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War on the Chinese bodyboards poisoning UK beaches

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War on the Chinese bodyboards poisoning UK beaches: Growing number of resorts are banning the super cheap boards that fill the sea with tiny plastic fragments

  • The boards, many of which are made in China are hugely popular and cost 60p
  • Thousands of them are abandoned every year, disintegrating into plastic pieces
  • Now seaside shops are removing them after calls for a nationwide ban of boards 


A growing number of seaside resorts are banning the sale of cheap bodyboards amid fears about pollution and safety.

The boards, many of which are made in China and which can be bought for as little as 60p online, are hugely popular.

But thousands of them are abandoned every year, while many crumple after just a couple of uses. 

Holly Robertson is the beach manager at Croyde Bay Devon. with cheap plastic bodyboards causing polystyrene

Holly Robertson is the beach manager at Croyde Bay Devon. with cheap plastic bodyboards causing polystyrene 

Most disintegrate into tiny plastic fragments that are almost impossible to remove from the beach.

Now seaside shops are removing them after calls for a nationwide ban. ‘We find thousands of these boards on the beaches,’ said Neil Hembrow, of Keep Britain Tidy. 

‘They’re imported from China or Asia and they last a very short time, perhaps even just one surf. 

‘They’re made of two inches of cheap polystyrene covered with nylon, sometimes a plastic sheet. 

‘But a single wave can weigh up to a ton. So the impact on these boards makes them snap.

‘We’re seeing towns and villages around the coast banning them.’

Sales have surged in recent years as the pastime has gained popularity. Former Prime Minister David Cameron and his family have often been spotted boarding in Cornwall.

Last year, an estimated 16,000 boards were discarded, a figure expected to soar with some 30 million holidaymakers – more than double last year’s total – descending on UK beaches this summer. 

When The Mail on Sunday visited Croyde Bay in Devon, we saw hundreds of plastic, brightly coloured bodyboards in use and picked up handfuls of rainbow-coloured polystyrene bits as we walked along the beach.

Beach ranger Holly Robertson said: ‘These super-cheap boards won’t even see out the day, never mind the week. Some of them are broken within two hours.’

She added: ‘They get dumped and they break up into tiny fragments. To birds, the pieces look like food. They think it’s a fish egg. But it’s killing them.’

The fragments collect algae which causes them to sink and resemble fish food, Ms Robertson said.

‘The leatherback turtles out there between us and Lundy Island are being killed by plastic pollution,’ she added. ‘These are the same turtles pictured on the kids’ bodyboards. How ironic is that?’

Earlier this year, Westward Ho! in North Devon became the first resort to agree a ban on the sale of cheap bodyboards

Earlier this year, Westward Ho! in North Devon became the first resort to agree a ban on the sale of cheap bodyboards

They are also endangering human life. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was called out to 2,000 bodyboard incidents last year.

Nathan Lockwood, from the UK Bodyboarding Association, which backs the campaign to end the use of cheap plastic boards, said: ‘I’ve seen people going into the sea with these types of boards when there are strong currents.

‘As soon as a decent wave comes, the board snaps and they are out of their depth.’

Earlier this year, Westward Ho! in North Devon became the first resort to agree a ban on the sale of cheap bodyboards. Officials encourage families to rent or buy higher-quality boards made of wood or more expensive plastic. In Croyde Bay, surf shops have also agreed to stop selling them.

Mr Lockwood said: ‘They are not sustainable in any way and give the sport a bad name.’

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