What may seem at first like a cemetery for surfers is actually an art installation by Australian graphic artist Chris Anderson. The goal of the exhibit was to raise awareness about the toxicity of surfboard manufacturing and disposal, and also to “highlight landfills as societies graveyards for material objects.” By doing so, Anderson hopes to generate new conversations on how we can better manage waste.
Anderson spent 2 years collecting the boards from friends and strangers and buried them tombstone style at Garie Beach in Illawarra, Australia. Candles were placed at the base of each “grave” to light up the boards as the light grew darker. The installation was taken down the next morning as promised to authorities, and the boards were shipped off to various places to be re-used. Some were used in Anderson’s Ecto Handplane business. Others given to a set designer in Sydney. Two hundred more boards went to the Surf Art Exhibition in Wollongong Gallery’s Green Cathedral.
In 2005, the estimated number of surfers worldwide was at 17 – 23 million (Encyclopedia of Surfing, p 605). Research by Decarbonated Sports estimates that the average surfer has 2.75 surfboards. That means there are an estimated 47 – 63 million surfboards out there! Most of these boards make their way to a landfill after they’ve been beaten and battered by waves and riders. That’s a huge volume of some of the most toxic materials known to man going right into the ground and leeching into our soil and groundwater.
Surfing in general is undergoing a Green Renaissance over the last few years as influential surf brands like Volcom, Billabong, Quiksilver, and more have found environmentally responsible ways to manufacture and secure materials for their surfwear. Boardshorts are being made solely from recycled plastic bottles and tee shirts are being manufactured with 100% organic cotton and even organic cotton/recycled polyester blends. Kelly Slater has recently announced that his new clothing brand Outerknown will be exclusively made with sustainable practices and materials.
There are no large-scale surfboard recycling solutions out there at the moment, so as surfers we should think of a more responsible way to reuse or recycle the shred sticks. Anderson’s project has brought a lot of attention to the matter in Australia, so hopefully he can bring it to the US and inspire more people to get talking about landfill solutions.
See how Chris collected all the boards for his art installation in this video!