– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form – Ryan Milliman Interview is an online surf shop dedicated to carrying surf and skate gear and apparel that goes a little lighter on ol’ mama earth. Phoresia contributor Daniel Bohlman caught up with Seahuggers founder Ryan Milliman to talk about the green surf movement and how one goes about hugging the sea.

Daniel: Tell me a little about your background and how you came to open Seahuggers.

Ryan: I grew up surfing in Carlsbad then came north to attend university at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Following the completion of my degree (Business) I returned to Southern California, but when the opportunity came up to buy a little mom & pop surf shop in Shell Beach, I jumped at the chance to return to SLO county and fulfill a dream of mine of owning a surf shop (Shell Beach Surf Shop). Then, one day while talking about the ever expanding world of environmentally friendly surf products and how nice it would be to bring those products under one roof, Seahuggers was born.

D: Seems like there are an increasing number of so-called green surfing products out now. How do you determine what products or brands to carry on Seahuggers?

R: Good question. Determining which products or brands to carry is not an easy task, particularly in today’s green-washed market. That said, we basically try to carry products and brands that exhibit a strong environmental commitment via their product design and company ethic.

D: You mention environmental commitment in product design as well as company ethic. Can you elaborate on this idea of environmental commitment within product design?

R: Sure. The classic critique of many “green” surf products is that, while there are manufactured from more earth friendly materials, their design and/or construction are of poor quality. A green product that needs to be replaced at two to three times the rate of a standard product is not green at all, by virtue of the amount of material and energy waste going into a sub-standard product. Again, we are trying to carry brands that offer a more earth-friendly product with respect to both materials and craftsmanship.

D: So, what brands does Seahuggers currently carry?

R: Currently, we carry clothing and skate gear from Arbor, killer organic cotton threads from Life on a Board, shoes and flippies from Simple, wetsuits from Matuse and Body Glove. We also carry petroleum free surf wax, Fluid Earth bio-plastic fins, Betty Belts jewelry and a small line of Seahuggers brand T’s. Seahuggers stocks BioFoam and Ice-9 surfboards shaped by Marc Andreini, Dick Brewer, Michel Junod, Nick Cooper, Bing and Jacobs and others. Lastly, in 2009, Seahuggers will be an authorized dealer for Patagonia. Totally stoked on that one!

D: Right on! How has the response been from master shapers such as Marc Andreini and Dick Brewer with respect to shaping BioFoam and Ice-9 blanks?

R: First of all, those guys are master craftsmen who will not sacrifice quality at any cost, so you can be sure that these blanks are producing quality boards. However, conversations with Marc have indicated that both BioFoam and Ice-9 tend to be more difficult to shape and glass than standard PU or EPS foams. But I think everyone involved understands this is an evolutionary process and they are all stoked on helping promote change.

D: Speaking of promoting change, your website states that Seahuggers endeavors to “promote change and awareness within the surf industry, and aim to foster stewardship of our planet’s ocean and beaches through education, outreach, and direct action”. Can you give examples of this?

R: I was waiting for this one! Well, I believe that we as consumers hold sway with manufacturers that compete for our hard earned dollars. It’s simple really; we hope to show the consumer that there is such a thing as functional eco-surf products, and hope to show manufacturers that if given the choice people will support (read: purchase) these more sustainable options. With respect to education, outreach and direct action, we have posted numerous educational pieces on our blog and sponsored Surfrider functions. Additionally, Seahuggers is a member of 1% for the planet; therefore we donate 1% of our gross sales to environmental causes. In the near future we hope to host a Central Coast (of California) fish fry/beach clean up, type of event with BioFoam and Ice-9 keels and quads on hand. Really, we are just getting started and welcome your readers’ feedback and suggestions along these lines.

D: I reckon I’ve been “hugged” pretty hard by the ocean before, but I’m not sure I’ve hugged it back. How do you hug the sea exactly?

R: Ha, me too! I suppose it is different for everyone. For some it might be picking up trash on the beach before or after each session, for others it could be fighting to prevent the Trestles toll road. Bottom line, take care of her and she’ll take care of you, though as you point out, it can certainly be a tough love!

