Category Archives: Social Consciousness

Surfing on ‘shrooms: growing the next crop of eco-friendly surfboards

Most surfers would say they care about the environment. After all, nature is a big part of the sport and the culture. But while most people in the surf scene do have a pretty admirable environmental conscience, there’s one bad habit that can’t really be ignored — the boards.

Ecovative Mushroom surfboard
A Fungus-Based Mycelium Surfboard From Ecovative

Aside from wooden boards (and the woods used in surfboards aren’t usually rapidly renewable) most surfboards are made from toxic foam plastics. Add to that the fact that the average lifespan of a board isn’t all that long. So, what happens after a few good months, or at best years, when a polyurethane or polystyrene board finally gets kicked to the curb? Well, it certainly doesn’t turn into compost.

Thanks to Ecovative, though, a new, more eco-friendly surfboard may be coming your way soon. In fact, it’s probably being grown as we speak. That’s right, grown, because instead of toxic foams, The New York-based company is building its surfboards, fins and handplanks out of a completely new, completely sustainable material that’s mostly mushrooms.

Ecovative Fungus Surfboard Mycelium Material

Not strictly a surfboard maker, the company developed its eco-friendly Mycelium material to replace all types of expanded foam plastics, like the styrofoam used in packaging. Essentially a glue made from fungus roots, Ecovative uses Mycelium to bind plant-based materials (usually crop waste like plant stalks and seed husks) into the finished product.

The result is a super strong material that floats and repels water just as effectively as the foam plastics typically used to make surfboards, fins and handplanks, except that these mushroom-based products won’t create toxic waste like plastics do. Meanwhile, Mycelium boards are about as easy to patch as ordinary boards, and don’t need any special supplies to repair. Bio-based and biodegradable, Myco Foam is the closest we’ve come so far to a truly sustainable board, especially if it’s glassed with eco-friendly resin.

So, where can you get your own surfboard made from mushrooms? As yet, you can’t. But Ecovative says it’s currently “collaborating with the industry’s top surfboard manufacturers and shapers” to get their boards out there. Hopefully that happens soon, since riding waves on ‘shrooms is something we’ve always wanted to try.

Check out Ecovative and learn more about their sustainable Mycelium plastic alternatives at their website here

Girl’s letter to surf mag: more women surfers, please

Usually when mainstream media picks up on news within the surf scene, you don’t expect a heavy discussion of society’s ills to follow. Most times, it’s a feel-good piece, where someone’s celebrating a major milestone or launching a new project or charity — it’s all very hakuna matata.

But this week, a 13 year-old girl sent waves through the community and beyond, when an open letter she wrote to major surf mag Tracks brought up some pretty complicated issues surrounding women and their representation in the scene.

Surfer Jimena Ochoa's coverage (or lack thereof) in Stab magazine
Surfer Jimena Ochoa’s coverage (or lack thereof) in Stab magazine

Olive Bowers’ letter to the editor (which you can read here) asked what seems to be a straight-up question: why are there so many bikini models and pin-ups yet so few female surfers in your mag and on your website?

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

I clicked on your web page titled ‘Girls’ hoping I might find some women surfers and what they were up to, but it entered into pages and pages of semi-naked, non-surfing girls [...] These images create a culture in which boys, men and even girls reading your magazine will think that all girls are valued for is their appearance.

News outlets that don’t normally follow the surf industry were quick to jump on this, with a bunch calling out Tracks for its representation of women.

Tracks magazine "vixen" spread
Tracks magazine “vixen” spread

And, while Olive’s letter did get a response from the magazine’s editor — telling her about how it was his mom who first got him into surfing and how he’d take Olive’s comments into consideration — we’re not really looking to argue whether Tracks, in particular, is in the right or in the wrong.

Instead, this whole issue gives us a pretty good jumping off point for talking about the more general way girls and women are represented in the surf scene.

Granted, there are surf mags out there aimed specifically at women and giving a lot of visibility to female surfers. But should this kind of exposure be something that happens only in particularly female publications?

Yes, we heap praise on the top female surfers like Stephanie Gilmore, Carissa Moore and others. But there’s also a lot of attention paid to female surfers who also happen to be really sexy. For this article, a Google search of “best female surfers” returned results like “10 Hottest Girls in Pro Surfing,” “Alana Blanchard and the 30 Hottest Female Surfers in Bikinis,” and our personal favorite: “The Hottest Pro Surfer Chicks That Will Make You Hate All The Girls You Know.”

Your typical female representation at an athletic event
Your typical female representation at an athletic event

And that seems to touch on the point that upset Olive enough to write a letter in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with beautiful women — either being one or enjoying looking at one is just fine. But if surf mags want to be taken seriously as industry publications, they also have to take the athletes seriously, whether they’re guys or girls. And placing a bigger focus on looks than on ability and achievement isn’t the way to go about it. In this regard, we’ve got to agree with Olive:

“I urge you to give much more coverage to the exciting women surfers out there, not just scantily clad women [...] This change would only bring good.”

We love the women who add their talent and hard work to this amazing scene and we think it’s important to send the message that they’re valued and respected for what they can do, not how they look. Otherwise, we may alienate the next generation of female surfers altogether. And what would the surf scene be like without the involvement cool and gutsy girls and women, people like Olive herself?

