– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Challenging The Role of the Surfing Collective

Sustainable living is hardly a new idea. The term however, along with its companion “green,” is undergoing a transition in mass media. Recently, Surfing Magazine put out The Green Issue (October 2006). The title of the Foreword by Evan Slater reads “Most Surfers Make Bad Environmentalists.” He goes on to talk about environmental issues affecting our breaks, or the danger of losing surf spots to development. The Surfing CollectiveAlthough these are true and imminent realities to all of us, there is something missing. What is missing won’t be found in the pages of most surfing publications however. Slater asks why Surfing Magazine should do a “green” issue? And in a comic stance states that he agrees with a Vanity Fair editor’s statement that “green is the new black.” The truth is that surfing as a whole must begin to look not only at the environment but also within itself. We must ask the question: how much of the environmental damage at the local shore pound is being caused by the surfing industry itself?

This is beginning to sound bleak I know. The point though is not to forecast doom, but rather to make a statement that is not being heard. We (as in all of us surfers collectively) are equally responsible for the pollution and abuse of resources as the factory down the street from your house. The way we choose to spend our money directly affects sales forecasts, resource development, poor labor practices, and high dividends for stakeholders, and on and on. As our name implies, we seek phoresy with surfing —a non-parasitic, symbiotic relationship with our oceans. A relationship where we benefit by pursuing wave riding, and the oceans are not harmed in any way.

A good friend asked the other day, “what can we collectively do from within to make a change in this structure of rampant consumerism?” The surfing collective can change itself from within without advertising campaigns, without photo shoots, and without spending a dime. Surfrider Clean upHow is this possible? Surfers demand a sustainable product, that’s how. The surfing collective supports small businesses that are practicing or implementing more sustainable business models. We don’t buy a surf t-shirt from a publicly traded multi-national whose bottom-line is no where near our best interests. It’s that simple.

The Surfing Collective Challenge

  • Do not support surf industry initiatives that are not making a visible effort to diminish their environmental impact.
  • Demand that your next board last twice as long as your last board. It can be done.
  • Don’t buy accessories that you do not need (5 wax combs, stickers, you get the idea)
  • Support your local shaper!
  • Support businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible
  • Join your local Surfrider Chapter and get involved and active in your community
  • Keep our beaches clean

The Surf Industry Challenge

  • Begin to implement a sustainable business model
  • Use the most environmentally friendly materials possible in all phases of production
  • Be socially responsible by supporting fair labor and fair trade practices
  • Give back to surfing activism whether in the form of monetary or in-kind donations
  • Implement three equally important bottom lines: profit, environment and social responsibility
  • Provide the highest quality and durability in your products

We would love to hear from our readers about things they are doing to lessen their own impact. The more we rally around this cause, and the more these ideas can be spread through word of mouth, the greater the impact.

If you own a business, or know of a business that is working towards lowering their negative environmental and social impact, please let us know so that we may pass on the information to our readers.

There exists a movement to make the world healthier for nature and for people. We as surfers should and can be at the forefront of this movement, instead of allowing oursleves to be carried in with the tide like so much flotsam and jetsam.

• Category: environment, news & media,

2 Responses »

  1. Hi – I’m working with a documentary called The Great Warming and the broad-based coalition around it. Out of that, I’ve been invited to contribute to Gristmill on Environment + Religion. Not being religious (or at least not organized about it) myself, I want to broaden the terms, and had planned to link to Slater’s foreword (my boyfriend is a surfer + pointed me to it). Linking to Surfing, however, seems as easy as finding a surfer at home on a good day – having read this post, I’d now rather mention his article and link to your post.

    Are you OK with that, and/or would you like to add anything?

    Lisa T (

  2. Hi Lisa,

    We would be thrilled to help in any way possible. Feel free to link as much as you wish. And if you would like us to do more send us an email at