FOR EXCELLENCE AND ACHIEVEMENT IN PROMOTING SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE SURFING WORLD IN 2005.
Sustainability is the name of the game. If it ain’t sustainable, it ain’t viable. That goes for global economic paradigms,
and it goes for agricultural practices in our local farmlands. It goes for sustainable relationships in our communities and
between employers and workers, and even between nations. And sustainability is the name of the game for surfing, too.
Hence our conversion to 100% post-consumer recycled paper and non-GMO soy inks, and these Green Wave Awards.
A simple “call for nominees” last autumn brought a surprisingly large wave of response. We were heartened and
humbled by the breadth and depth of the surf community’s commitment to positive change, and were faced with the
resulting challenge of sorting through your recommendations in seven categories and coming up with the winners.
Of course, in a game like this, we’re all winners. And all efforts towards sustainability are vitally important. In the end,
even with the assistance of the organization SustainAbility, our selections for Green Wave Awards are subjective. We’ve
done our best to balance the scale of the effect with the scale of the commitment, the scope of the effort with the purity
of the intent. All we can say for sure is that these are our best efforts at making tough choices, and that – because of the
efforts of each and every one of these nominees – we are all winners. – Alex Dick-Read & Drew Kampion
SURFBOARD MANUFACTURING COMPANIES
Not an easy one to judge mainly because surfboards aren’t, in any
way, eco-friendly. Not yet, anyway. One nominee, blank manufacturer
Homeblown, takes a step away from the industry norm by using MDI
(methylene diphenyl di-isocyanate) formulas, rather than the more
poisonous TDI (toluene di-isocyanate). This means that each blank
they produce pollutes the atmosphere less, and it makes Homeblown
a much safer environment for its workers than most blank-making operations.
Three nominees are using epoxy resins, instead of the more
common polyester resins, to make their boards. Epoxy offers several
advantages for board makers: extruded polystyrene foam blanks,
required in the epoxy board-building process, emit fewer VOCs
(volatile organic compounds) than the usual polyurethane blanks; the
resin itself emits roughly 75% fewer VOCs than the usual polyester
resin; and epoxy boards tend to be much stronger – proved by Point
Blanks’ Fletcher Chouinard after a year of testing different materials
– so the boards last longer. Fewer broken boards means less boards
get made and fewer end up on landfills.
All of these moves are praiseworthy. To some degree they all offer
boards that are slightly less damaging to the environment. But in the
end, all of the above represent ‘least worst’ options. MDI blanks are
still toxic, just less toxic than TDI blanks, and epoxy boards, though
tougher and slightly less damaging, are still polluters. So we settled
on a board maker that, while tiny in scale, demonstrates active effort
towards offering us not ‘least worst’ but ‘excellent’ options.
WINNER: OCEAN GREEN SURFBOARDS
“The ultimate goal of Ocean Green is to produce custom
surfboards … made entirely from natural materials.” Ocean Green,
in Cornwall, UK, stands out for the central role it gives to this
important quest. They “aim to replace each of the surfboard’s
three base materials with an environmentally-friendly alternative
that has equal or better qualities for the job.” So far, they can cover
two of the three bases. Their Ecofoil boards replace foam blanks
with sustainably-grown hollow balsa blanks, and all their boards
are glassed with organically-grown hemp cloth.
Balsa, if grown and harvested properly, is clearly a greener
surfboard core. Hemp is renewable, biodegradable and,
according to OG’s own material tests at the University of Bangor
in Wales, “hemp composite … is stronger weight for weight than a
So is the future hemp? Should we all be riding balsa? We don’t
claim to know, but it’s clear that these guys are offering a greener
alternative already, and, as important, they’re demonstrating
commitment to a radical, risky approach. These guys are tiny.
Imagine if surfing’s biggest companies put the equivalent effort
into producing boards “made entirely from natural materials”.
SURF TRAVEL COMPANIES
It’s hard to be green in this scene and while we have heard about
‘eco-surf camps’ in some parts of the world, none were nominated
this year. In fact with only two nominees the choice was limited and
we toyed with the idea of not giving out an award for this category. We
quite liked Errant Surf’s Grom Exchange programme but couldn’t see
that, by giving some of the UK’s top young surfers a free trip to one of
their destinations, they were really qualifying for a green award.
BoardX, a surf travel company in Belgium that caters for
windsurfers and kiters as well, was nominated on the basis that,
being an internet-based company, they use no paper for letters, or
envelopes, or paper invoices. They also say they only use Terra Wax
(surfboard wax made from natural products) in their surf camps. But
when we noticed that they are imposing an “Earth Tax” on themselves,
and saw that they had already given over €2,000 to the Mentawai
Islands health charity SurfAid, we decided they deserved some
recognition for their efforts.
