– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Last Post for 2007

It’s seems like it’s been a long year for us here at Phoresia. We’ve tried to post weekly, with the exception of interviews, which we like to let ride a little longer. Unfortunately, we’ve been kinda slack on making posts this month but we’ve been spending time with family and actually surfing instead of just writing about it so we can’t be faulted too much. So many things have changed in 2007 – some on deep levels and others on the surface. One thing is certain however; the “green” movement is here for good or for worse. Several months ago we talked about the value of doing any little thing to lower your own impact. And although we believe in this whole-heartedly, it is also evident that this statement could be made in order to justify doing little at all, not even trying. In a recent major surf publication, a reader writes in to comment on the magazine’s recent “green” issue, how even though the rag was claiming to be greener, their entire raison d’être was to sell products that cared less for the environment. The editor argues back, yes you guessed it, any little thing helps. But does it really?

Outside set

This year we had some great interviews. From Grain Surfboards to Comet Skateboards, we talked about the ideas behind sustainable business models and what they mean not only to our pursuits, but also to our societies and nature. Danny Hess talked to us about craftsmanship and his reasons for making surfboards in the first place. And finally this month we received a great contribution from Mick Sowry on Paul Joske’s amazing high performance shortboard made almost entirely from natural materials.

At the moment it’s becoming harder to distinguish what is what in the “green” movement. On thing we’ve learned though is that the requirements to be a surfer as far as material goods go is minimal. For most of us, a few solid boards and in some cases a wetsuit, is all that is needed to get the feeling that we all love. The feeling that causes us to place surfing above almost all other aspects of our lives. The surfing culture, history and lifestyle trappings certainly have their place somewhere, but like everything else in our lives, when you are in the act of riding a wave little else has value, at least not enough to capture our attentions as we glide down the face looking for the spot to start the next turn.

• Category: interviews,

14 Responses »

  1. Looking forward to more great insights from you both (and maybe a few from me too) in 2008.

  2. Keep the good fight up.

  3. Great articles! I look forward to more in 2008!

  4. Your elitism is so typical of why the environmental movement continues to fail. You spend so much time soapboxing about how the world needs to take a more environmental stance, and then you have the audacity to complain that magazines, companies, people aren’t being “green” enough.

    Are companies cashing in on the green-ethic to help sell product? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.

    A movement, any movement, needs to see widespread adoption or buy-in if it is to have any sort of permanence. If whatever changes people and companies make now – no matter how superficial they may seem – are lauded, it stands to reason that those actions will lead to greater, more significant changes later (especially when they discover that in the long run, sustainability cuts your bottom line costs).

    We’ve been digging this hole for ourselves since the industrial revolution kicked off over a century ago. Things are not going to change overnight. We have to change the culture before we can change the world. And perpetually bemoaning everything and everyone who doesn’t meet with your “standards” is a sure-fire way to bring this renewed intrest in environmentalism to a grinding halt.

    So why not take this opportunity to make a New Year’s Resolution to pull that stick out of your ass and quit looking down your nose at everyone who’s not surfing an all-wood surfboard.

    We’re all in this together.

  5. Hey Paul,

    As for this comment:

    “Are companies cashing in on the green-ethic to help sell product? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.”

    I’d have to say that ‘cashing in on the green-ethic to help sell product’ is a bad thing. Unless the product truly is more sustainably sourced the marketing hype used to push “green” items that truly aren’t green only serve to dilute the greater message and water down the cause. I don’t know the right answer but there are definate pros and cons to overhyping the “green” movement.

    I agree with your point it needs widespread adoption and buy-in to truly become a movement that lasts. There is a point though where if it becomes adopted as a marketing pitch it’s going to create a backlash against it.

    It’s definately a tricky road, but looking back even over the past year, there has been alot of progress forward.

    We are all in this together.

    And to not just respond to those with the loudest voice, thanks guys for the kind words. We’ll continue to check your blogs for inspiration and stoke in ’08.

    peas out…


  6. Keep up the good work in 08.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is the cashing in on the green-ethic to help sell product. It’s NOT a good thing, nor ethical. Paul’s got several good points, but absolutely wrong here.

