Surfing & Sustainability

Surfing & Sustainability

Surfing combines sport and skill, creating an emotional connection between nature and the ocean. The Center for Surf and Research reports that the surfing industry has an estimated 10 million surfers in 120 countries, contributing to a growing industry worth an estimated 17 billion dollars. Overall, it's clear that the surfing industry has a significant impact on both a global and local scale. This impact can be seen in a variety of ways, such as the effect on local communities due to the rapid increase in surf tourism, and the impact of the production and consumption of surfing-related products like shorts, bikinis, wetsuits, surfboards, and other items.

So, what steps are being taken by the surf industry and surfers to promote sustainability and reduce the negative impact on marine life and humans in the ocean? Surfers worldwide have initiated movements to transform coastal areas into national parks and advocated for the installation of sea defenses, including the preservation and supervision of sand dunes. In areas where there are thriving surfing communities, local residents tend to have a greater appreciation for the marine environment and its wildlife. This often leads to increased advocacy for government protection and preservation of these areas. Surfers have founded organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, Save the Waves Coalition, and Surfers Against Sewage, which have made significant strides in safeguarding beaches, reefs, and ocean areas that may not have received as much support without the help of the surf community. Surfers can be found riding waves in various locations across the globe, including California, South Africa, Ireland, and Alaska and the popularity of surf culture has impacted different forms of media such as movies, fashion, and music. Surfers prioritize comfort and functionality over fashion, with their signature look consisting of salty hair, a tan, and comfortable clothing. Despite this, the relaxed and beachy style of surfers has served as inspiration for many designers. The laid-back and effortless vibe of the look remains cool and casual, without appearing overly contrived.

Surfing is a sport that is deeply connected to nature, and surfers around the world have become increasingly aware of the impact that consumption and pollution have on the ocean. Although the industry could be better, it has begun to prioritize sustainability and ethical practices in the use of materials. Several brands are utilizing top-quality recycled fabrics to produce quality surf-wear and raise funds for biodiversity conservation, like Surfers Against Sewage, a non-profit organization, that is combating plastic pollution. In today's world, sustainable and ethical fashion has been widely embraced by consumers who are looking for better quality products with lower environmental and social impacts. But when it comes to surfwear specifically, finding clothing made from sustainable materials that also follow ethical production guidelines is essential to ensure that surfing is still considered a green sport and is protecting the environment that it depends on. A growing number of surfers are now choosing to purchase locally crafted boards, or second-hand surfboards, rather than mass-produced boards, that are not shipped or curated with harsh resins and chemical sprays, which significantly reduces their carbon footprint. Things like surf wax may seem unimportant but is also a simple change that some surfers are beginning to make. Typically, surf wax is a large block of petrochemicals that release microplastics into the ocean. Fortunately, there are now numerous eco-friendly wax alternatives available, with beeswax being one of the most popular options. Like any good road trip, sustainability is a journey, not a destination; it’s always changing, adapting, and growing as more and more people are choosing an environmentally conscious way of life. The surf industry is no different and is evolving in order to make harmonious decisions that advocate for the oceans, the primary being that gives surfers life.



By Taylor McLagan

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