A surf-travel company that’s really doing something to help people
at the other end of the travel experience.
SURF-RELATED MEDIA AND PUBLISHING ENTITIES
This was another category that appeared to be fairly thin. We love the
surf-lifestyle magazine Stranger, which is printed on recycled paper,
but being local only to surfers in Cornwall, its impact on the surf world
as whole was deemed to be limited. Irishsurfer.com is many things,
and an admirable site, but didn’t press our ‘green’ buttons. In fact,
two stood out from the rest, one of which was Wetsand.com, the surf
forecasting site, online shop and information resource. Wetsand.com
deserves a mention not just for signing up to the 1% For The Planet
scheme (1% of profits go to environmental organizations) but also for
its role as an information resource for people wanting to learn more
about issues affecting the environment.
WINNER: ECOSURF PROJECT
Actually it is a non-profit organization, but its main
incarnation is as a website that works as an online
resource for anyone interested in, involved in and
concerned about making surfing less damaging to
the planet. We hope it will take off. You only need
to look at the popular board makers’ website, swaylocks.com to
see how useful these kind of online talking shops and information
exchanges can be. EcoSurf Project provides news, information
and links and as a nonprofit, it also has grants to offer for projects
within the industry that will help make us greener. Log on,
exchange knowledge, schemes and skills. You never know what
INDIVIDUALS WHO SURF
It’s incredible, the remarkable efforts being made by so many surfers
to bring sustainable, green consciousness to the world nowadays!
Our list of nominated individuals is a most impressive testament to
the thousands of unsung heroes out there, and it has been extremely
challenging to reach a consensus on a winner. The very range
of their activities was daunting – from Donna Frye, the California
environmentalist and wife of surfer Skip Frye, who very nearly became
mayor of the City of San Diego; to Gary Young, the “green” bamboo
board pioneer, who’s been at it for years; to Javier Fernandez Urbana,
the Peruvian publisher and eco-campaigner; to Russ Lesser, Body
Glove’s tireless worker for marine conservation; to women’s legend,
Linda Benson, who’s passing on her wisdom to the next generations;
to Malibu great, Bob Purvey, who’s become an activist clean-water
campaigner and filmmaker … the list is virtually endless, and that’s
the good news. The tough news is that there could only be one Green
Wave Award in this category.
WINNER: BLAKE McELHENY
Oahu’s so-called Seven-Mile
Miracle is one of surfing’s
great world resources; it’s
our Yosemite, perhaps
surfing’s greatest World
Park. Yet for years it has
been threatened with
development. Now, thanks
to a consortium of private
and government resources,
mobilized and spearheaded
by the North Shore
Community Land Trust, it
looks like the 1,129-acre
(the green valleys and bluffs you see in all those Pipeline photos)
will become state and county parkland. As president of the NSCLT
and a tireless champion of this effort, attorney and lifetime surfer
Blake McElheny has earned our Individual Green Wave Award.
McElheny thinks the award should go to Larry McElheny (his
dad) and North Shore patriarch Peter Cole, who rallied residents
to the defence when the owners, Obayashi Corporation (which
purchased the land in 1974) unveiled plans for luxury residential
subdivisions in the 1980s.
Blake also thinks this award should go to Jack Johnson, and
we have to admit that Jack and his wife Kim certainly deserve it
– for all their phenomenal work via their Kokua Hawaii Foundation,
plus Jack’s soulful surf films and music. Touring in Japan last
year, Johnson took time out to call on the folks at Obayashi Corp.
to pitch the idea of selling the property to a coalition assembled
by the NSCLT (including the City and County of Honolulu, the
State of Hawaii, the US Department of Defence, the US Army
Garrison Hawaii, private contributors Brushfire Records, the
Freeman Foundation, Sole International Corp., the Quiksilver
Foundation, and Patagonia, and surfers like Kelly Slater). He
explained, among other things, that both Pupukea and Paumalu
have long been sacred lands of the Hawaiians, and they certainly
are for the surfing community.
For labouring persistently over the past decade to ensure that
the sacred valleys and ridges above Sunset Beach and Pipeline
are not developed, we think this award should most deservedly
go to Blake McElheny.