  7. Agree with the Editors on this one. It is a balancing act. Although Paul makes a good point that one issue the environmental movement has faced and suffered from over the past few decades is elitism and estrangement, merely putting a green label on any product in an attempt to increase sales only oversaturates consumers and will eventually decrease sales once the green “fad” wears off. If, instead, the focus is on making superior goods and services that people actually need and want that also take advantage of the most efficient/best technology, then this trend may stick around and grow (and provide a sustainable model for the modern economy)… which is really what we all want.

  8. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that it’s kosher to simply slap a green label on a product.

    While that sort of slight of hand marketing may have worked back in the day when we all bought into the “new & improved” labeling, IMO most American consumers today are sophisticated enough to see through that pretty quickly. Instead what we see is brands like Arrowhead water touting their new Eco-Shape bottles – which porportedly uses 30% less plastic than other similar sized plastic bottles.

    This represents somewhat of a conundrum from an environmental standpoint.

    A 30% material reduction in the manufacturing of any production is always cause for celebration. However because so many organizations have identified plastics as the number one materials threat to our ocean environments, that cynical element will simply gloss over this achievement and continue to soap box on the dangers of plastics.

    In my mind, that gets us nowhere.

    The reality is that, lame as it is, people will continue to pay for and consume water that is packaged in single use plastic bottles.

    Instead, how great would it be if in seeing a positive response to their eco-shape bottle, Arrowhead and other companies decided to employ the same strategy in the production of all their bottles and it becomes the new industry standard. What started as a marketing strategy could actually result in a reduction in the amount of total plastics used. Who knows… perhaps one of the companies will decide to subsequently raise the bar and finally figure out how to create a bio-plastic bottle that is actually viable for production (the technology for corn-based resins exist, however they cannot be “hot-filled” which is a FDA requirement of all beverages). Then we maybe we can start eliminating single use PET plastics altogether!

    The point of all this is that the environmental movement needs to check itself and figure out a way that we can make sustainability as intuitive as profitability when it comes to business.

    As this relates to Phoresia, believe it or not I really am stoked that there is someone out there committed enough to create and maintain this blog. Its ethos is sorely needed in the surf community. However, I would very much like to see us – all of us – avoid the cynicism and unrealistic idealism that has held the environmental movement back for so long.

    The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. There’s a lot of people out there taking that first step. Let’s be there to cheer them on.

  9. Hey Paul,
    In regards to your single-use water bottle example I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. To those people who use single-use water it would be viewed as an improvement but to those who are aware of the overall impact of plastics and instead choose to drink their water out of re-usable containers (whether it’s a nalgene bottle or a coffee mug) it’s a miniscule improvement vs. the easy alternative of using a re-usable container. The point being the only choice isn’t a 30% reduced content plastic bottle or a non-30% reduced content bottle. You can cut out that plastic bottle all together quite easily and make a 100% reduction in plastic. That’s where the awareness part of it comes in, most people don’t even realize the impact that single-use plastics have on the environment. As with most environmental causes the biggest hurdle is just getting people to be aware of the things they consume and where they come from and where they go. Once people are conscious of a products lifecycle they tend to be more conscious of how they use those products and the alternatives available to them.

    That’s just it though, there’s no right/wrong answer. It’s all a matter of perspective. I agree a 30% reduction in plastic is a step in the right direction and should be commended, but at the same time is it cynical or idealistic to mention that people don’t even need those plastic bottles, that there are other reusable alternatives.

    That’s really all we are trying to do with Phoresia, is to create awareness to the alternatives. We’re not saying it’s the only way, but that there are options out there that are available and that are more sustainable than the current “30% less” way of thinking.


  10. “…is it cynical or idealistic to mention that people don’t even need those plastic bottles, that there are other reusable alternatives”

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is exactly what I’m talking about…

    Cynical? No. Idealistic? Yes.

    For 40 years, the environmental movement has been equated to some sort of birkenstock wearing, Thoreau-worshipping, idealistic neo-hippie cult, whose ideals are validated once a year (Earth Day). Like Pentecostals, we preach to the choir, while alienating all those around us.

