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The Cigarette Surfboard

by Jorrit Pinckaers

Recently surf enthousiasts Jeroen van der Kolk and Wilrik Wels made a statement. A message to address an underrated threat to ocean life. They shaped a remarkable “cigarette surfboard” that contains 8000 cigarette butts, embedded in a cartboard core. It’s actually a cool and unique design to see yet the reason they did it serves a greater goal. Jeroen and Wilrik want to create awareness and inspire people who smoke to deal differently with their cigarette waste.

The problem of Cigarette Butts

It’s a common sight: a person that flicks his or her cigarette butt away while puffing out the last big hit of precious smoke. Guess we somehow got used to that. Yet as always it’s the sum of all that makes it a bad thing. Those butts are one of the most littered items in the world actually. The estimate is that per year around 4.5 trillion end up anywhere else but the trash bin. Cigarette butts are made from plastic (cellulose acetate) so they do not fully decompose. That makes them a contributor to our global microplastic problem.

Photo:  Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

Not to mention, each butt contains toxic chemicals that leach into the environment. Just one cigarette butt pollutes 500 litres of water a day. And one litre of water soaked with butts will kill 50% of all small ocean creatures in it. The chemical parts of a cigarette butt are dissolved within one hour when they get in contact with water. 

When you think about it it’s pretty crazy: filters became a marketing tool of the tobacco industry, designed to recruit and keep smokers as consumers. People throw away the part that “protects” them from chemicals yet subsequently it will harm marine life. Researchers have for example found the waste in some 70 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles. Filter fibers are floating around in all our oceans, they’re even found up in the Arctic sea ice.

Check out artist Thijs Biersteker who visualizes this problem in his installment “Pollutive Ends”

8000 cigarette butts make one surfboard – Photo: SEAVENTS

The Cigarette Surfboard

Jeroen van der Kolk and Wilrik Wels were inspired by a similar project in California by surfers Taylor Lane and Ben Judkins. The Californian cigarette surfboard was made for a competition held by surf company Vissla in collaboration with the Surfrider Foundation. The goal of the contest was to create an article of surf-craft out of upcycled materials. They all saw this as an opportunity to address a major issue they experience on a daily basis: beach and ocean pollution.

The Cigarette Surfboard – Taylor Lane and Ben Judkins

Wilrik Wels who shapes boards himself (@willysurfboards) took on the challenge for the Dutch version. Traditional surfboards often have a core of EPS, a type of styrofoam which is not environmentally friendly. As an alternative he used a honeycomb structure of cardboard. The honeycomb is filled with around 8000 butts that ensure the buoyancy of the board. The combination of fiberglass and epoxy resin provides a smooth finish so that the board slides well through the water.

Jeroen van der Kolk is co-founder of SEAVENTS. A company that takes control of waste production and resource management. One of their solutions for example is STUB. A handy pocket ashtray to help minimize the amount of flicked away butts.

Jeroen van der Kolk surfing cigarettes – Photo: SEAVENTS

So how does the cigarette surfboard feels while surfing? According to Jeroen it’s pretty good for a board that’s four times heavier than a conventional surfboard. But for most it feels special to use this board in the water because it immediately attracts a lot of attention. It for sure is a good trigger to start the conversation about cigarette waste!

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