The Inertia Gear Editor
Zak Noyle Polluted Bali Dede Suryana Waves of Change

Something’s not right here. Dede Suryana stands in a barrel full of trash. This image has galvanized an environmental movement. Photo: Zak Noyle

The Inertia

We surfers love to think of ourselves as nature-aligned, and while our love of the ocean and the natural world is undeniable, actions do speak louder than words, and there are a lot of things we do that don’t fit the “eco-friendly” bill. Well, today is Earth Day, and while one day certainly isn’t going to save the world alone, the reminder to build and maintain sustainable habits is one that I at least could certainly use right now, especially in the face of what feels like insurmountable climate change. Here are some surf-specific ways that we could all be reducing our impact the next time we get out to play in the water. All of them have been said before, but all of them are worth remembering, and not just once a year, but every day. If we’re going to save the world, we’re going to need to build habits that are different than the ones we have today.

Give it a shot. The worst that can happen is you’ll be healthier. Photo: Cameron Brown.

1. Take a More Sustainable Trip to the Waves

This one can be difficult, but it’s so important. Transportation accounts for a third of all emissions in the U.S., and we as surfers tend to travel a bit more than others. Even if you’re not jetting around the globe to chase swells, you’re likely driving down to your local break a few times a week at least, and those trips can stack up quickly. If you live close enough, try getting in the habit of riding your bike to the surf, even if it means you can only bring one board or will have a bit less water time as a result.

If you don’t live within biking distance, carpooling with other surfers is another great way to reduce your impact, as is considering the switch to an electric vehicle, for those who have the means. If none of the above are within the cards, or if you’ve got an overseas surf trip planned, a great way to offset the carbon produced by your travel is with Sustainable Surf’s SeaTrees “Wipe Out” program, where you can choose from a number of options to “wipe out” your carbon footprint from an overseas surf trip, a year of driving to the beach, and more, with startlingly low costs.

Beach cleanup in Baja California. Photo: WILDCOAST.

2. Give Some Time to Clean Up Your Beach

No one likes to see a beach covered in trash, and as surfers we spend a lot of time on the sand. So doesn’t it make sense to spend an hour or two a few weekends a year making the place you surf a little cleaner? Local Surfrider chapters are almost always organizing beach cleanups, and while those can be a great way to connect with like-minded people in your area and get a lot done at once, next time you go surf try bringing a trash bag and some gardening gloves with you to make your home break a little cleaner. Make it a habit and you just might make a difference.


These logos designate more sustainable surfboards verified by the ECOBOARD Project.

These logos designate more sustainable surfboards verified by the ECOBOARD Project. Photo: Sustainable Surf.

3. Consider Making Your Next Surfboard an Ecoboard

Surfboards are an environmental nightmare. Carbon-intensive to make, often fragile, and near-impossible to recycle, maybe the only redeeming quality is the love of nature riding on one can instill in us. Well, believe it or not we can do a lot better. Next time you’re in the market for a surfboard, try choosing one with the “Ecoboard” label on it, or chat with your shaper about what you can do to make your next board more sustainable. It’s worth doing your research, as there are a lot of different ways to make a board more “sustainable” and some of them have far more of an impact than others. Even better, buy used!

matunas eco-friendly surf wax

Eco-friendly surf wax? Probably a good idea. Photo: Matunas Surf Wax.

4. Get Used to Paying a Little Extra

If saving the world was cheap, we’d have done it already. And while it might not be cheap, it’s certainly worth it. This can be a hard one for me as I’m a bit of a spendthrift, but I try to remind myself that cheap often means the true costs are being hidden or just handed off to someone else. Instead of choosing a surf product that’s low-cost to you, try choosing one that is low-cost to the environment. Consider it an investment in the future, if that’s what it takes to convince yourself (that’s certainly what it takes in my case).

Matt Meola punts a huge air in Maui. Photo: @1more808

Like nailing an air, saving the environment is gonna take habitual practice. Photo: @1more808 / Dayanidhi Das

5. Make It a Habit

Unless it’s right in our faces (like on Earth Day), we’ve got a tendency to ignore the environmental issues surrounding us. Each of the above actions are small ones, and it’s worth recognizing it’s going to take a lot more than a few Earth Days of beach cleanups or a slightly-less-toxic surfboard to get ourselves off of the highway to hell we’re currently on. As a society we’re going to have to radically change the ways that we consume and interact with the world around us. That being said, the most important change that we can make in the world around us starts with ourselves and the actions that we take. Today, I’m taking the actions above and I’m going to do my best to do the same tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Hold me to it.


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