I’m sure I’m not alone in this struggle. From a conscious surfer’s perspective, I try to take steps that help preserve the ocean and its waves. As a consumer, however, I struggle to consistently find surf brands on a mission to do the same. For years, I’ve kept my eyes open for brands dedicated to sustainability only to be underwhelmed by the number of cause-based businesses available to the everyday surfer.
There is momentum behind lifestyle clothing and gear companies focused on eliminating the adverse effects their products have on the environment. The way I see it, there are two things contributing to this: either sustainability is simply becoming popular among consumers and companies are just following the trend, or the processes involved in creating sustainable products are becoming more accessible.
To get a deeper understanding of this shift, no matter how slow it may seem, I reached out to Daniel Collins, the creative director of WiseFool, a new surf and skate lifestyle brand based in Huntington Beach, California. Wisefool is a cause-based business that recently changed its entire ethos to focus on fashion as a vehicle for raising awareness about environmentalism, conservation, and sustainability. At its original conception, Daniel launched WiseFool as a reflection of and tribute to his local surf scene in Huntington Beach. “The more we got into apparel as a vehicle to inspire, the more we learned how badly the fashion industry is damaging our natural environment,” he says. “Once we realized this, we started to feel hypocritical as our actual products, and the ways they were being produced, were simply not in line with the nature-based message we were trying to send.”
According to EcoWatch, the fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world, behind only oil and gas. I have yet to find stats on how the surf industry’s apparel production process actually contributes to this, but it’s safe to assume that regardless of the size of its contribution, it’s not great for the environment or future surfers. In addition to the widespread environmental damage caused by apparel, it is estimated that the annual production of roughly 750,000 new surfboards, creates around 220,000 tons of CO2 emissions as well. So whether it’s the clothes we wear or the gear we use, a surfing lifestyle isn’t as eco-friendly as many of us would like. In an industry that relies on maintaining the health of our natural environment in order to thrive, something has to be done.
“We have to be better than this as a surf community,” Collins said. “Lack of awareness presents the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a sustainable future. As consumers of surf-related products, we all need to start paying attention to the impacts that everything we use or wear have on our beloved ocean and the natural environment as a whole.”
Daniel’s journey, along with the rising tide of cause-based brands, does not stop at building awareness. The next step is actually walking the talk and incorporating sustainability into every aspect of a brand’s business model, from the products themselves to the modes of production, supply partners, and even the marketing efforts. That is where the true challenge begins.