    Do you really think that you’re ever going to get America to start collectively using SIGG bottles? Best case scenario: years from now, you’re looking at something like 2-3% penetration into the population.

    However, if you were to somehow convince the water bottle industry to change, you’d be looking at an across the board reduction – or even total elimination.

    But in order to do that you need to have a messege (or messenger) that will be accepted by the widest portion of the population.

    Hybrid technology in automobiles languished on the periphery for years (remember the Honda Insight?). But you know what made it palatable to America?

    Not rising gas prices…

    Not their reduced environmental footprint…

    Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio.

    Yep. Frightening as that is, according to sources inside Toyota Motor Corportation, sales of the Prius were initially flat until Diaz and DiCaprio forgoed their limos and instead showed up at a Hollywood awards event in the car. And you know who this action resonated with?

    Not the Audubon readers…

    Not the Mother Jones readers…

    Yep. The People Magazine readers. The US Weekly readers. These are the new vanguard of the environmental movement. Just like white people made rap music popular, soccer moms are going to be the ones carrying the torch for the environmental movement as we move forward.

    And you know who’s gonna get left behind? The same environmental ludites who sit around decrying that nothing is ever good enough, and wax poetic on fairy-tale concepts like “cradle to cradle”

    Sustainability as an idea is worthless my friend. Unless we can put it into widespread practice, it all means nothing.

  11. Sustainability, not unlike the word green has been used and misused a lot in the past few years. The point of Phoresia is not to critique companies or individuals for their choices. Rather, we have focused on highlighting those who have intentionally tried to lower their impact, whether it is environmental of social impact. I say this not to defend myself against Paul’s comments, but to remind myself why we do this in the first place. Admittedly, it is difficult to pursue any point without a hint of idealism. However, we have tried in earnest to ask questions and avoid providing answers. For there is no way for us to know the future and we strongly believe that being educated about what choices are available to us is the best way to combat our current environmental as well as social problems.

    Assuming that change will happen through the masses because Leo or Cameron are doing it seems like a great idea but it’s full of holes and smells of scapegoating. Education is the key and it has to happen in an as many ways as possible in order to reach our cultures myriad tastes. Phoresia is but one portal in a multitude. We are equally driven by social responsibility and the environment. Unfortunately, we do not have wooden surfboards (yet). A quick look through our archives will show that we have also reviewed/used poly, Biofoam and EPS boards. We are supporters of local business, craftsmanship, tradition, do it yourself approaches, fair trade labor, fair environmental policies, and equal rights and justice (had to throw in the Peter Tosh reference).

    Most importantly we love surfing for the enrichment it brings to our daily lives and we recognize that with a little effort we can surf with little harm to the planet or society.


  12. “However, if you were to somehow convince the water bottle industry to change…”

    That’s the pot calling the kettle black, in regard to idealism.

    Luckily, both points are not mutually exclusive. We can inform people about alternatives as well as lobby the companies to clean up their own acts. That’s where the real power lies. When you can create an awareness in consumers where they change their buying habits (buying less bottled water) and at the same time lobby the companies to reduce their impact. Nothing gets a companies attention more than cutting into their bottom line.

    Well, that and getting a SIGG bottle in the hands of Cameron and Leo.

    Hell, Cameron Diaz surfs, if we could just get her on a wooden board we could shut this site down and all go surfing, safe in the knowledge that People magazine will get the word out to the Prius driving masses.

    Just a little sarcasm there, we’re kinda of getting away from the topic of surfing though. It’s inherently simple. A board, some trunks/wetsuit, and some wax and you’re good to go. It’s fairly easy to get all of those materials today in materials that have less overall impact. That’s our niche. We’ll leave it to Cameron and Leo to take care of the rest for us.

    No one’s gonna get left behind, remember we’re all in this together.


  13. Keep on Keeping on in 08. I love your guys site. You constantly remind me to try and do my part. And believe you me, I need reminding. You can always find a whole in every philosophy, but the main thing is to keep work together for the common good.

  14. Guys, thanks for the informative posts during the course of 07. Looking forward to 08. Keep up the good work. Let’s go surfing!