FeaturesGreen Machine

Green Machine

Having seen the huge problem in St Aubins Bay with the sea lettuce and the way it is being tackled, Charlie Cadin wanted to see if it was possible to make something constructive and positive out of it. He had seen that people are currently researching ways to try and convert it into a bio-fuel as an alternative to petrol, however that is a long complex process.

Through shaping boards from polystyrene, he has seen how much waste is produced; almost the same amount of material as that which goes into the board. Instead of taking a large block of material and carving and shaping down, the aim of the project was to build up from scratch, only using the minimum amount of materials required.

We asked him a little more about it…. >


A couple years ago I did another environmentally sustainable surfboard project, creating a board from 2500 recycled wine corks collected from six local restaurants over seven months. The board came out looking pretty cool, however the finished board was a little heavy and the shape wasn’t very refined. This time the aim was to create a board that functioned as well as a standard board, whilst being fully sustainable. I have also been shaping boards from recycled wood and insulation from houses, which each feel completely unique in their own way.


The main challenge was to take something soft, wet and flimsy and turn it into a rigid material that could be shaped and cut. To achieve this the sea lettuce was placed in a rocker mould and left to dry in the sun. Once dry, a similar process to paper-mache was used, creating a solid material. The sea lettuce does something really cool at this point where the individual leaves blend and literally merge together, creating one large sheet. The aim of the project was to create an environmentally sustainable surfboard, and to do this I set myself the goal of using the exact same amount of fibreglass as a standard production board. We managed to pull it off, so the sea lettuce completely replaces the polystyrene or polyurethane foam of a normal board, both of which are derived from oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel.


Pretty good actually! When the resin was added to the glass fibre the reaction heated up a bit, which caused the bottom to warp a little bit, but once in the water this isn’t noticeable. As with most hollow boats and boards I was expecting a little leak but it actually held pretty well. The rails are quite sharp and angular at the moment, so next time I would try to give them more of a flowing curve. I heard it once said that good art isn’t how it looks but how it makes you feel. To create something that feels good as well as functions, whilst fulfilling a visualisation is something special in my books. This is by no means a solution to an industry-wide problem, but sparks the idea of laying a stepping stone in the right direction.


I have just started studying Marine Engineering at Plymouth University. It’s all about how all different types of craft react with the water, and the different systems required to let them function at their best. I have spent most of my life on or around boats, and have picked up loads of different skills and tips about repairing to keep them going, or improve them completely. After university, I hope to find a more practical, hands on role as an engineer with race-boats pushing them to the limits.


Really well! As I originally wasn’t sure how well it would work, I had opted for a user-friendly design with loads of volume and float which makes it super easy to catch waves. It has a large single fin which gives it a more smooth cruising feeling, similar to the vintage boards from the 80s, as opposed to the twitchy three-fin shortboards of today which is a nice change. A standard shortboard weighs in at about 3.5 kg; our sea lettuce board weighs in at 4.2 kg. This extra weight is only slightly noticeable on land, but once you are in the water you can’t feel it, which is pretty cool considering. There is a short film on instagram @charlie.cadin showing local surfers Will Masterman, Archie Mason, Lily Newstead and Charlie Mossop and others ripping it in the water.

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