Sustainability in the surfing industry is a bit of a conundrum. Foam, fiberglass and neoprene are far from environmentally friendly materials, but they form the building blocks of our entire pursuit. However, the less obvious culprit of surfing-related environmental impact is travel.
To ride the best waves in the world, you first have to get there. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who happens to live on the doorstep of a premiere break, you’re probably going to have to fly there. According to NASA, transportation generates about a fourth of global carbon dioxide emissions, second only to the electric power sector. A 2021 study estimated that, despite being responsible for only 2.4 percent of global annual emissions of CO2, aviation contributed approximately 4 percent to observed human-induced global warming to date.
So, what do you do if you’re a surf competition that’s looking to assemble the top surfers from across the world to duke it out? It’s an issue that was top of mind for Rui Costa, the organizer of Capitulo Perfeito, a one-day invite-only tube riding contest at Carcavelos Beach, Portugal. “By bringing some of the best tube riders to Portugal, from all four corners of the world, we knew that our carbon footprint would be significant,” he said.
The answer to the problem was far away from the beaches of Portugal, as it turned out. Last year, the event became the first and only Portuguese-based surf contest to reach carbon neutrality by funding the Castañeros Project, a Peruvian environmental and community intervention program that seeks to preserve the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. This year, organizers have opted to fund the Envira Project, focused on preventing the deliberate deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon Forest.
The project is working towards the protection of more than 39 thousand hectares of tropical rainforest alongside the Jurupari River, near the city of Feijó in the state of Acre, Brazil. Prior to Envira’s intervention, the forest in the privately owned land was going to be clear cut to establish a large cattle ranch. As a result of the project, the land owner signed a voluntary agreement that prohibited them from clearing the forest, in exchange for revenue from the sale of carbon offset credits. In addition, Envira is working to improve the quality of life of local communities by providing education, employment and local infrastructure.
Capitulo Perfeito’s involvement with Envira was enabled by a collaboration with the Reflora Initiative, an environmental startup that helps organizations calculate, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint. After the event wraps, Reflora will send Capitulo Perfeito organizers technical reports detailing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere in the process of setting up the contest, which will then be offset by investment into the Envira Project.
“As an event that takes place in the sea, sustainability is part of Capitulo Perfeito’s DNA,” added Costa. “It’s imperative that we manage to reverse our carbon emissions and find compensatory ways to preserve the planet and the oceans. In 2024, we maintain our commitment to the environment, renewing efforts towards decarbonization and reducing environmental impact at a local and global level.”
However, we still have some time before the newly announced roster of surfers make their airborne pilgrimage to the tubes of Carcavelos. As of now, we’re still in the waiting period, in which organizers have until March 9th to give the green light when conditions are considered perfect enough for the event to run.