D: Any final thoughts you’d like to drop on our readers?

First off, thanks for this opportunity. I’m really encouraged by what I see and read on Phoresia. As for parting thoughts…I’d just like to encourage people to consider the true costs of their purchases, and remind people to support mom and pop surf shops, local shapers, and surfer labor.

[Editors note: in the spirit of full disclosure, the author of this interview is a friend of Seahuggers’ owner Ryan Milliman and is an occasional contributor to the Seahuggers blog.]

about the author:Daniel  is an ecologist by trade and lives and surfs on California’s Central Coast. We are stoked to have him contribute to Phoresia. As always we welcome your comments, suggestions and contributions.

• Category: daniel, interviews

8 Responses »

  1. Green surfing products are making sense good to see that efforts are being made in the directions.

  2. Page 191 of September Surfer Mag has a well written article about surf wax. The gist of the story is looking at “green wax” and are they really better for the environment.

    I work in the wax industry and may be a little biased, but here’s my main problem with soy based waxes. Soy was is far from being the environmentally freindly product. The petrolem that is used by all the wax companies is a by-product of the petroleum industry. It is going to get produced regardless. It’s readily available so we don’thave create a new crop. It’s not going to run out as long as we pump oil. The parrafin used by the surf wax industry is rated food grade by the FDA.

    Soy wax, on the other hand, is not a by-product. It has to be grown and produced. The fields first have to be found or created. The fields have to be tilled, fertilized, watered, and whatever else farmers do to grow the crop. Lots of tractors burning fuel. Lots of water to grow the crop. Lots of fertizer. All to produce something that wouldn’t be produced otherwise. Plus it’s taken away from the food supply, causing more of the well written about world-wide food shortage. It doesn’t seem very “green” to me. Plus it just doesn’t work well when used on surfboards. If you’re concerned about performance at all, they just don’t work well. Hopefully something alternative will be found.

    I have no readily avaialble scientific studies to back this up, but after digging into the idea of using soy for the last 2+ years, I don’t believe it’s the environmentally smart way to go.

    Here’s some green washing claims in the surf wax industry and questions you should ask.

    1-Bio degradable….That plastic bag you get from the grocery store is biodegrable in about 500 years. This term is so vague, it’s a joke. There is no bioderadable standard. There is no unbiased, government watchdog.

    2-All natural…Petroleum is all natural.

    3-Earth Safe…What? Pure marketing B.S. that doesn’t say anything.

    4-Organic…The FDA has laws regarding food products and calling them organic. Surf wax doesn’t fall under the FDA laws, so this is an unverifiable claim. Organic scientifically means made of carbon, so plastic is organic.

    5-Non-Toxic…I sure as hell hope so. Coca Cola is non-toxic, but they don’t print it on their cans. All surf wax is non toxic.

    6-Petroleum Free…Not necessarily greener or earth friendlier than petroleum. Petroleum works the best, it’s a by-product so you don’t pollute the environment by creating a new crop.

    6-Recycled Packaging…This is good.

    7-Soy Ink-Also a good idea.

    Just trying to educate and help answer a few questions about a confusing industry lately. My intention is to help you make educated purchases. Have fun out there.

  3. Jeff, thanks for the info. Ricardo and myself were actually having a conversation about the whole soy vs. petroleum wax thing last night as he just picked up his first bar of soy wax to try out in stupidly cold water.

    Surfboard wax is a good product area to investigate some of these questions because inherently wax is such a simple concept to grasp but there are so many factors that come into play as to the overall environmental footprint of a product.

    You start getting into products like blanks and resin and there are inherently so many other unavoidable toxic chemicals in them that it complicates some of the reasoning behind these questions, but with wax it’s pretty simple and understandable I think it would make a good baseline study to explore some of the logic behind these questions.

    Honestly, this discussion is worthy of it’s own full article and not just relegated to the comments section and we hope in the near future to expand upon it.

    I think the point being made by mentioning it in this post is more because soy wax isn’t available everywhere yet. It’s definitely an alternative that is not available at every shop.


