A Surfer's Guide to Sustainable Surfing

As surfer's and ocean lovers, we rely heavily on a clean and healthy ocean environment when we are out in the water.

As surfers, we spend more time in the ocean environment than most, and some of us may be under the impression we are not harming the world’s oceans. It’s true that the act of surfing doesn’t affect the oceans negatively, but there’s more to surfing than getting barreled and catching that perfect set wave.

Unfortunately the surf industry is far from eco-friendly: with all of the toxins and hazardous materials that go into making the equipment that we use, as well as the amount of traveling that we do to search that perfect wave - burning up fossil fuels in the process.

We are all just guests in on this planet, and just like any other house guest, we are expected to clean up after ourselves and at the very least, not to inflict damage. Unfortunately that is not the way we treat the environment, and collectively we are doing more harm than good. That is why we are psyched to share how the sustainable surf movement has started to gain speed, and more and more surfer's and board builders are starting to hop on board!

The Sustainable surf movement has a collective voice

We as surfers are in a unique position to make change in the natural environment. We have a strong collection of voices. In fact, latest studies suggest that there are around 35 million folks across 162 countries that practice the art of wave riding. While one voice can do a lot, a collection of millions of voices can do much more.

With sustainable surf gaining steam, it's becoming easier and easier to make a difference – a difference that can do wonders for the sport and decrease its' reliance on fossil fuels and hazardous materials.

The downside of all these surfers?

With this many surfers in the water (increasing everyday), we are continuously using more and more products that are proving harmful to the world’s oceans. And buy purchasing some of this stuff, we are contributing further to the carbon footprint taken on by the surf industry.

If we don’t do something about it the trend is going to continue. With the rising number of surfers each year, the environmental impact is still growing.

Fortunately, there are many ways that we can clean up our act and get on board with the sustainable surf movement. And the best thing about it?? These actions don't have any affect how we enjoy getting in the water and surfing waves.

Here are some things that we can do:

1. Minimize Surf Travel

As much as it pains us to say it. We love to travel. We all have our own lists of world class surf breaks all over the planet that we are itching to ride. There's nothing wrong with that, it’s okay to appreciate and enjoy Earth's natural resources.

But do you really need to fly to the other side of the planet like Lombok, Indonesia twice a year to surf? Planes emit harmful gases, noise, heat and particulates that contribute to climate change. While the average emission per passenger per flight varies extensively, the average direct emission of long distance flights as provided by a study completed by the Carbon Independen is between 100 -120 g/km CO2.

We don't have to completely give up our overseas surf trips - we just need to limit them. Cover shorter distances on your trips to lessen your carbon footprint.

You can also travel locally! Here in New England there are so many fun waves to choose from. Looking to go somewhere warmer? The southeast US has hundreds of quality waves with warmer water temperatures.

2. Check out Sustainable Equipment and Support Brands Trying to Make a Difference Vote with your wallet.

More and more surf companies are making the move to offer sustainable products. From surfboards, to clothing and everything in between - there is a company out there making a better and more eco-friendly product.

One of our favorite examples is Firewire Surfboards. Firewire partnered up with Sustainable Surf to establish the ECOBOARD Project which supports the surfboard industry’s transition to more eco-friendly materials and business practices, with the ultimate objective of lowering environmental impact, focusing specifically on the world’s oceans.

The average traditionally (polyurethane foam with polyester resin) constructed surfboards are estimated to produce around 105 lbs of co2, while Firewire's least eco-friendly construction produces just 74 lbs of co2. This takes into account all process involved with shaping a board - from making the foam blank to shipping it to your local surf shop.

The Sustainable Surfboards eco-board seal of approval!

Sustainable surf has gotten many other surfboard manufacturers to follow in Firewire's foot steps, jumping on the Ecoboard movement. And the best part? These boards work and feel insane under your feet!

Another great example of sustainabily built surfboards that rip are Solid Surfboards out of San Diego. These guys use hemp cloth, basalt stringers, and more to lower their footprint. 

Its not only surfboards that have made huge strides in the eco-friendly direction. We're starting to see traction pads made out of algae, clothing made out of organically grown materials, and even wetsuits made out of limestone.The options are out there!

You don’t have to go all out and completely switch your all of your equipment with the most eco-friendly stuff. Take baby steps. Once your board or wetsuit is at the end of it's life, figure out a way to recycle it (we can recycle your wetsuits!), then put your trust in one of the companies producing sustainable surfing products.

You'll feel better knowing that your supporting the sustainable surf movement, and you'll be stoked at how well this equipment performs.

3. Prolong the Life of your Equipment

Like all industry, the surfboard manufacturing industry leaves behind quite a carbon footprint with how it depends on petrol to manufacture foam and other materials needed to build surfboards. The same dependence can be said on shipping of the equipment. It adds up....

