Plastic Free North Devon launch wooden Bellyboard hire scheme at Saunton Sands

Poorly made and cheap polystyrene bodyboards cause huge problems on the coastline. Plastic Free North Devon are addressing this – do your bit & try hiring a wooden Bellyboard at Saunton Sands, North Devon this summer. Read why this is an issue & how you can help below.

Plastic Free North Devon launches the first stage of its ‘Protect our Playground’ project with a wooden Bellyboard hire scheme at Saunton 

Plastic Free North Devon have launched their ‘Protect our Playground’ project which aims to reduce plastic pollution on our beaches by reducing demand for plastic beach toys.

The first stage of the project is a wooden belly board hire scheme in conjunction with Saunton Surf Hire.  Twenty wooden belly boards are now available for hire with all profits supporting two local charities; Plastic Free North Devon and Surf mobility.  This will provide a more sustainable, accessible alternative to polystyrene bodyboards, reduce environmental damage locally and globally and support businesses in the SouthWest.

Other hire companies have expressed an interest in working with PFND to deliver similar schemes and the aim is to expand the project in 2021 and set a standard for industry best practice in the future.

Protect our Playground Bellyboard Hire Project

Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) Beach care team have been running their #waveofwaste project in North Devon and cornwall to collect discarded body boards for the last few years and the results have been staggering – Over 500 broken boards were collected from Croyde in 2019! KBT Estimate that if two broken boards were discarded each day of the summer holiday on every Devon & Cornish bathing water beach then over 14,586 boards would head to landfill.

The team at Plastic Free North Devon (PFND) were shocked by this and while they continue to work to clear toxic plastic waste from the environment, wanted to come up with a way to stop the waste at source.  Encouraging the use of wooden belly boards and making them accessible to residents and visitors alike through a hire scheme seemed like a good plan.

The owners at Saunton Surf Hire liked the sound of this and agreed to run a pilot scheme this year, with up-front costs and profits being shared equally by two local charities – PFND and Surf Mobility.  A generous grant from Turnstyle Designs, Barnstaple has allowed PFND to develop the project and meet its share of the start-up costs.

The project has been met with great enthusiasm with lots of people telling us that they still have the bellyboards owned by their grandparents.

“It’s fantastic to think that something that our grandparent’s generation enjoyed can still be enjoyed by their grandchildren.” said Andy Clee, one of the team at PFND.  “Who would have thought that wooden belly boards could become a metaphor for how we should be treating our planet?  We really have got to start thinking long term about the impact that our lifestyles and choices are having and make some serious changes. Reducing plastic production and leaving fossil fuels in the ground are two of these and we should all be doing the best we can to move in this direction.”

What can people do?  We would love residents and visitors to North Devon to:

  • Come and have a go and ‘try the ply.’
  • Encourage other hire shops to get involved and offer a similar service.
  • Ask local retailers to stop selling cheap, plastic beach toys and surf gear.
  • Recycle any broken polystyrene body-boards are one of the KBT collection points
  • Think long term.  Try to buy quality items that will last and avoid the temptation of cheap, poorly made things that will end up in the waste system after a week or two of use.

Why are polystyrene body-boards/plastic this such a problem?

Your average cheap polystyrene body-board is manufactured in China, shipped over 5000 miles, distributed to stores and surfed for 10 minutes before breaking and going to landfill.

99% of plastic in circulation including the polystyrene you find in body-boards, comes from fossil fuels.These are then refined and manufactured into plastic, transported, used by consumers and disposed of into some form of waste management system (recycling,landfill or incineration)or the natural environment.  Every stage of this process releases toxic chemicals into the environment that wildlife and humans ingest and inhale.  In humans, the toxic chemicals associated with the plastic lifecycle are associated with cancer, neuro toxicity, diabetes, damage to the immune, renal, cardiovascular, neurological, gastro-intestinal and reproductive systems.  It’s not just wildlife that is being affected!

Plastic lasts for hundreds of years in nature and 40% of it is deliberately designed to be discarded after a few minutes/hours/days use. Recycling systems cannot cope with the volume of plastic currently produced (around 10%), incineration deals with around 12% and the remainder ends up in landfill or the environment.  Plastic could be considered similar to radioactive waste in terms of its toxicity and longevity.

We have to keep tackling this issue – and although 20 wooden belly boards in one location in North Devon isn’t going to solve the problem – collectively it’s a start and we encourage any business to get in touch if they would like to be involved in hire or/and sale of our boards.

About Plastic Free North Devon

Plastic Free North Devon is a registered charity (Reg No: 1182464) and local environmental movement started by volunteers who want to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on the environment in North Devon and beyond. Working with local councils, community groups, businesses, schools, residents and visitors we aim to raise awareness of the issue, reduce the amount of plastic consumed, clear waste plastic from the environment and ensure that it is recycled or disposed of appropriately.





Please contact Claire Moodie for any further information 07815701684

About Surf Mobility

Surf mobility is a registered charity (RCN 1171180) and a Company Limited by guarantee  (Company No. 09692546).

It is now based locally with the intention of using Saunton Beach to help improve the lives of children with physical or mental disabilities and their families or carers by the provision of facilities for recreation and leisure activities and particularly surfing courses with the object of improving the conditions of life of such children and young people.

The Trustees are Jane Squire, Neil Rothney and Dr Jo Herman.

Please contact Sarah Ravensdale for any further information on 07786034403 or

About Timewarp Bellyboards

Timewarp Bellyboards are a small business based in Portreath, Cornwall.  Their bellyboards are made from fully sustainable okoume marine grade plywood from carefully managed forests. This makes them lightweight and extremely strong. They are made exactly the same as boards from the 50’s and will last for generations.

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