Co-Founder, Sustainable Surf


No on O was definitely a good thing.

No on O was definitely a good thing.

I’m surprised the surfing world isn’t talking more about the historic vote on oil drilling that happened in Hermosa Beach on March 3rd. If approved, it would have placed a major oil drilling operation literally just a few yards away from the historic surfboard manufacturing district in Hermosa Beach. The back walls of the shaping bays of Hap Jacobs and Pat Ryan (ET Surfboards) would touch an 8,000 barrel per day oil drilling operation with 30+ oil wells and 90’ high oil derricks.

Thankfully, the citizens of Hermosa Beach voted “no” on Measure O, thanks in large part to organizations like Keep Hermosa Hermosa, the South Bay Surfrider chapter, and Heal the Bay.  Polls had a record turnout in an off-cycle election, with nearly 80% of votes against oil drilling. However, this near-miss calls into stark relief an inherent contradiction in surf culture. As surfers and coastal residents, we are highly dependent on oil and fossil fuels. According to the New York Times, the city now owes E&B Oil $17.5 million as a termination fee–$7 million is to be paid from a fund set aside, while the remainder will be paid in $800,000 annual increments.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, Hermosa Beach was a hotbed of surfboard production. Two city blocks housed the shaping and glassing operations of Greg Noll, Bing Copeland, Hap Jacobs, Rick Surfboards, and many more. Body Glove also had their wetsuit factory in this area. It’s safe to say that more surfboards were produced here than anywhere else in the world during the 1960s. It’s still a hotbed of surfboard production, with Spyder, Becker, Scott Anderson, Dan Cobley, Pat Ryan, Hap Jacobs, Aquatech, and Mangiagli Glassing.


There is a serious paradox here. On the surface, it would seem to make sense that oil drilling would occur in the heartland of modern surfboard production, because modern surfboards depend entirely on petroleum. E&B Oil made a hilarious-but-true advertisement trumpeting this fact (see photo). However ask any surfer if they want oil drilling in Hermosa Beach, and you’ll realize that most people fundamentally disagree with the idea.

Well, they're right.

Well, they’re right.

How do we resolve this paradox? The first step is to recognize the threat that petroleum causes to surfing. The second step is to realize that there are great solutions that reduce our dependence on petroleum, and these solutions provide immediate personal benefits by taking action.

The future of our sport is directly threatened by the collective use of oil and fossil fuels by surfers and surf companies. The resulting CO2 emissions cause a profound threat to the oceans. Ocean acidification is happening ten times faster than ever before in geologic history, and 90% of coral reefs are threatened with extinction in the next few decades. This fundamental change to ocean chemistry will have unpredictable and likely terrible consequences for everything that lives in or on the ocean.

There are even more threats to surfing from CO2 emissions. Sea level rise from melting glaciers will drown out surf breaks with a “permanent high tide.” An expected extra two feet of water by 2050 will harm both surf breaks and coastal communities. Even worse, changes to wind and weather patterns will reduce North Pacific storm intensity and shift storm tracks to the north. This will reduce the frequency of good surf, and a steeper northerly swell angle will significantly reduce surf quality in Southern California. No big wave surf contests were held this past winter, which may be an indicator of early signs of the flat future to come. Below is a video of scientific research showing the bleak impact of sea level rise on Lowers.


If we wait for government to do something about CO2 emissions, it will be far too late to solve the problem. Scientists have been ringing alarm bells for decades, and yet CO2 emissions are going up faster than ever. You can insert your own cynical comment here, the fact remains that as individuals we control the majority of our own CO2 emissions from the energy we use and the products we buy.

As surfers, let’s come together as a community and start to reduce our own personal emissions. Even if you don’t  believe humans are responsible for climate change, you will still find immediate personal benefit from reducing your personal CO2 emissions. You can save money, reduce waste, improve your health and wellness.

Here are some immediate examples you can do to help solve the problem.

1. Change your lightbulbs
The price of LED bulbs has reduced to under $10. These bulbs have no mercury, have great light quality, and last a very, very long time. For an average 60W bulb that burns a few hours day in your house, it will pay for itself in energy savings within one year, and save over $100 during its lifetime. In California, this would save 1,500 lbs of CO2 emissions. What’s not to like about saving money and saving CO2 emissions at the same time? This is a no-brainer solution that everyone should do.

2. Buy a sustainable Ecoboard surfboard
Surfboards made from new materials like plant-based resin and recycled foam have a dramatic 40% reduction in their carbon footprint. They also rip, because companies like Channel Islands, Lost, and Firewire wouldn’t make ecoboards if they didn’t perform. Just ask Michel Bourez if he liked his Ecoboard when he won the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach in macking overhead surf. Pick your favorite Ecoboard shaper on our website, or just ask your favorite shaper to work with Sustainable Surf and make your next board into an ecoboard.

There is a tremendous amount of innovation happening in sustainable surfboard production. New sustainable resin and foam formulations are coming fast in 2015. Many more shapers and builders are trying out these materials, and trying out new ways to build boards. I can’t wait to see how the sustainable surfboard market evolves by the end of the year.

3. Buy organic food from your local farmers market
We are what we eat, and most food is shipped on trucks from over 1,000 miles away and is grown with petroleum fertilizers. You can break this cycle by shopping at your local farmers market for organic food. You’ll eat better and surf better, too.

There are hundreds of other steps you can do to improve your life while reducing your dependence on petroleum and your carbon footprint. We will be talking about these more in the context of our Deep Blue Life program. You’ll get stoked and help save the ocean from the serious threats. We can do this together, and have fun surfing at the same time.


At Sustainable Surf, our mission is to be the catalyst that transforms surf culture into a powerful force to protect the ocean playground. We hope you will join us, and be a part of the solution. Our goal is to help re-create the petroleum-free lifestyle and culture of Ancient Hawaii, which was the original sustainable surfing society and had a deep and powerful connection to nature.


Only the best. We promise.


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