Support sustainable surfboards when you can. If you don't have the money for a new board or can’t make the jump away from pe/pu technology, prolong the life of your surfboard.

Resist the consumer urge to constantly need to change or upgrade your equipment. Ride your current board until it dies. Once the board is no longer surf-able - make an attempt to recycle it. Donate it to an artist. Sell it to someone looking to use it for a ding repair project. Give it to a local grom. Do whatever you need to do to try to keep it out of a landfill!

On that note, you can also buy a second hand board instead of a new one. This prolongs the life of a board that’s already in been built. Used boards need love too!

Got a tear in your wetsuit? Wetsuits are super easy to repair! Grab a tube of aquaseal or neoprene cement and get to work. Not sure where to start? Bring it down to Warm Winds and we will personally help you figure out what you need to do to extend the life of your suit.

Got a couple dings? Roll up your sleeves and fix them up - or get a professional to fix them for you!

And if you can't fix it, you can recycle it! Warm Winds runs a wetsuit recycling service with Lava Rubber.

4. Reduce your dependence on single use plastics

The ocean environment is literally drowning in plastic. Scientists predict that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. If by some odd reason you haven't heard by now plastic is toxic both in an out of the water. It injures and kills fish, sea birds, and marine mammals. It has already impacted a few hundred species across the planet - including 86% of the sea turtle population. The impacts include fatalities due to suffocation, ingestion, starvation, drowning, entanglement, and infection.

As a civilization we have developed such a dependence on single use plastics. It's everywhere! It's there when we shop, it's how we get and drink our water and coffee, it's in our face wash and toothpaste, and chances are we might even be eating it!

Each day, more than 8 million pieces of plastic enters the ocean. It is insane to think that we are knowingly poisoning the ocean this way!

You can start your own personal battle on ocean plastic pollution by stopping your own single use plastic dependence. To name a few:

  • 1. Get some reusable bags for the grocery store.
  • 2. Stop using plastic coffee stirrers and straws.
  • 3. Get yourself a reusable water bottle and coffee mug.

Being a sustainable surfer means reducing/eliminating your plastic use. Learn more about plastic pollution and more ways to reduce your usage by visiting Surfrider's page Rise Above Plastics.

5. Join or Help an Organization that Promotes Sustainable Surfing

The organization Sustainable Surf is a good start to learning more about the sustainable surf movement. They're goal is to be the catalyst that transforms surf culture into a powerful force for protecting the ocean playground. They do this by running a variety of different programs such as celebrating and encouraging people to build surfboards out of waste, and incentivizing surfboard manufacturers to build eco-friendly boards to be labeled as an "ecoboard". These guys are sort of "leading the pack" for sustainable surfing.

The Surfrider foundation is also a great non-profit organization that works to protect our oceans, waves and beaches. They do this by using an extensive list of volunteers across the world and using grass roots tactics to help solve our ocean issues, both at the local and federal level.

There are local chapters all over the place that you can get involved with, and if you live in Rhode Island you can check out the RI Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation's website to learn more about upcoming beach cleanups or other events to help out with.

There are a boatload of other great organizations that may be around your area that could for sure use some help. Reach out and lend a hand. The future of our oceans may depend on it!

6. Respect the Ocean

Sometimes the most simple act is the most effective. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised to know that a lot of surfers commit violations that show a blatant disrespect for the ocean. They might leave trash behind, disturb the ecosystem, or might even support ocean drilling for oil. It’s not that they’re bad people but society has created a mindset that promotes constant consumption and wasteful practices.

Want to really make a difference? Break the mindset.

Start with yourself. Take a look at your own surfing and personal lifestyle. Have you been acting like a good house guest?? If not, shift your mindset. Look at your output. Make baby steps to positive change - follow the advise given in steps above. Often, the mental shift is all that is required to start a movement.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Be more environment-conscious.

7. Start Your Own Sustainable Surf Movement

You can do a lot on your own!

Encourage other surfers to join the sustainable surf movement.

Think sustainable when you travel.

Say something next time you see someone throw their trash on the beach. Be the bigger person and pick up after someone who has left waste behind.

Join a local beach clean-up. Better yet, start one.

Be the catalyst for change within your local surf community.

Conclusion: Respect the Ocean and Benefit from it.

We all get psyched when we show up at the beach when there's a swell. Let’s channel some of that enthusiasm and be more dedicated to protecting the ocean playground that we spend so much time in.

Learn to give back to the ocean. Shift your mindset. The steps above are a good start. We (and our children) are the ones who will benefit in the long run.

Guide to Buying a Used SurfboardFollow these steps to make sure you end up with the right used surfboard!