Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

Sustainable Surf Helps Keep North Shore Clean

World Surf League: How did you first get Sustainable Surf involved with the North Shore?
Michael Stewart & Kevin Whilden: In 2012, Volcom adopted our Deep Blue Surfing Events strategy for the Volcom Fiji Pro and then the 2013 Volcom Pipe Pro. After seeing the successful approach to sustainable surfing events, Vans also adopted the strategy for the 2013 Vans Triple Crown.

The North Shore is the epicenter of surfing culture and is the culmination of the World Surf League season. It's a natural place for us to work, and there are many great stories on sustainability. The North Shore is a showcase of sustainability leadership, such as compositing food waste on Waihuena Farm across the street from Pipe, great non-profit partners like Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the North Shore Community Land Trust, and using locally made biodiesel from Pacific Biodiesel.

Sustainable Surf Co-Founder, Michael Stewart
Michael Stewart of Sustainable Surf talks with Peter Mel during the Billabong Pipe Masters on how to reduce environmental impact.

WSL: Tell us about your backgrounds in surfing/sustainability? What moment/experience in your lives inspired you to create Sustainable Surf?
MS & KW: We are social entrepreneurs with a passion for surfing and protecting the environment. Michael Stewart brings expertise in green product certification, partnership development and marketing. Kevin Whilden is a geologist with expertise in the science and solutions to climate change and ocean environmental issues.

We started Sustainable Surf in 2011, on the insight that surfing has a significant role to play in helping society solve global issues like climate change and marine plastic pollution. An authentic and sustainable surf culture can help society get excited and engaged in solving these major problems. We believe that surfing can literally change the societal narrative on these issue to become much more positive on the solutions.

The programs of Sustainable Surf help catalyze sustainable transformation in four key areas of surf culture: surfboards, surf contests, ocean health, and sustainable and healthy lifestyles. Our programs provide education, action campaigns, sustainability standards, and engaging storytelling. After four years, we are seeing significant momentum and innovation around sustainability in every aspect of surf culture.

WSL: Success for an organization like yours is based on creating longterm goals and change, but what were a couple short-term goals that you feel you accomplished in 2015?
MS & KW: We're stoked that there are now multiple years of Deep Blue Surfing Events in the books. Each year has seen better performance as lessons are learned on how to further reduce impacts at each contest site. For examples, see the sustainability report from the VTC 2014.

The 2015 VTC is its third year of being a Deep Blue Surfing Event, and the Volcom Pipe Pro will be entering it's fourth time next month. In total there have been 20 events designated as Deep Blue Surfing Events since 2011, and non-contest events like Surfer Poll have started using our framework.

Helping to Reduce Waste Impact at Triple Crown
Kahi Pacarro of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii explains how waste diversion works at a Deep Blue Surfing Event.

In 2015, there has been a significant transformation in the use of sustainable surfboards, which we label as "Ecoboards". Firewire made a 100% switch to producing Ecoboards, and Lost and Channel Islands are significantly increasing production. The new technology innovation is happening too, with algae-based PU foam and epoxy resin that can be recycled after the board's useful lifetime ends. Perhaps most interesting is that pro surfers are frequently seen riding Ecoboards in WCT heats, and have won CT events on them!

We're also stoked to be working with leading pro surfers to educate the public on sustainability. Such as Greg Long, Rob Machado, Alex Gray, and Dane Gudauskas. Greg is an inspirational leader on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Rob has been leading the sustainable surfboard movement for a long time, and Alex brings a stoke level that is unmatched.

Last year, we worked with Dane and Vans to create a video on the sustainability efforts at the Triple Crown. This video shows how all of the efforts and partners create synergy together and tell an engaging story of hope. Working together, we can actually create the solutions needed to solve major environmental problems.

WSL: Can you tell us how people in their local communities can get involved with Sustainable Surf? And/or do their part individually?
MS & KW: There are many options for surfers to get involved with our programs. For example, surfers can buy a sustainable surfboard that carries our Ecoboard Project label. These boards have 30% lower carbon emissions without affecting performance, price, or durability. A list of shapers that use our program is here, or you can ask your favorite shaper to join and use more sustainable materials for your next custom board.

In California, we have several surf shops that are drop-off locations for our Waste to Waves program. You can recycle your styrofoam packaging at these shops, and Marko Foam will transform that foam into new recycled surfboard blanks.

Surfers everywhere can start living a Deep Blue Life, which is a more ocean-friendly lifestyle that is modeled after the solutions used in Deep Blue Surfing Events. Actions taken to reduce carbon emissions and plastic pollution usually have positive benefits like saving money and improving your quality of life. What's not to love about that?