Director, Center for Surf Research
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SDSU's Zura residence hall, complete with surf lockers and this mural by Andy Davis. Photo: Dr. Jess Ponting

SDSU’s Zura residence hall, complete with surf lockers and this mural by Andy Davis. Photo: Dr. Jess Ponting


The Inertia

San Diego State University’s Center for Surf Research will host the Sustainable Stoke Conference on September 19th & 20th at the SDSU Alumni Center with support from St Archer, Firewire, Mizu, and Sticky Bumps. The first day will include a rooftop reception and cocktails after panels on cutting edge sustainable technologies in surfboard blanks, resins and hardeners, fins, wetsuits, surf travel, coastal engineering and surf parks. More than a dozen research papers will be presented on the second day of the conference by an international field of researchers from the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada.

In November 2014 Michele Bourez won the Vans World Cup of Surfing on a certified and badged ecoboard. The myth that sustainable surfboard construction compromises performance was very publicly ejected along with 20 feet of spray from The Spartan’s fully torqued power gouges. At the same time a WSL representative was quietly meeting with Hawaiian environmental activists, Sustainable Surf, STOKE Certified, and the Center for Surf Research on respected waterman Kohl Christensen’s north shore property to discuss sustainability in the Hawaiian contest season moving forward. In the same week, after 12 months implementing sustainability reforms, the North Shore’s Turtle Bay Resort subjected itself to a full STOKE Certified audit against 320 rigorous sustainability compliance indicators – and passed. Similar examples of surfers inside and outside the industry organizing and responding to global challenges that threaten our sport continue to emerge almost weekly. Like it or not, sustainable change is coming and its gathering pace. The Sustainable Stoke Conference aims to fan the flames.

In partnership with Plymouth University’s Surfing and Sustainability Research Group, in May this year the Center for Surf Research released the edited book Sustainable Stoke: Transitions to Sustainability in the Surfing World. More than 40 of the best minds in surfing weigh in on what sustainability in surfing means, and what can be done to shift surfing’s trajectory towards a sustainable future. Contributors include Vans VP for North America and former President of SIMA Doug Palladini; Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight; 1978 world champion and former ASP CEO Rabbit Bartholomew; founder of Reef and ISA President Fernando Aguerre; former Hawaiian state senator, 1968 world champion, and co-founder of the Pipe Masters the world championship tour Fred Hemmings; three times world womens longboarding champion Cori Schumacher; Rob Machado; Firewire Founder Nev Hyman; Surfrider Foundation founder Glenn Hening; Volcom VP of Sustainability Derek Sabori; Irish women’s champion Easkey Britton; 1977 world champion and environmental activist Shaun Tomson; Sustainable Surf founders and Surfer Magazine change agents of the year Kevin Whilden and Michael Stewart, and many many more. The book formalized the start of a global conversation about sustainability in surfing. On September 19th & 20th the Sustainable Stoke Conference will push it forward.

Sustainable Stoke: Transitions to Sustainability in the Surfing World. Photo: Center for Surf Research.

Sustainable Stoke: Transitions to Sustainability in the Surfing World. Photo: Center for Surf Research.

The first day of the conference features keynote presentations from Dr. Greg Borne, Director of the Plymouth University Surfing and Sustainability Research Group in the UK and Senator Fred Hemmings. Panel discussions will explore potentially disruptive sustainable surfing innovations including UCSD’s Dr. Stephen Mayfield on polyurethane blanks sourced from algae, Dr. Rey Banatao on non-toxic bio-resins and dissolvable hardeners for fully recyclable surfboards, Dr. Andy Stern on fins with real-time climate change data sensors embedded. In addition, issues such as wetsuits made from limestone instead of fossil fuels, certified sustainable World Surf League surf contests, STOKE Certified sustainable surf resorts, coastal engineering to improve surfing amenity and bring back First Peak at Sebastian Inlet in Florida, and the burgeoning surf park industry will be discussed and debated. Day one will wrap up with rooftop cocktails supplied by St Archer and appetizers at SDSU’s Zura Hall. Zura is a newly renovated residence hall that features surfboard lockers, an Andy Davis surf mural, a ‘surfing and sustainability’ learning community, and more than 50 sustainable surfboards installed as education and art pieces throughout the building.

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The second day of the conference features more than a dozen research papers presented by scholars from the United States, the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada. Topics include responses to the pressures of crowding at surf breaks, theoretical economics and game theory in the lineup, case studies of surf tourism impacts at the community level in Indonesia and Nicaragua, environmental conservation interventions around surf breaks in Mexico, the social construction of surfing spaces – in and outside the ocean, corporate governance for sustainability in Big Surfing, establishing links between rain events and sick surfers in San Diego, the media presentation of the WSL, and exploring the impact of climate change and sea level rise on California’s surf breaks.

The conference is open to the public, registration is $35/$25 for regular/students & seniors for day 1, $30/$25 for day 2, or $65/$50 for both days. In addition to access to all panels and presentations, registration includes coffee and lunch on both days and a rooftop reception with cocktails and appetizers at the end of day 1.

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