SURF-RELATED NONPROFIT ORGANISATIONS
How can fantastic organizations like Wildcoast, Surfers Healing,
SANE and Surfers Against Sewage, be compared, measured against
each other? It’s ridiculous to distinguish between such fine works,
but heartening to know that nominees in this category are generally
not in it for the accolades. Most individuals who participate in these
organizations, and thereby the bodies themselves, are driven from
In the end we settled on two groups that crystallized around
events in the last 18 months. In this case, helping people in a part
of the world that we surfers often tend to see in one, paradisaical
dimension: Indonesia. We think these two spontaneous acts of
compassion, leading to effective, life-saving action, best sum up
what can be done, at a human level or a wider environmental level,
when surfers really give a damn.
JOINT WINNERS: SURFAID INTERNATIONAL (SAI) and SURFZONE RELIEF OPORATION (SRO)
Five years ago, Dr Dave Jenkins gave a damn when he saw children
dying from preventable diseases only yards from luxury surf charter
yachts in the Mentawai Islands, so he set up a healthcare network
in the area, which has since saved countless lives. After the Boxing
Day tsunami in 2004, his organization became one of the most
effective groups operating in an area considered “remote” by the
rest of the aid agencies, and admirably re-deployed its staff, skills
and cultural knowledge to the needs of the day. SAI continues
to expand its reach in the islands off Sumatra, not just giving
out medicines and mosquito nets, but also treating, diagnosing,
training local medics and educating people about health issues.
Thousands of people have benefited, because Dr Dave gave a
In 2005, Matt
George and fellow
Sharp set up an
aid organization on
the spot when they
stuck in Padang
after the tsunami.
They pulled out
influential surf industry contacts and skilled people in the region,
they bought a boat, medicines and food, and sourced appropriate
equipment like fishing canoes from the places they’d come to
know and love in their previous surf travels. In the end their instant
aid organization saved countless lives, and helped numerous
families to build new ones. They acted fast again after Hurricane
Katrina, heading to flooded New Orleans to help pull out the living
and the dead. And again, when a massive earthquake struck
Pakistan in 2005 – Pakistan? There’s not even any surf there!
– they lobbied for money and equipment and headed to the heart
of the disaster to help. We haven’t heard from Matt George since
February, when he was on his way back to Islamabad.
SURF APPAREL COMPANIES
More and more surf-based companies are dedicating resources
to “green” efforts (and to “sustainability” in a broader sense), and
the nominees in this category are stellar examples. The Quiksilver
Crossing, with its global ReefCheck program, has made profound
contributions to public awareness, giving what might have been
merely an indulgent media-promotions vehicle legitimate scientific
value. In Santa Cruz, the O’Neill Sea Odyssey has led over 25,000
young students toward an understanding that the ocean is alive and
its health vital to all of us. Simple’s fanciful foray into the realm of its
Green Toe collection has boosted earth-friendly consciousness in a
major way. And so on … many great efforts, all worthy … and we’re
grateful for all of them.
When all is said and done, Yvon Chouinard’s rock-steady and
enduring commitment to the environment and sustainability
remains unassailable. Lifetime-guaranteed products, 100%
organic cotton clothes since 1996, boardshorts and jackets
made from recycled plastic bottles, less toxic and more durable
surfboards since 1997, instigators of the 1% For The Planet
movement, and the 2005 publication of YC’s Let My People
Go Surfing, a groundbreaking textbook for more sustainable
business practices … What can you say? Patagonia remains the
benchmark, and not only for the surf industry.
SURF ACCESSORY COMPANIES
Not a lot of entries in this category, despite the fact there’s been a
major green shift in consciousness there as well. We predict a big fat
listing next year. Nonetheless, our nominees this year were worthy.
The Loose Fit Surf Shop in Devon aims to be a working model of
everything a sustainable surf shop ought to be – watch out for them
next year. Sambazon (the miracle drink of several notable pro surfers)
is as much a sports product as it is an investment in sustainable
Amazon harvesting. And Solar Cookers International is holding a
major key to both human health and rainforest preservation – cheap
and fuel-less sterilization and eating.
WINNER: BETTY BELTS
A small operation that’s trying to make a difference at the source,
Betty Belts’ fabric dyers are one of the very few in Bali who use
a self-built septic system that reduces greatly their toxic outflow
into the river. Now this small company is working to rein in river
pollution by helping to install septic systems for other dyers in
order to extract harmful elements from the natural and chemical
dyes used in the cottage industries ubiquitous in Indonesia
and many other craft-oriented societies. “We are initiating the
construction of a septic system for one particularly visible and
needy batiker, [plus distributing] a simple blueprint and efforts to
get the word out,” says Donna von Hoesslin, who is working to
raise funds for the project. “There is no law requiring these people
to have any form of outflow regulation into the river,” she says, “so
it needs attention.” Indeed.
EMERALD PATH AWARD
Too many of the nominees quite plainly deserve the overall award, and we toyed with several different criteria for eeking
out a single winner. In the end we went for a long-term view and found two standouts, both nominees in the Individuals
category. These two men, separated by oceans but bound by them, too, seemed to show a certain synergy in their paths.
Both dedicated to the ocean, some years ago they found themselves furious at its abuse. Both channelled their outrage so
effectively that it couldn’t be ignored – by their fellow surfers, by the abusers, and by lawmakers. They made stuff happen like
no one has since, and between them they spawned the most important and effective guardian organizations that surfers and
beach-users have to this day. But it didn’t stop there. Both of these men are still contributing to surfing’s culture in important,
intelligent and radical ways, retaining a respectable independence and looking to a future that benefits us all, and of course,
our ocean environment. In the end, it made complete sense to name these two as winners, both for their work in the past,
and their work towards our future.
WINNERS:GLENN HENING and CHRIS HINES
GLENN HENING: No other surfer has done as much to preserve surf spots, guarantee
access to the waves, and ensure that there’s clean water when you get there. In fact, the
very concept of these Green Wave Awards would not exist without Glenn Hening.
Co-founder of the Surfrider Foundation in 1984 and founder of the Groundswell Society in
2001, Hening has single-mindedly coerced surfers into standing up for themselves and the
higher values often buried somewhere within. To top it off, in 2005, the Oxnard, California
surfer published his blockbuster surf novel, Waves of Warning, an epic cautionary tale
that projects current trends into a dangerous future, while revealing Hening’s masterful
understanding of surfing at all levels, from the ancient traditions to corporate boardrooms.
No one’s contributions to sustaining surfing have been greater.
“It was a surprise and an honor to be nominated for this award, but I never thought
I’d win it,” Hening confessed as we were going to press. “There are so many people
around the world who are working hard every day in the name of surfing, the surfing world
that we are leaving to our children. I just happened to be lucky enough to have the time,
resources, and energy to hold up my end of the bargain – as one blessed with a lifetime
of receiving Mother Ocean’s greatest gift: the feeling that only a surfer knows.
“My sincere congratulations to Chris Hines,” Hening continued. “It’s an honor to share
the award with him. And I’ll dedicate my half of the Award to the true spirit of sharing the
stoke of surfing – the true meaning of the word ‘Aloha’ that Duke Kahanamoku taught us
– and to Tom Pratte, who taught us what it really takes to protect something as precious
as the wonderful world of riding waves.”
CHRIS HINES: In 1990, in the tiny Cornish village of St. Agnes, there was outrage over
the outflows. The surfers were fed up with surfing in raw shit, so Surfers Against Sewage
was born. The positive charge at its core was Chris Hines, its director for the next ten
years. His media savvy was notorious and SAS was soon almost as widely known as
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. But beyond its famous stunts with wetsuits and gas
masks, SAS became one of the most effective environmental campaign groups in the UK
thanks to Hines’ total command of his brief, his dedication to common sense and decency
in the face of greed, bureaucracy and politicking. He was David against any number of
Goliaths – private water companies, local governments, national government, European
bureaucrats – and his aim was consistently true. By the time he left SAS in 2000, laws had
been changed and the raw shit had gone. It wasn’t just surfers who benefited from the
disproportionate momentum Hines had built up through SAS, but millions of beachgoers.
Today, as Sustainability Director at the Eden Project, Hines has tapped into Eden’s
significant resources to develop the “eco-boards”, surfboards made entirely of natural
materials. The eco-boards, an ongoing research project, are a “challenge” to our own
industry and beyond. Through Eden’s mainstream consultancy work they’re being used
to inspire big industry to rethink all kinds of toxic manufacturing processes. Again, thanks
to Hines’ surf-based vision, a cleaner, greener future actually looks possible.
“Surfing can change the world,” Hines said when told he’d won this award. “We all
have to accept that collectively we are an incredibly strong body. We are a huge, powerful
tribe. We just need to realize it. And it’s worth remembering what John Paul Getty said
when he was asked in an interview what was the best thing he’d ever done in his life.
He said it was when he was a teenager, when he and his friends picked up surfboards,
paddled out and rode the waves. This was an old man, who’d been the richest man in
the world and done whatever he wanted, and surfing was better than all of it.”
Thanks to Rick Rietveld for providing the artwork for our winners. Thanks too to everyone who nominated and partook
in this year’s award. Nominations for the 2nd Annual GWA (for 2006) end Jan 15 2007.