A few days ago I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Kevin Whilden who, along with Michael Stewart, created a non-profit called Sustainable Surf. Kevin is a smart man–the kind of guy who knows what he is talking about. He gave me a rundown of what Sustainable Surf does along with a very enlightening lesson in Cuban permaculture.
While Sustainable surf doesn’t physically make ecoboards, they play a very important role in the sustainable surfboard game. They educate both surfers and shapers on how to make an ecoboard, and they verify that surfboards are made according to their ECOBOARD Benchmark.
Sustainable Surf runs three main projects right now. They include Deep Blue Surfing, which partners with events and contests like the Volcom Pipe Pro and the Vans Triple Crown to help with environmental logistics. This year’s Triple Crown is running completely on bio diesel for the first time ever. There’s also the The ECOBOARD Project, which has created a new standard for products being used to make surfboards. It’s a universal standard that helps consumers choose eco-conscious products. So far, Firewire, …Lost and Channel Islands are all taking part in The ECOBOARD Project. Finally, there is Waste To Waves (there is also a wonderful documentary about this one) which collects styrofoam from surf shops and turns it into new surfboard blanks.
But all of this is not really why Kevin and I chatted. The real treat here is that Sustainable Surf, along with the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center (of San Clemente), is celebrating the opening of a new exhibit called What’s In Your Board? It’s just about exactly what you would imagine.
There are five stations to the exhibit–each of which celebrates a part of the surfboard making history. First is Polynesian Perfection–a look at the permaculture of ancient Hawaii and the 100% sustainable roots of board making. Then into Plastic Fantastic, a “celebration of the modern surfboard,” according to Whilden. Onward we go to Future Forward, which is a look at the modern sustainable surfboard and, lastly, Ocean Emergency. This fourth station is all about the state of our oceans and what we can do to ensure they’re around for a while longer. This is where Mr. Whilden tugs my heartstrings and, boy, am I played like a fiddle.
“Reducing carbon emissions isn’t something that most surfers care about,” laments Whilden, but if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to go up as they are, coral reefs will be threatened with extinction by 2050.”
“Wait, like Pipeline’s reef? Like that secret reef I surf only with friends?”
“Yes, all reefs,” he responded.
But there is hope. It comes in the form of Station Five: What Are the Solutions? Here, I am assured that it is all about lifestyle change.
“Surfing can sell anything,” says Whilden. “It’s cool. Hollywood and marketing know this. So why can’t surfers make reducing CO2 cool?” And he has a point. But beyond these stations, there are some pretty cool events happening. They are events you won’t get to witness in too many other places.
“Ryan Harris and Todd Patterson from E-Tech Boards along with Chiron Stewart from MAC Glassing will be doing a live glassing demo using Super Sap resin,” Whilden informs me. “They will be glassing boards from …Lost, T. Patterson and Donald Brink. We will not be handing out gas masks to the crowd.”
This is not because Sustainable Surf does not care about your safety. It’s really the opposite. Super Sap resin is not harmful to breathe in. This is why they can glass your board in a room full of peeping toms. Now that is a show that’s not to be missed.
The show opened with a party on Saturday, November 23, and it runs through the 31st of January.