fijian Herione, and Greg Long Does It For The Kids


Who Blew Up?

1. Officially confirmed on June 1, 2016. The Executive Board of the IOC, the supreme body, which is 15 members including the president, voted unanimously to include surfing in the Tokyo 2020 games. Word on the street is that Slats is frothing.

2. Bethany Hamilton. Shot into the limelight at age 13 by losing her arm in a shark attack, she took full advantage of her wildcard entry into the WSL Womans Pro event by shredding her way to a huge 3rd place finish.

3. Big wave behemoth, Greg Long has partnered up with Resurf. Their mission is to provide kids with active and crucial role models, to drive them toward a positive and productive life. Through mentor programs Resurf encourage kids to stay in school and cultivate a sense of community, giving them the foundation to make better life decisions. Surfing certainly is therapy.

Who Blew It?

1. Unfortunately Joel 'Parko' Parkinson bust his knee during a freesurf in what's suspected to be an MCL injury. No perfect, gaping 10's this year for the peoples champ who was choppered off the island and headed home to rehab. We're hopeful he'll recover in time to lay down his trademark silky sashimi carves for the Jbay event in 5 weeks time.

2. The Australian Department of Fisheries. Sadly 29 year old surfer Ben Gerring lost his life after being aggressively attacked by a Great White. The debate rages on regarding the effectiveness of drum lines. In this case the department caught a 4.5 meter White shark on a baited line, but could not confirm whether it was Gerring's attacker. After some murky reporting the shark was said to have died in the net and dumped a mere 200 meters offshore.

3. Climate change effects. Australia's great barrier reef is currently facing dire bleaching. Bleaching occurs when water temperatures rise as little as 1 degree Celsius. The coral then expels tiny, colorful algae, causing it to turn white. The coral can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae, known as zooxanthellae, recolonize it. Otherwise, it may die. The problem is that these events are occurring so close together that the coral is unable to recover. This results in 50 - 100 year old coral dying and will never be seen again.

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