  4. I’m diggin’ the dialogue on petrol vs. soy wax. There are however, other non-petrol, non-soy waxes on the market that use bees wax and tree resin as the main constituents (Green Surf). Great stuff though, and important to think critically!

    To clarify a couple points:

    Most everything IS toxic, but fortunately at levels which far exceed normal consumption.

    Please do not confuse degradation with biodegradation. That plastic bag from the market is degradable not bio-degradable.
    To clarify:
    Biodegradability is the process by which a substance is broken down into its original organic components by living organisms (usually bacteria). Many (not all, but most) plastics cannot be broken down biologically and thus do not biodegrade, rather they are broken down mechanically or are photo-degraded (i.e. broken down by sunlight). Photo-degradation does not return plastics back to their original hydrocarbon or organic constituents (which by the way many hydrocarbons CAN be biodegraded via bacteria), rather it simply results in ever smaller pieces of plastic! One catastrophic result of this process it the alarming ratio of plastic to zooplankon in the north Pacific gyre (check out this disturbing video by Patagonia for a more on this:


  5. Hey good to have Daniel contributing and discussing. I’ve been going through wine and woodsmoke withdrawal.

    Would love to see seahuggers host a Central Coast Fish Fry! I’d do my best to be down there.

    Interview got me thinking about foam and blank materials. Particularly the comment that “BioFoam and Ice-9 tend to be more difficult to shape and glass than standard PU or EPS foams”. I’m of the line of thought that most of the time the most durable product is the most green. I was unhappy for a while with standard PU/PE surfboards that pressure dinged like crazy even without a super light glass job. Tried a surftech for awhile and liked the durability but not the feel so much. Over the past year I got a Hess and an EPS/Epoxy board. The Hess is incredibly strong, durable, and has a very cool fast flow feel, heavier which at times is a negative but can be a plus in windy conditions. The EPS/Epoxy board is much more durable than the PU/PE, though not as tough as a surftech or Hess. I works very well and I think on par with PU/PE in feel and performance. So in my book I will never really invest in a PU/PE again, they just don’t last. So I’m curious about the Ice9 and Biofoam durability?? Are they similar in durability to a PU? If so I would think that an EPS/Epoxy would be the most green and accessible option due to durability and low VOC glassing process. Very few places can still afford to glass polyester due to the tight regs on VOCs.

  6. JDogg-
    Good to hear from you!
    Regarding the durability of BioFoam and Ice-9 boards, I have an Ice-9 Andreini Vaquero that has proven super durable (very few pressure dents, etc.). I don’t own a BioFoam board but from what I have seen/heard they are fairly high density and quite durable. Perhaps another Phoresia reader can shed some light on this issue.

    Lastly, I have to say that I think the commonly overlooked factor in all this, is the quality of the lamination, not simply the glassing schedule. Over the years I have had a fair number of PU boards, some have really held up while others seemed to be almost disposable. The difference in my opinion was the lamination and not the foam (which in most cases was Clark). I currently own a PU Mandala quad glassed by Moonlight glassing and after over a year of abuse looks almost brand new! Yes the foam matters, but with poor lamination even the best foam will fail.

  7. Daniel- Yes I agree that quality of glassing makes a big difference. I had a PU Moonlight glassed board for awhile and it was solid and well built, resilient to pressure dings. Sold it because it was a bit too big, but the solid glass helped me get a good price for it. The fact that Mandala sends his boards all the way from SF to San Diego to get them glassed says a lot about the availability of quality glass shops or factories that are able to meet the VOC limits. The VOC difference between the epoxy and the poly resin is significant. Can you do epoxy on the Ice-9 and Biofoam? I think you can…. that could be cool.

  8. jd – the first Biofoam board we tested here on Phoresia was glassed with Resin Research epoxy (it’s in the archives). It’s super dent resistant although with a triple 6 glass schedule it’s a bit on the heavy side. My latest Biofoam board is glassed with less weight and it’s equally strong. I will be writing a post soon reviewing the two Biofoam boards together.