– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Don’t Tell Me What to Buy

It goes without saying that the idea behind did not materialize out of thin air. There is a small movement brewing, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, towards more sustainable forms of living as a whole. There are grocers specializing in local products, with strong and growing public support by the way. In cities like Portland, Oregon hundreds of people ride their bicycles to work everyday. It is a truly amazing site to see -people of all ages and social status, riding with determination through wind and cold in order to avoid using fossil fuels.

In a recent feature in Reuters, Alexandria Sage reports that at the recent ASR trade show several manufacturers were showing off their organic and eco-friendly products. And although the article shows that the trend towards more sustainable products is moving forward, it fails to give hope towards a truly sustainable surfing future. Mainly because bottom line, as in profitability for shareholders (who probably don’t surf), is still king and the public is not demanding more sustainable products but rather being wooed to them.

Neilson - stringerless EPS/Epoxy Vacuum Bagged, hand shaped, custom made surfboard.Surfing culture has strong roots in places like California or Central Florida. The people I grew up surfing with in Central Florida have a rich surfing heritage. There is a clear understanding of ethics in the water and there is respect for local shapers. Most people who surf regularly have a preferred shaper who, over the years works with them to make boards based on their physical requirements as well as their skill levels and desired aesthetic.

What I have noticed in places like the Pacific Northwest and Atlantic Canada where surfing has been exploding for the past decade is that the rich surfing traditions don’t exist. And the trend is start a shop, rent as many boards as possible, and sell predominantly boards made en mass from Southeast Asia. Not that there is anything wrong technically with the mass produced epoxy boards. They are cheap and quite indestructible. But people who are learning to surf are generally sold these cheaper boards as beginner boards, they are not meant to be kept for a long time and are most likely not made by fair labor or environmentally safe practices.

Now I reach the point where I’ve thought myself into hole. What good can come out of all of this? How can things change?

Organic Flops by SimpleWell things can change, and they will. In other industries it’s already evident that more sustainable production leads to higher profits and healthier employees. This is because governments are imposing taxes for waste output. In the surfing industry there is a lot of room for change, as a majority of the industry is highly toxic and not sustainable at all. It is up to us, the consumers, to push manufacturers to be more responsible. After all, we are the ones out in the water risking disease from pollution. We are also the one’s spending our hard earned cash, sometimes sacrificing other more immediate needs, to buy our next board.

Support your local shapers. Get them to build you a board that will last. If you don’t really need that new surf t-shirt, probably made in Asia by sweatshop labor, then don’t buy it. Make your own surf art. Respect the beach where you surf and be aware of your personal impact. It does make a difference and we should not wait for marketing agents to tell us what to buy, we should demand, with our clutched wallets, a better and more sustainable surfing future.

• Category: art, board construction, environment, news & media,

2 Responses »

  1. Good reading- yay for local shapers!

    Pamela in Portland, OR

  2. trust me, I smell what your stepping in. However as a surfer conserned with sustainability I am more worried about the effect we have traveling to once remote destinations and having them demolished to cater to our needs, then the board industry.
    It tough to grasp becuase I love traveling and surfing exotic spots, but its hard watching these areas get pimped out. Don’t have an answer just thought it was worthy to add.