Green With Pride.
We’re unashamedly pushing a few agenda’s here at Infoamed. One of these is digging into and exploring environmental issues that will affect us all into the future. We recently had a chat with Sebastien Boulard from Pride bodyboards about their pivot towards producing products with a more sustainable and recyclable focus.
Infoamed: Can you outline how your products strive to be as sustainable as possible?
Three years ago we just decided to try and improve all our products, when possible, in order to make them more sustainable, without compromising their performances.
To this day, we’ve developed a Yulex only range of wetsuits, switched all our PE boards to recycled PE boards, include 40% of recycled rubber in our swimfins, made our high-end leashes easy to fix, use recycled polyester in our boardshorts and daytrip bags and only use organic cotton in Apparel. We still have some products that haven’t evolved towards more sustainable products (such as PP boards or wheel bags) but it’s mostly due to not having the option to make those change from suppliers and factories. We are still exploring all options and preparing more sustainable innovations.
Was there a particular event or moment that prompted the shift toward more sustainable products, or was it an organic process?
It was mainly a shift in the team behind the products of the brand. When I started working for Pride as an intern, I was studying sustainable development as my major and really wanted to use the theory for the brand. Pride’s CEO, Frederic Bouchet, was full on behind the idea. When I got hired full-time three years ago, we dedicated a lot of our energy, time and a lot of money, into making all the ideas to happen.
Are all of your Bodyboards made with recycled Polyethylene or just select models?
All the mid-range is made of PE. Which is more than 3000 boards each year worldwide. It hasn’t replaced PP but basically in Europe, everyone who wants to get started in bodyboarding with a decent board will spend money on a PE board instead of an EPS one. They’re the way for new entrants without spending more than 300 bucks on a board. The most assiduous will eventually end up riding a PP board but most people stay with PE as it’s enough to get good sensations during summer swells.
They’re not ‘throwaway’ (maybe I’m wrong on this word, feel free to correct) boards and you can keep using them from a year to an other.
How difficult has it been overall to move forward in the sustainability space in an industry that traditionally has heavily relied on petrochemicals to produce products?
Well, it’s not that easy. And the boards are still made of petrochemicals, so it’s not all green. The idea is just to try and make things better. Our PE planks for instance are made for the scraps of other planks that are usually discarded. In the end it’s positive. B
But to get there, we had, on top of making all the tests to see how the Recycled planks would react, to buy our own containers of recycled planks, which no other brand in the industry is doing today.
Compared to buying a final product from a factory, buying the raw material is a really different process. Your cash is out for much longer time periods and the risk of doing it for our first range was huge.
The planks are more expensive and we decided to absorb the cost increase in order to remain competitive with the other brands who are still using normal virgin PE planks.
In the end, we are selling more PE boards than ever, so it feels like a good decision. But we can’t say it’s because they’re recycled. A lot of other parameters have helped us increase the volume and made it a success.
Same for the wetsuits, Yulex is available to most wetsuit brands on the market (in surfing and bodyboarding) and has been for years.
I think today, everyone knows it’s more sustainable than Limestone. That you have to mine, transport and heat at more than 2000°C before adding dozens of chemicals.
However, Yulex is much more expensive to purchase and this is why it has not been widely adopted by other brands.
So it means: whether you’re priced super high, whether you lose margin. We chose again to align with competitors in order to really give customers an option so you don’t feel like you have a hole in your wallet if you decide to go green.
Hoping volumes would make it interesting for us to stay with nice prices and good materials.
During the first year, it worked out just fined. Customers and our team riders are loving the suits, price is more than fair and sales were great.
New range is out in month and we really hope people will get behind it again.
What would you like to see from the wider bodyboarding industry moving into the future in terms of sustainability?
The high-end boards going towards more sustainable materials.
But there’s a long way until we get there.
Lots of people are trying in surfing and performance seems very hard to match.
Is a totally sustainable industry possible?
I don’t think it’ll ever get perfect. But it can get better. There are a lot of constraints though.
The size of the bodyboarding market wouldn’t allow to create factories on each continent so you’ll always have to ship them by boat.
Local shapers use planks from Asia so it just transfers the problem.
And given its market size, a brand needs to be global to make at least enough revenues to support athletes and keep the dream alive.
And it’s just the tip of the problem.