Why should we, as surfers, hold ourselves to a higher account when it comes to environmentalism?
Because of peace signs in the tube, long hair and sandals?
Not really. Because despite trends to the contrary in the early part of the 21st century, it turns out ours isn’t simply just another sport, overpaid athletes in New Era hats aside.
Our weird little act is one that is so tuned in to natural rhythms that it demands emotional investment in the health of the planet. Spending our lives’ finest hours in the littoral, where land meets the sea, from whence all life came, the very frontier where the challenges of climate collapse manifest, we should also be at the vanguard of the environmental movement.
We should embolden ourselves and push back against the idiocy of unrestrained surf consumerism and the shit fight for the procurement of private luxury.
We should push back against idiocy like the marketing of wave pools claiming that they’ll ‘teach about the ocean in a safe environment’.
Fuck safety. Danger is our only hope.
“Push back against idiocy of unrestrained surf consumerism and the shit fight for the procurement of private luxury”
Rewild Yourself – In The Lineup
There is no better reconnect than the regular ocean dunk, no better tonic against the existential angst of our time, of looming planetary disaster.
When faced with the mass extinction / climate collapse paradigm, you can tend to go one of two ways – become a puritanical neurotic with all associated virtue signalling/judging, or go the other way and shut off entirely from the conversation in a bluster of what about-ery and deflection.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
Regular surfs allow us to engage in something that reminds us exactly of what it is we want to look after, not a distant abstract like Siberian snow leopard populations (although, those too).
The benefits of regularly being in natural surroundings are huge. Mental health issues are trendy and trending with corporations and influences talking about mental health as both a commodity and a marketing tool.
Mental re-wilding via lineup immersion requires no such sell as both prevention and cure. Even the breath control of duck diving when paddling out is both meditative breathing exercise and aerobic workout at the same time.
Tune into wind, tide, swell, sea state and all the other fauna and flora that share the littoral for both prevention of and sensory tonic against the sinister spectre of tomorrow.
“There is no better tonic against the existential angst of looming planetary disaster”
Try To Get Poorer
Some years ago I did an interview with a scientific advisor for a major environmental group asking about the various planetary threats, be they palm oil, climate collapse, overpopulation, etc.
He said something along the lines of “Habitat loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change all pose major threats, but the biggest single threat to the living planet is corporate greed.”
The same applies to the individual. The improvement of one’s own end is essentially a bid to secure more and more private luxury. We can’t actually do that on a finite planet. Instead, the protection and enhancement of common goods, wildlife, natural habitats, i.e. clean and healthy lineups is our best bet for salvation.
Study the Permaculture system and you’ll learn that one of the keys is to design a lifestyle that actually requires less income, actually aiming to earn less, the opposite of the conventional dictate.
Riding waves in healthy coastal ecosystems as regularly as physically possible and striving for the highest quality of life possible without needing to be a millionaire to afford it feel like they go pretty well together, don’t they?
“The biggest single threat to the living planet is corporate greed”
Consume Less Crap… Including Surf Gear
No matter how ‘eco’ a product claims to be, there’s nothing more eco than not buying it. Now you need a board, wetsuit, and a few other bits, sure, but the idea that we can consume or indeed recycle our way out of trouble is nonsense.
Dangerous nonsense in fact, it’s sleepwalking towards disaster.
The idea that you’re somehow helping the planet by buying a certain product – a tailpad made from mushrooms or algae for example – is a trick being played on you by late capitalism.
You’re still rabbit punching Mother Earth in the face holding a set of keys, just not quite as hard.
Ideally, try liberate yourself from the cycle of endless consumption and strip back to the essentials.
Special hangers for drying wetsuits, portable pressure washers for rinsing your gear, there’s an endless barrage of unnecessary shite that we lead to believe somehow makes surfing easier and more enjoyable.
You wanna know what really makes surfing easier and more enjoyable? Avoiding the pending collapse of the planet’s life support systems.
If you think back to the time when surfing meant more to you than any other, when the stoke you got from it was more potent, when you were kept awake at night by it, am I right in thinking it was probably when you had one, crap board and a leaky wetsuit? If either of them failed, there was zero chance of a replacement anytime soon, and you loved them all the more for it.
There’s probably something in that.
“The idea that we can consume or recycle our way out of trouble is nonsense”
Get Political… in the Supermarket
Even casual followers of the recent General Election couldn’t have helped noticing that there was an awful lot of talk of planting trees from all sides, almost entirely utter bullshit.
The other thing those of you following things more keenly might have noticed is that most votes cast didn’t actually count in a first past the post system.
The place where you can actually express your preferences, where you affect real change on a daily basis in the supermarket.
What you buy – and particularly what you don’t – has a real and direct impact on environmental policy, practice and thus the living world.
If you dislike marine plastics, don’t buy fish from the supermarket, ever. Commercial fishing is the source of 49% of all marine plastic, stupid.
It’s also the single biggest single threat the oceans, as outlined by the UN’s IPBES report in 2019. Leaving those 60 million tonnes of wild sea creatures caught annually, swimming around in the ocean seems like a decent place to start healing the planet.
Elsewhere, avoiding meat and dairy on your weekly shop is probably the biggest thing you’ll ever do to reduce your environmental impact. Actually, not probably.
Business as usual is not an option. And the sure fire way to make business listen, is don’t give them yours.
Cover photo: Maura Tilbury