First started back in 2005 with a Surfrider Foundation and Surfing Magazine collab, on June 19 we celebrate International Surfing Day. This sea-centric event now counts over a million participants in the last decade and enjoys sprawling successes across continents.
The non-Hallmark holiday is a defining day of celebration for surfers around the globe as they come together in an expression of solidarity and community. Every third Saturday in June, wave riders of all ages and abilities are encouraged to paddle into a few fun ones with familiar faces and newbies. In line with the lengthy daylight hours of the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice, the main purpose of the holiday is to link up communities of surfers for a fun-filled day of long rides, shared laughs, contests, BBQs and surf vids.
Giving credit where credit is due, the origins go back to surfing's page-turning magazine days. Evan Slater, editor of Surfing Magazine at the time, and publisher Ross Garrett wanted to create a day where everyone, around the world, would be in the water.
"There's no better excuse to post a surf shot of yourself and express gratitude for the gift of surfing and the ocean. ISD is ultimately about gratitude and awareness," Slater, who is now with Billabong, explains. "The fact that we're approaching the 20-year anniversary shows that as the general population of surfers grows, so does the importance of the day."
International Surfing Day is more than just another romp in the waves.
Packaged along with the camaraderie and activities is a call to action; ISD also encourages new and ongoing community projects aimed at improving the health of our environment. Everything from beach clean-ups to coastal dune restoration to calls for legislative change are encouraged.
Over 200 communities and counting have participated, crisscrossing the map from Washington DC, to Texas, to Maine, to Oregon, reaching far-off destinations including Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France and the UK, and even Israel, Japan, Morocco, Argentina, Reunion Island, with over thirty countries in on it, the movement is authentically international.
Activism can also come to a head, as it did one year in England, where a disheartening sewage disaster triggered saltwater problems and threatened the health of surfers and beach-goers. This incident, though not unique, was proof that on-land issues can lead to larger crises at sea and in humanity. It goes without saying that the reverse is true, too. With that in mind, this year's theme is "The Beach Belongs to Everyone," a refreshing reminder that it truly is a small world and we need to protect what we love so others can appreciate it, too.
Join a neighborhood beach clean-up hosted by your local Surfrider Foundation chapter or alternatively, depending on local COVID clearances and individual comfort levels, you can opt to join virtually through the ISD social media campaign. See what others are doing in the cloud community by searching and posting using the hashtag #InternationalSurfingDay .
And, as always, sharing a surf and a smile is highly encouraged. You'll join the likes of Mikey February, who'll be having a beer and a shred; South African big wave surfer and environmental activist Frank Solomon, who is hoping for a few J-Bay waves between planning sessions for his foundation's Plastic Free July festivities and Parker Coffin who will share a small-wave sesh with his eight-year-old cousin."
"I've been trying to surf with him more in the smaller summer waves. He is eight years old and obsessed with surfing," laughs Coffin.
And, of course, Joe Turpel, Kaipo Gurrero and the cast of Championship Tour characters will be at the Surf Ranch doing their thing -- proving you don't have to actually be on the ocean to enjoy ISD.
As for Slater, the brains behind the holiday, he explains, "I'm passionate about creating more opportunities to connect people with surfing and help establish more life-long relationships with the ocean. One organization I work with is called City Surf Project in San Francisco. They've actually created an accredited Surf PE program in partnership with the SF school district for underrepresented communities in the city."
"It's an amazing program and to help support it this year, we've created a custom boardshort and custom wetsuit at Billabong with the City Surf Project patch. We'll be promoting these products and the organization on that day, with all proceeds going back to them. I will also, of course, be going surfing."
So, where are you paddling out?