Merijn Tinga: the 'Plastic Soup Surfer' sailed 1,118 miles to raise awareness against plastic pollution in the North Sea | Photo: Severne

Dutch environmental activist and windsurfer Merijn Tinga, also known as the "Plastic Soup Surfer," has made an audacious journey from Oslo to London, braving the North Sea's currents and winds, to call attention to the pervasive problem of plastic pollution.

Instead of opting for the easier route from London to Oslo, which would have been more aligned with the typical southwest winds and currents, Tinga chose the challenge of sailing against these elements.

He explained, "My mission required me to sail precisely against the wind and current."

Tinga's route was inspired by his previous experience picking up plastic on the Swedish coast.

Years ago, he found plastic bottles from England and the Netherlands littering the shores, sparking his commitment to lobbying for a deposit system on small bottles.

His journey from Norway's capital to the heart of England was a mind-blowing feat, with Tinga covering approximately 1,118 miles (1,800 kilometers) in 32 days using a Severne Turbo sail and a recycled-plastic board.

Raised in Curaçao by a tropical doctor father, Tinga's love for windsurfing started when he was just eight years old.

"Early in the morning, with my school clothes on, before we went to school, I already went to the Spanish water surf spot to surf," Tinga fondly recalled.

This childhood fascination eventually evolved into his favorite watersport and a powerful tool for his environmental activism.

Plastic Soup Surfer: Merijn Tinga is a Dutch environmentalist focused on lobbying for a deposit system on small bottles | Photo: Severne

Gearing Up for the Challenge

Physically preparing for such a monumental task required more than just strength training but a commitment to endurance.

Tinga focused on building his overall strength and, crucially, his ability to hang onto the boom of his windsurf board for extended periods.

He swam daily and honed his windsurfing skills on a longboard whenever it was windy.

His hands bore the brunt of this during the early part of his journey, but as time passed, his body adjusted and became stronger.

A Lone Crusader for the Environment

Tinga made his journey primarily alone, carrying only minimal gear and no tent.

His trip began in Oslo, where a team member stayed for a few days to help with the final preparations, but afterward, Tinga was on his own.

His sailing journey took him through Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and France before he hopped on a ferry to England.

However, the journey wasn't solely a solo effort.

Tinga partnered with world-renowned shaper Ron van den Berg to create his unique surfboard from recycled and organic materials.

The board incorporated plastic bottles collected from the Thames in London, symbolizing the purpose of Tinga's mission.

Merijn Tinga: the windsurfer activist's journey took him through Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and France before he hopped on a ferry to England | Photo: Severne

The Thames Campaign

Upon reaching the UK, Tinga windsurfed up the Thames, requiring special permission from London's Port Authority.

His petition for a nationwide bottle return scheme in the UK carried all the way from Oslo, was handed to the environment minister, Rebecca Pow.

Tinga's campaign, backed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), sought not just to establish a bottle return system but also to ensure it "leaves no room for subversion by the packaging industry."

His journey culminated beneath the iconic Tower Bridge, where Tinga observed, "To me, it is important to show that we should [put in] an extra effort to combat things like plastic pollution, and you can actually change something."

Curiously, "Plastic Soup Surfer" sailed the Thames 41 years after Sir Alexander Allan put on a black jacket, striped trousers, and bowler hat and got to his work at the HM Treasury on a windsurf board via London's iconic river.

An Unforgettable Adventure

Tinga's journey was undoubtedly arduous, but his resilient spirit, deep-seated love for windsurfing, and steadfast commitment to environmental conservation carried him through.

From his Severne sail serving as a makeshift shelter at night to the daily routine of facing changing winds and currents, the voyage provided a wealth of unforgettable experiences.

He also relished the freedom to traverse places a sailboat could not, including navigating by sight through beautiful areas such as the Swedish coast and the Dutch Wadden Sea.

Though he was unable to cross the Channel from France to London on his surfboard due to strong winds, Tinga remained undeterred.

As he concluded, "Plastic pollution is a multi-headed monster."

"It is part of our society, but there are concrete actions we can take, and a deposit return scheme is one of those, and we should implement it as soon as possible."

His heroic effort underscores the lengths to which some activists are willing to go to protect our planet's future.

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