Overflowing bins aren’t a typical catalyst for great ideas.

But, for Jamie Johnstone, chief workhorse here at Dick Pearce, there was only so many times he could walk past them in his local beach car park – stacks of snapped bodyboards spilling from their mouths – before he decided something needed to be done. 

“It’s one of the main reasons I first got involved with making bellyboards,” he says. “Apart from riding them as a little kid and knowing how fun it is, I wanted to offer a sustainable alternative to those disposable boards. I wanted to make a version that lasts forever.” 

Photo: Ocean Recovery Project

The Ocean Recovery Project estimates there are more than 16,000 polystyrene bodyboards discarded on UK beaches every year. Each one is manufactured on the other side of the world and shipped thousands of miles, sometimes for as little as a few hours in the waves before they end up in the bin. Every part of the process is terrible for the environment, from the fossil fuels it takes to create each board to the impact of the broken down polystyrene, much of which inevitably ends up in the sea. 

In the spring of 2021, inspired by a conversation with Dan from Little Goat Gruff in St Ives, Jamie set about plotting a scheme to make a dent in the scourge. The concept was simple: team up with shops in coastal locations across the UK, supplying each with a stack of wooden Dick Pearce bellyboards they could lend out to beachgoers completely free of charge. From holidaymakers to year-round residents, young whippersnappers to those a little longer in the tooth, all were invited to come and borrow the boards as often as they wanted. The goal, of course, was to prevent the need for anyone to buy a cheap flimsy board – while still allowing them the chance to fall in love with wave riding. He called the project Surf Wood For Good.

 

The idea attracted enthusiastic support from over a dozen shop owners around the country, as well as environmental organisation Surfers Against Sewage, who came on to provide support and help get the word out. 

Here at SAS, we’re all about getting our communities involved in replacing single-use items for re-usable alternatives,” the organisation told us. “Plastic pollution is a huge issue, with eight million pieces of plastic entering the ocean every single day. Not only is Surf Wood For Good kinder to our planet, it provides endless fun in the water, where you can use the board over and over again.”

Jamie Johnstone with a few of the SAS team.

We love everything about this campaign,” SAS continued. “Having the bellyboard hire for free makes it 100% accessible and we know as soon as anyone gives wood a try, they won’t want to go back to the single-use polystyrene boards.”

Although everything was organised on the hoof during those first summer months, as pilot schemes often are, by the time the season drew to a close all involved were touting Surf Wood For Good as a roaring success. 

 

“We just thought it would be a nice thing to do at first,” says Jamie, “and we were genuinely shocked at the uptake and how many people got behind the idea.” 

As well as all their partner stores, the team offered free rentals direct from the Dick Pearce workshop in Newquay too, and it was always a high point of the day when people would return them just before close, a little sun-frazzled and beaming, raving about all the waves they’d caught. Jamie and the team took pleasure in the knowledge that each board handed out represented the possibility of a cheap alternative saved from landfill. 


This spring, Surf Wood For Good is back, bigger and better for its second year. The scheme has expanded to include many more locations across the country, from North Wales to Bournemouth and beyond, with each featuring its own vivid and unique bellyboard design. For those keen to get involved, all you have to do is turn up and the shop owner will give you all the info you need. 

Click here to browse all of our rental locations on the Surf Wood For Good interactive map.