What's So Good About Wood? Part II
This is the second instalment of a two part series examining what exactly makes wood so good. In part I, we looked at where our wood comes from and why we chose birch ply to use for our boards. Read that here. In this part, we'll look at the carbon footprint of a Dick Pearce bellyboard versus others on the market and run you through what happens when the wood arrives at our workshop.
What is the carbon footprint of a Dick Pearce bellyboard?
In 2021, Elon Musk announced a $100 million prize for the best invention to successfully pull carbon down from the atmosphere and store it durably and sustainably. Of all the internet’s fantastic responses to the appeal, by far our favourite was: “Just wait until he hears about a forest.”
And it’s true, forests have the capacity to trap around 500 tonnes of greenhouses gases per hectare – that’s the equivalent of 143 return flights in economy class from London to Hong Kong! The good news is, a sustainably managed working forest can create even more capacity for carbon storage than one left entirely alone.
We’ll let Gediminias Jasinevičius from the European Forest Institute explain:
“Forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store the carbon in living biomass, dead wood, litter and soil. Once wood is harvested, a significant amount of carbon is removed from the forest and can then be stored for decades in long-lived wood products.”
That means, the carbon drawn from the atmosphere and stored in the wood that later becomes your bellyboard remains there for the entire life of the product. And, when that tree is replaced, as it will be in a sustainably managed forest, the sapling that takes its places begins drawing down carbon too and the cycle continues.
To access exactly how this process affects the carbon footprint of our boards – and how they compare to others on the market – we commissioned a report from Debbie Morton, a sustainability specialist and carbon footprint assessor. In it, she looked at the carbon released by the extraction and processing of the raw materials and their delivery to the factory gates, comparing a Dick Pearce bellyboard with a high-performance bodyboard and a cheap polystyrene board. After incorporating a calculation for how much carbon each Dick Pearce board would have absorbed during its life as a tree, she concluded that the raw materials in fact sequester more carbon than they emit, giving each board a footprint of -1.2kgCo2e, before transport and finishing. By comparison, she found the production of each polystyrene board emitted 1.7kg Co2e, while a high-performance board had a footprint of 4.2kg Co2e.
While there are undoubtedly more elements to consider with regard to the true environmental impact of each of our boards, these findings clearly show that well-made wooden products, sourced from sustainably managed forests, have the ability to play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
What happens when the wood arrives at the factory?
“There were all kinds of bellyboard makers going back to the 50s,” Nick Holden, former organiser of the World Belly Board Champs told us recently, “But the Pearce family really stand out as being the original ones.”
“I remember a conversation with Dick,” he continues, “where I asked how Charles [his dad and our company’s founding father] originally came up with the design.”
We too have often wondered how exactly Charles got the rocker, size and shape of the boards so perfect for the task of riding waves, we haven’t been able to improve on it in the several decades since. Had he rigorously studied the idiosyncrasies of hydrodynamics to successfully unlock the secrets of a perfect planing surface?
Apparently not. According to Nick, Dick simply replied that the template was created to maximise the number of boards you could get out of an 8X4 sheet of ply. “He just put that curve in because he thought it would make it work better,” Nick remembers Dick saying, “but beyond that, there’s no design tech or concept.”
To this day, that same template ensures each sheet of ply that arrives at our workshop produces as many bellyboards and as little waste as possible. The small amount of wood that is left over after cutting, we send off to the local biomass boiler to be turned into heat. Then, we boil the cut boards, add the rocker using the traditional method, sand them, seal them with natural oils and finish with a lick of carbon-neutral paint.
If we’re shipping them out to you, they come in plastic-free packaging, made entirely from UK-produced cardboard. However, if you happen to be in Cornwall, you’re welcome to come by and grab your board from our shop in Hope Yard. Not only does this substantially reduce the distance from factory to new owner, since we’re just a short walk to the beach, it also gives your bellyboard the opportunity to get immediately acquainted with the new watery surroundings in which it’ll be flourishing for generations to come.