Olive Bowers, the young surfer who wrote the letter and inspired other girls to speak up
Olive Bowers, the young surfer who wrote the letter and inspired other girls to speak up

Waves for Water: changing the world, one surf trip at a time

It’s almost the holidays, so let’s talk giving back. For a couple years now, we’ve been following the progress of Waves for Water, a charity that saves lives just by getting the surf community to do what they love to do anyway — travel. Set up in 2009, Waves for Water’s mission is to bring access to clean water to the places that don’t have it.

Waves for Water founder Jon Rose working on the Wellness for Haiti program
Waves for Water founder Jon Rose working on the Wellness for Haiti program

So, how does the surf community fit into this plan? Partnering with Hurley, Waves for Water started the Clean Water Couriers program, where surfers act like couriers, bringing water filters with them when they travel to developing countries in search of waves.

The organization provides the filters, but leaves the trekking up to the courier: “Pack a few filters in your suitcase and either connect with local non-profits in that area or personally travel to villages to set them up yourself,” they suggest. It’s a smart and almost poetic way to give back to the places that offer us such wicked surf — offering water as thanks for waves.

Waves for Water Phillippines Haiyan relief effort
Waves for Water Phillippines Haiyan relief effort

But though the idea is super simple, it’s actually a solution to one of the biggest health threats in the developing world. The water filters they set up recently in Haiti helped to stop a cholera outbreak that had killed over a thousand and made thousands more ill. And they’ve done similar work in countries like Colombia, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

As well as spreading access to clean water, Waves for Water is also there when disaster strikes, leading fundraising initiatives to make sure that peoples’ other basic needs are met, whenever and wherever.

Waves for Water in Q'Ero, Peru
Waves for Water in Q’Ero, Peru

When the recent Super Typhoon hit the Philippines, Waves for Water quickly and urgently responded with an effort that has raised over $134,000 to date, providing as many as 20,000 people with access to clean water in the midst of this disaster. And back home in the U.S. last year, their Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative raised over a million, helping the removal of rubble as well as rebuilding efforts.

Of course, you don’t have to be a world-traveling surfer to help Waves for Water. People can also purchase a filter, make a donation, or start a fundraiser. But for us in the surf community, becoming a Clean Water Courier is a really cool way to make the most out of the surf trips we already enjoy taking, and of turning our love for our lifestyle into love for people in need.

Waves for Water in Sierra Leone
Waves for Water in Sierra Leone

Waves for Water is one of those things that just makes you feel good to be a surfer, and we can only hope their message keeps spreading throughout the scene. As they put it: “Imagine millions of travelers doing this. Now, we’re making waves.”

Learn more about the work Waves 4 Water is doing, and about how you can help here.

 

Tipping Barrels: Surfing with the Spirit Bear

British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most beautiful surf spots in Canada, if not the world. Boasting a killer coastline, the 27,000 square mile area stretches between Vancouver Island and Southern Alaska and is, til now, one of the largest unspoiled temperate rainforest zones in the world. It’s also home to whales, coyotes and a number of bear species, including the kermode, or “spirit bear.”

The area has an untamed, untouched quality you don’t get in many places. But that wild appeal has been threatened over the years by industries like logging, and most recently by a proposed oil pipeline that could see the waterways of Great Bear flush with supertankers rather than surf boards.

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For surfers like Reid and Arran Jackson, that’s an eventuality that must not come to be. In ‘Tipping Barrels,’ a short film collaboration with surf label Sitka and environmental group Pacific Wild, the brothers recently headed into the Great Bear Rainforest for a four day surf trip where they’d test the coast’s swell and learn about this amazing region.

Directed by Ben Gulliver, the film offers beautiful shots of the forest, its wildlife and its coast, as the Jackson brothers pitch camp on the beach, tote their boards through the bush, and take on barrels along the coast. Along the way, these two are struck by the solitude and beauty of surfing in a place that seems as yet untouched and unmarred. It’s a place where you’re more likely to run into a wolf or a pure white spirit bear than another surfer.

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But the Jacksons’ growing appreciation for the untainted coasts of Great Bear is cut with warnings from Pacific Wild’s Ian McAllister of what may come if oil giant Enbridge gets its way:

“People expect the Canadian government to protect it. But it’s not the case; The Canadian government, they want to bring fish farms here, they’re not supportive of banning oil tankers, they want to bring oil pipelines to this coast, they want to turn this whole rainforest into basically an oil depot and a place to transport crude bitumin from Alberta to Asia.”

Seen through the eyes of the Jacksons, who love a good coastline the way only surfers could, ‘Tipping Barrels’ acts not only as an ode to the majesty of one of the world’s last great temperate rainforests, but also as an urging to protect it.

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In the words of the Gitga’at First Nation’s Helen Clifton, “With Enbridge, there will be the onset of these super tankers. What about our fishermen? What about our food resource. What about the spirit bear?[...]They call this the Great Bear Rainforest. What will be great about it?” It’s a question that probably anyone with a conscience, and definitely anyone with a surfboard, should be asking.