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Does Surfing Affect the Environment Negatively? How to Practice Green Surfing

Author Bio

This guest post was written by Jay Recinto. Jay is the Media Content Manager for Warm Winds over at Narragansett Beach in Rhode Island. Warm Winds is a locally-owned surf shop that aims to give back to the community and the environment through education, events and support of green initiatives.

Did you know that as of January 25, 2016, it’s estimated that there are 23 million surfers worldwide? That’s a lot of surfers, which leads to us thinking – is surfing bad for the environment? Can you imagine if it is?

The surfing industry is a $7.29 billion a year industry. Needless to say, it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a thriving industry. With the many benefits of surfing to local economies and personal health and wellbeing, the world can benefit from a thriving surfing industry.

But now that more and more people are becoming more conscious about the environment, we have to start thinking about the effects of surfing to the environment, if any. Does surfing affect the environment negatively? This is a valid concern considering that the world’s oceans are our playground, which means that we have direct contact with the environment.

We can Benefit from Making Sure that we Maintain a Green Environment

As a surfer, you have a vested interest in making sure that our world’s oceans maintain their beauty and surfability. Let’s talk about the rising sea levels (rising 3.1mm per year between 1993 and 2003 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). If this trend continues, and it seems that it is, then we can all say goodbye to regular low tide reef that we all love working with.

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Surfrider RI (img: Jay Recinto)

How Surfing Affects the Environment

Let’s get one thing clear. The act of surfing in itself doesn’t affect the environment, so go ahead and catch those waves with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, it’s the common practices of a lot of surfers and companies outside the surf that are affecting the environment. Fortunately, it’s not a hopeless case.

The main issue is the carbon footprint of the surfboards. The production process itself leaves behind a significant amount of carbon footprint because of the following:

  • Raw materials for the surfboard are extracted.
  • These raw materials are then processed for use in the manufacturing of the surfboards themselves.
  • Raw materials and the surfboards are transported.
  • Surfboards get damaged, and repairing them requires energy. The same goes for maintaining them.
  • Surfboards, at the end of their life, need to be disposed. Sadly, a lot of them end up in a landfill.

It’s been estimated that the industry puts out 750,000 surfboards a year. This leads to 220,000 tons of CO2e. That’s a huge carbon footprint. While there’s a conscious effort to manufacture greener surfboards, we’re not yet at a point wherein they’re the more practical choice considering that surfers have very specific needs and wants for their surfboard.

There’s also the issue of surf travel. Understandably so, most surfers have a list of surf spots all over the world that they plan on visiting. It can be local (by land) or international (by air or sea). Obviously, this leads to the emission of CO2 and CO2e.

In addition, it doesn’t help that a lot of people (not just surfers) are basically not good tourists. Instead of helping the garbage problem of the oceans, they add to it.

Sustainability is the Key

Let’s not wait to be at a point wherein we have to live in a world in which the surfing industry is heavily regulated. You don’t have to give up surfing altogether. You just have to make a conscious effort to practice sustainable surfing.

Here are some of the things that you can do:

  • Get the right type of surfboard.

Educate yourself on what type of surfboard you should use. It should be the right one considering your weight, skill level and the type of wave that you surf. This lessens the chance of the board breaking or you ending up buying a new one just because you bought the wrong board.

  • Prolong the life of your surfboard.

As mentioned, a lot of surfboards end up in a landfill. In addition, manufacturing a surfboard has a carbon footprint of anywhere from 400lbs to 1,000 lbs CO2e. The least you can do is to prolong its life to make the carbon footprint count.

If you notice a ding, get it repaired immediately. This will prevent further damage.

  • Consider second-hand boards.

This is a good way to prolong the life of surfboards. A good surf shop should have a lot of great second-hand boards in stock. You can save a lot of money when you buy a second-hand board. You also get to prolong its life in the process.

You can also consider second-hand boards if you want to replace your existing one. You can simply trade second-hand boards.

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used boards (img: Jay Recinto)

  • Ride it until it’s unrideable, and then give it a new lease in life.

Make every carbon footprint count. Ride the board until it’s totally unrideable. Once that happens, give it a new lease in life by turning it into something else. Maybe you can hang it as art?

  • Go local.

There should be a lot of amazing surf spots in and around your area. Instead of flying to an exotic surf destination, why not save a lot of money and help the environment in the process by sticking to a local surf destination – one that can be reached by land?

Just to give you an idea, North Carolina has Kill Devil Hills. Rhode Island has the Narragansett Beach. California has Mavericks and Surfrider Beach. New York has Montauk. You get the idea. There should be a good surf spot near you.

Besides, a lot of international locations are fiercely guarded by local surfers. It wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for you with them beating down and dropping in on surfers that are not a part of their crew.

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Surf campers learning about coastal life (img: Jay Recinto)

  • Be an efficient traveler.

Carpool with your companions. Be an efficient driver. If you have to fly, choose greener destinations like Costa Rica. Choose eco-friendly lodging. Consider carbon-offsetting when flying.

  • Go green.

Go green whenever you can. This is a good way to offset your carbon footprint as a surfer. This applies to your day-to-day life and whenever you’re out there surfing.

Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures and memories.

As you can see, surfing doesn’t have to affect the environment negatively. The environment has been kind enough to give us the gift that is the world’s oceans. The least we can do is to give back by protecting what gives us joy.healthy ocean.png


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