Nicholas Power: surfer and academic

Nick Power, 22 year-old student from the East Coast of the U.S. (Virginia Beach), has recently completed a semester overseas in New South Whales, Australia, where he studied environmental action and sustainability.

As part of his program, Power was required to choose a topic for a hefty research project. "The Surfer's Guide to Sustainability" is a holistic attempt to summarize where the surf industry is in movement towards sustainable production and design.

The guide also addresses the habit of travel surfers tend to take part in, which is very environmentally unfriendly at present. This report assesses the sport of surfing for its environmental impact.

Though the act of riding a wave is environmentally friendly, the industry and the lifestyle associated with surfing are unsustainable at present. And while steps have been taken to reduce the impact of surfing products, and the environmental consequences of the sport are beginning to be acknowledged by the its participants, as a whole the surf world does not seem to be moving towards sustainability rapidly.

One obstacle to this goal is the dependence on petrol to create materials like foam for surfboards and neoprene for wetsuits. Another is the habit of travel involved in the surfing lifestyle. Though the exact environmental impact of the surf industry and surfing lifestyle are unknown, each part examined suggests that surfing does negatively impact the environment to a degree worth concern. Surfing depends on the health of the ocean, so it’s necessary for surfers to aim for sustainability.

This study is a compilation of research on the surf industry: the process of surfboard manufacture, wetsuit manufacture, apparel manufacture, and the shipping of these goods. Surfers habit of travel is also addressed.

In each case, the environmental consequences were summarized. The study concludes that the surf industry has the most responsibility to change in making the sport of surfing more sustainable. To do this, surf companies should localize production rather than keep factories overseas in order to reduce dependence on petroleum. Manufacturers must reduce the toxicity of surfboard and wetsuit manufacture by utilizing alternative materials.

This includes researching new technology and using natural materials currently available.

Surf businesses must also become more efficient in production, dealing with waste and using energy responsibly. To the point of the surfing lifestyle, surfers (especially professionals, who travel the most) must take less surf trips and drive less.

And surfers, as a whole, need to become more environmentally conscious of the impact the sport has.

Download the "A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability."