Bad news, surf folk.
Not only is eating meat and flying to Indo all very much Climate Crisis kookery, it would seem driving the exact kind of car your favourite and least favourite pro surfer influencers are peddling is too.
I was working at the Meo Rip Curl Pro Peniche recently, and a colleague was lucky enough to have a car laid on for him/us. It turned out, as Jeep is the official car partner of the WSL, to be a brand new Jeep Renegade.
What could be more surfie than a Jeep, after all?
Surely you’ve seen the ad, almost as if the brief when the idea was being workshopped was ‘Try and make it as easily ripped apart by BeachGrit as possible’.
“I surf the air. I surf roads, lanes and alleys, etc.”
We were, of course, but one part of a fleet of the giant American vehicles. The carpark at the Hotel MV Atlantico behind Supertubos looked like the start of some kind of rally. Renegades and Cherokees… some other bigger ones. Giant wheels, square front ends, shiny… stuff.
Occasionally, we’d take short breaks from tirelessly, diligently performing our important work, and find time to steal off hoping for a quick splash. We’d put our shortboards in the back of the Jeep Renegade, weighing in at some 3kg each. Then our wetsuits, another few kilos, taking the payload up to around a 20kg.
We’d then pilot the enormous metal vehicle on narrow, asphalted roads to check the waves without irony. Nothing seemed particularly silly about it, it’s amazing how normalised vehicular overkill has become.
“It’s amazing how normalised vehicular overkill has become”
Somehow, I’d inexplicably managed to cast off my own usually inescapable judgments, my much higher moral ground. Usually, biking my kids to and from school (three of em in a trailer off the back of a ladies shopping bike) Monday to Friday, I ooze puritanical contempt for anyone and everyone with an exhaust pipe.
How had I managed to cast aside my own strict moral code? Because, surfing, obviously. Of course the sport of catching waves, and journalistic endeavours around it requires a 2-ton land tank that does about 10 miles per litre of fuel. A couple of times I was driving up to Nazaré to do some interviews, of course, I needed a massive 4×4. C’mon, Naz… world’s biggest wave.
You never know when you might need to look like you might need to hook on a jetski trailer at any moment.
Because today’s surfers, rather than pottering around in the cheapest vehicle that’s legally roadworthy, a Twingo, Punto, some other crap, cheap 1.1L hatchback ending in ‘o’, have been convinced that surfing actually requires the sort of vehicle the MAGA cap-wearing Type II diabetes shoe-in, only every occasionally dismount for a reluctant but obligatory waddle across a gun shop forecourt in Houston or Atlanta (where at the least ATMs are drive thru).
I remembered a pic I’d seen recently on the Surfers Journal Instagram (pre deleting the app this summer, see moral much higher ground, above) about an old 60’s station wagon loaded with logs.
“Surfers today seem to require $100K 4WD Sprinters outfitted for assaults on the Khyber Pass…and that’s just to park at Sano” lamented the caption.
Thing is, it’s not just Seppos at Sano, is it? For how much we’ve enjoyed chortling at their extravagant stupidity down the years, we’ve become them. Think back twenty years, how many folk got out of a giant vehicle to look out at the Atlantic to their west, holding a bucket of coffee? Unheard of. A Mondeo estate was considered roomy in those days.
Bizarrely, all this is set against a background of being ultra radicalised when it comes to small ticket item societal norms, or at least in our own weird wee ecosystem. Getting a takeaway coffee with a plastic lid, a single-use plastic bag, even buying a bottle of mineral water, most of us wouldn’t be seen dead doing so (emphasis on being seen).
And yet where I live in Capbreton, SW France the average surf car has doubled or tripled in size since I moved here in the early 2000’s. Similar to the UK or most places in Europe, the roads are pretty narrow, and yet for some reason, everyone seems to want huge cars. It’s as if the act of getting from A to B, particularly when B is a 3ft beachbreak, has become some kind of 4×4 dick measuring contest.
“It’s as if the act of getting from A to B, particularly when B is a 3ft beachbreak, has become some kind of 4×4 dick measuring contest”
So we all know burning fossil fuel is bad, that our boards and wetsuits are made from oil, but how bad are SUV’s really?
Growing demand for SUVs was the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018, according to this November’s IEA report .
In that period, SUVs doubled their global market share from 17% to 39% and their annual emissions rose to more than 700 megatonnes of CO2, more than the yearly total emissions of the UK and the Netherlands combined. In fact, all emissions savings made from increased efficiency in smaller cars and the electric car market are wiped out by increased our SUV use.
If SUV drivers were a nation, they’d rank 7th in the world for carbon emissions.
“All emissions savings made from increased efficiency in smaller cars and the electric car market are wiped out by increased our SUV use”
Whether armed with this kind of data or not, when VW UK tweeted “Looking to boost your school gate credibility? Our Tiguan has been voted one of the coolest cars for Dads on the school run” earlier this year, even the eco apathetic couldn’t help feel the cat sick forming in their palette.
And yet for all their wrongness, VW marketing geniuses were actually correct. I did an ad-hoc count biking to school the other day, at one point, of a ten cars queue, 9 were SUVs chugging into the drop-off, the tenth was a giant 4×4 pick up you’d expect to see driven by North Shore tough guys.
“Air pollution is now believed to kill more people than smoking.” stated Guardian’s Urban Jungle earlier this year. “Across Europe, it’s estimated to cause the premature deaths of 800,000 people a year. Every week, cars here kill far more people than the full toll of the Chernobyl disaster. Air pollution damages hearts and lungs, causes a wide range of cancers and damages the health of unborn children. It can radically reduce intelligence, as a result of oxidative stress and neurodegeneration.”
Ideal for giving school kids off a wee exhaust toke on, before heading to that fragile littoral zone ecosystem we’re all so keen to be publicly pledging to protect, then.
See you at the beach clean!