How can you become an eco-friendly surfer?

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Marta Rzepecka's picture
Marta Rzepecka
09 · 30 · 2019

The ocean is the playground of every surfer. Even if surfing means being immersed in nature, practicing this sport comes with various environmental issues. Kelly Slater, a world surfing champion and an environmental activist, once said: “I think when a surfer becomes a surfer, it's almost like an obligation to be an environmentalist at the same time”. It’s our turn to make a good change. Do you want to know how can you become an eco-friendly surfer and catch the waves without harming the planet? Let us give you some ideas on where to start:

1. Reduce the carbon footprint of your trips

Even though you can reduce your carbon footprint with other actions that we’ll mention later on, your surf trips deserve some extra attention. Air travel does more damage to our environment than you could possibly imagine. Long haul flights release tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If you really need to fly, choose direct routes to cut down the emissions of these harmful gases. You can also choose a carbon offset company to compensate for emissions made during your trips. If you don’t know how does carbon offsetting work and which organization you should choose, don’t miss this article

Same rule applies to your accommodation: does the one you choose benefit the local economy or do you always opt for multinational chains? When you leave your room, do you turn off the electricity and air conditioning? All the small steps make the big difference. A lot of hotels offer the “no room service needed” option. If you don’t change your towels and your bedsheets at home every single day you don’t need to do that on your trips. Also, whenever you can, choose to walk or bike to the beach, or at least share a ride with other surfers!

2. Use eco-friendly boards

Typical surfboards are made with petroleum by-products, laminating polyester resin over polyurethane foam and using toxic chemicals. They can never be recycled. By buying them you leave a heavy carbon footprint. So how can you make your board greener? Luckily more and more brands offer equipment made with recycled and more sustainable materials. The obvious step would be choosing eco materials: wooden or cork surfboard. A lot of people think that it comes at a price, as other materials can’t beat the performance of the fiberglass boards. Check out the Ecoboard Project: it lists manufacturers that offer more eco-friendly equipment with the same technical performance attributes as any other board. By using materials and processes that reduce toxicity during manufacturing you can measurably reduce your carbon footprint. Same performance, durability and quality with much less harm for the environment: this is the future of eco-surfers!

3. Choose your wetsuit wisely

Ditch the neoprene, it’s nasty for the planet. This synthetic rubber is non biodegradable and harmful for the mother nature. Nowadays more and more companies offer wetsuits made with less toxic components or with recycled neoprene. The neoprene free wetsuits are also game changers, even if their price is quite elevated. Brands such as Vissla, Patagonia, Picture Organic or Soöruz brought to the market new wetsuits made of fabrics that perform even better than neoprene. The modern alternatives are lightweight, elastic, durable and usually even smell better! So go for a greener alternative and ditch the toxic neoprene once and for all.

4. Go green with your wax, sunscreen and accessories 

Many surfing accessories are made of toxic materials. Start by changing the wax you use on your boards. The conventional one is made of paraffin, a petroleum by-product, and contain other substances that are harmful not only for the nature but also for our health. Most of the wax ends up in the ocean and causes deaths of the marine wildlife. Choose organic wax brands based on soy or beeswax and other petroleum-free and biodegradable materials. 

Your sunscreen might also be harmful to the ocean. Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals present in the sunscreens, are toxic to the marine wildlife. Always check the labels and choose the ones that do not contain any of these two ingredients. Remember that it’s always better to use the rub-in creams rather than the sprays.

You can find a greener alternative to every accessory you’re using while surfing: choose glass water bottles over the plastic ones, go for bamboo wax combs and try finding every object in the version made of recycled materials. Even the smallest change matters.

5. Clean up the beaches

Last, but not least: always go for the simple solutions. Every time you are at a beach, clean it. Do not only throw away the trash after yourself. Pick up some bags, bottles or cigarette butts and leave the beach cleaner than it was when you arrived. The microplastics are the main component of the marine debris and it’s extremely important to avoid the contamination. You can also participate in beach cleanup events when you can collect trash with other surfers to help keeping your favorite surf spot clean. 

As you can see, there is a lot to be done to prevent the harmful effects that surfing on the environment. Every single action and every single person make an impact. Keep these tips in mind and make better choices. This way we all can help the planet and catch cleaner waves!

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