Last Updated: 17.10.2023
It is safe to say that the love for nature especially for the ocean runs in most surfers’ blood. In the face of climate change, it has become crucial to ensure that sustainability is at the core of everything we do. This includes sports like surfing. Now you may wonder what aspect of surfing can you change to make it more eco-friendly? There are many especially as the popularity of the spot grows. It is important to own up to the environmental impact it has.
The environmental impact from surfing can be through the choices you make when it comes to surfboards, the skin care products used, choice of surf wear, mode of transport, how you treat the beach and more.
Let’s delve into how your choices can make or break your efforts towards sustainable surfing.
1. Choosing the Right Material for your Surfboards
The material of the surfboard you use matters as well as the process of making it and even the compounds they release into the environment. We know the adrenaline rush that surfers can immerse themselves in with a PU or epoxy board. While the performance is unmatched, the industry is slowly getting to a place where eco-friendly boards are performing equally well.
Sustainable alternatives for surf board materials include wood, cork, bamboo, and paulownia. These are constantly evolving to give you unparalleled surfing experience without having to sacrifice on performance. And the good news is that it will last you for a longer period of time. You may also come across surf boards made of bio-resins may be marketed as eco-friendly alternatives but the process used to make these surf boards may defeat the purpose. As these processes, end up creating harmful by-products, the purpose of being eco-friendly is offset.
2. Make Sure what you Wear Makes Mother Earth Happy
Moving on to our next item on the list of surfing paraphernalia that you need to choose sustainably – wetsuits! We love your surf looks in your favourite wetsuits but what you are wearing may be damaging the environment if it is made of neoprene. Neoprene is derived from petroleum or limestone which are both available in only a limited quantity. Wetsuits made from neoprene cannot be recycled and are non-biodegradable. Even your other swim wear like bikini and boardshorts are made of materials like spandex and nylon, which are again petroleum-based.
The awareness of the impact of surf wear has been on the rise for a while now with brands and designers opting for eco-friendly options. Materials like Yulex, Ariaprene, and some other recycled materials are gaining popularity globally. You will also find several brands offering surf wear made from recycled materials. While some of these may not be bio-degradable but they serve a great help to mother nature which we discuss in the last point about thrifting.
3. Choose a Green Mode of Transport to your Surf Location
If you live close to surf locations, try to reduce your carbon footprint by opting for the greenest transport option available to you. Try cycling or using a public transport to get to local surf spots. If you are opting for a surf spot that is not local, try to opt for slow travel. Explore if there are other modes of transport you can choose over flights. It may be uncomfortable but it sure can make a difference. However, if there are no other options and you have to board a plane, make sure to choose one with lower CO2 emissions. The idea is to always look out for greener options.
4. Explore Eco-friendly Surf Wax
Traditional surfboard waxes are petroleum-based and like we discussed in the case of surf boards, there are not very great for the environment. As these end up in the ocean when the, surfers are now encouraging eco-friendly surf wax options that don’t harm the environment. In fact, some surfers are taking it one step further by opting to make wax at home for their surf boards.
5. Surfing and Sunscreen go Hand in Hand
If you are a avid surfer, you understand how important it is to lather yourself up with sunscreen when you are stepping into the ocean. The culprit here are sunscreen lotions that contain octinoxate and oxybenzone which can be harmful to marine ecology when they wash off our bodies during surfing.
Sunscreen lotions made of zinc oxide and are completely free of micro plastics are great choices to start with. These are marine-friendly and do a great job at offering sun protection as well.
6. Don’t Hesitate to Join the Thrift Movement
We understand that sometimes you may not find sustainable alternatives for your surf gear and accessories so easily. Or you may have just begun your eco-friendly surf journey and don’t know what to do with all the non-environment friendly stuff! Most of your problems can be solved through thrifting.
So, if you have a PU or epoxy board that is still great to use you can always sell it to someone. This way it does not end up in the land fill and the person buying it is not contributing towards the production of another one. Same goes for your wetsuits! Instead of buying brand new surf boards or wetsuits!
Additionally, you can also support brands that use recycled plastics or other materials to create swimsuits.
Be An Environmentally-Friendly Surfer: Know your Products
Apart from your surfboard, surf wear, and sunscreen, there are still many parts of your surf equipment and surf trip that call for sustainability. The list can get longer but as long as surfers make an effort to be eco-friendly even with one step, it makes all the difference. Environmentally conscious surfing companies such as Envirosurfer are attempting to address some of the ecological issues with surfing products and offer green alternatives.
Sustainable Surfing Organizations
Other ways in which surfers are trying to ‘save the planet’ include projects like Bali’s own Eco Surf Rescue Uluwatu, which is fighting to keep Uluwatu beach – one of Bali’s most beautiful surf spots – clean and safe for future generations.
Then there is Surf for Life. The organization’s mission is to channel the interest and energy of individual surfers into teams that travel internationally to various project sites where they serve as hands-on volunteers.
The non-profit organization WAVES for Development was the result of a surf trip to northern Peru. Several volunteer programs help the local youth becoming empowered adults. Also, help shaping traveler’s views of the world and themselves and becoming more eco-friendly.
Read more about surfing and the environment on Care2.
Sustainable surfing involves practicing and promoting environmentally conscious and socially responsible behaviours within the surfing community. It aims to minimize the environmental impact of surfing activities and contribute positively to local communities.
Surfers can reduce their environmental impact by choosing eco-friendly surf gear, properly disposing of waste, participating in beach clean-ups, and supporting sustainable surfboard materials and manufacturing processes.
Yes, sustainable surfboard options include those made from recycled materials, eco-friendly resins, and sustainably sourced wood. Many surfboard shapers and brands are adopting environmentally friendly practices in their manufacturing.
Surfers can contribute to ocean conservation by participating in beach clean-ups, supporting marine conservation organizations, and raising awareness about the importance of protecting marine ecosystems.
Yes, there are several eco-friendly surf apparel brands that use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and environmentally friendly dyes. These brands prioritize ethical and sustainable practices in their production processes.
Surfers can support local communities by choosing locally made surf products, participating in community initiatives and events, and respecting the local environment and culture. Engaging with and supporting local businesses also contributes to sustainable tourism.
Yes, sustainable travel for surfers involves choosing eco-friendly accommodations, minimizing carbon footprints by using public transportation or carpooling, and supporting businesses that prioritize sustainable and responsible tourism practices.
Surf schools can play a significant role in promoting sustainable surfing practices by adopting eco-friendly equipment, educating students about environmental conservation, and organizing community engagement activities such as beach clean-ups and awareness campaigns.
Surf events can prioritize sustainability by implementing waste reduction strategies, promoting recycling, using renewable energy sources, and incorporating eco-friendly practices in event logistics. Collaborating with local communities to ensure minimal impact is also crucial.
Yes, certifications like the Sustainable Surf’s ECOBOARD Project certify surfboards that meet specific sustainability criteria. Additionally, organizations such as Surfrider Foundation and 1% for the Planet work towards promoting sustainable surfing practices globally.