The Big Sea is a new documentary investigating surfing’s hidden links to Cancer Alley and the wetsuit world’s toxic addiction to Neoprene.
UK filmmakers and surfers Lewis Arnold and Chris Nelson have tracked the source of neoprene, the commercial name for chloroprene rubber, which accounts for most of the wetsuits on sale today. Chloroprene rubber used in wetsuits is produced by the Japanese chemical company Denka.
In the documentary, the filmmakers travel to the Denka factory, the only one in the USA, located on the site of a former slave plantation in St John’s Parish, Louisiana.
The EPA states that the cancer risk to the community here is the highest in the USA – 50 times the national average, due to the chloroprene emissions from Denka. Hence the area’s unwanted nickname of Cancer Alley. A school and large tracts of homes back onto the fence line of the factory.
“The question the film asks is, Does your wetsuit have links to Cancer Alley?” said Nelson. “We believe that if it is made from Neoprene, then the short answer is most likely, yes.”
Mike Lay, Wavelength’s Print Editor, described the film as, “Life or death journalism the like of which surfing has seldom seen.” While Chris Hines, MBE and Surfers Against Sewage Co-Founder said it was, “Probably the most focussed 50 minutes of environmental and social campaigning by surfers ever.”
The project has been self-funded, and the three years spent shooting surfing and interviews with industry insiders, activists, and environmental campaigners in California, Louisiana, UK, Ireland, France, Spain, and Australia, doesn’t come cheap.
The team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finish the film, support post-production, and fund future screenings. The goal is to show the power surfers and individuals have to effect change. They propose that better solutions currently exist with a greener alternative readily available for wetsuit manufacturers.
Click on the links for tickets for exclusive screening events, and Q and A sessions with Chris and Lewis, at the Finisterre stores in Edinburgh on the 28th March, Brighton on the 1st March, London on 2nd March, and Bristol on the 3rd March.