Surf culture has always had relatively firm roots in conservation, hinged on awareness of the natural environment and the effect we humans have on it. Our arenas where we choose to engage in wave riding are important to us — we want to look after them. But, did you know it’s likely most of the equipment that you have lovingly garnered enabling you to ride those pristine sheets of water are not always sustainable - or made with environmentally conscious practices?
Big surf brands may appear to have environmentalism on their agenda, but most of the time chasing sales targets and profit margins make it inherently difficult for greener practises to take place. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if doing ‘your bit’ is something you take seriously, and you feel strongly about.
But, fear not – there are solutions. We take a look through the essential gear for surfing and how eco-friendly alternatives are out there enabling you to hit the water with a clearer conscience.
Let’s talk about neoprene. How do you feel about that admirable coiled up pile of black material sitting in the boot of your car or the bottom of your wardrobe? Nothing but warm feelings — quite literally I’d imagine. However, could you feel the same after learning how much energy and human cost goes into producing this petroleum-based material? The emitted gases from making neoprene are incredibly dangerous, chloroprene being the biggest concern. The town of LaPlace in Louisiana sits in the shadow of one such plant in the USA and has shocking air quality statistics as well as an obscene number of residents developing cancer.
Moving away from petroleum-based neoprene is the necessary first step. Looking at natural rubber and how an ethically sourced and environmentally made alternative will replace it is the second. Yulex is an American corporation making huge changes in the wetsuit industry, albeit at a slow pace. By using sustainably sourced natural rubber in place of energy-intensive neoprene means up to 80% less climate-altering CO2 is emitted — and a resulting material which actually outperforms conventional neoprene.
Patagonia leads the pack in this field and have some great products and innovative methodologies. There are though a small number of other brands using Yulex in their wetsuits - if you look hard enough you will find them.
Producing conventional high-performance fibreglass (polyurethane blank) surfboards is bad for the environment.
There are no two ways about it. Put simply, fibreglass uses intense amounts of energy to be made and polyester resin releases Volatile Organic Compounds capable of causing serious damage to the environment and humans alike. And once you’ve had your fun and your board is done- what then? Well, being unrecyclable its either going in the bin or destine to the back of your shed/garage to gather dust
Have you ever heard of flax linen? Don’t worry if you haven’t, because not too many people have. This versatile and robust material is, in fact, one of the world’s oldest cultivated fabrics. Grown and harvested with little human interaction, the raw product requires no water, heat or chemicals in the refining process— it is simply blended in sophisticated high-tech machinery.
Under the microscope flax is very similar to fibreglass, being close cell and with good dexterity in thermal and acoustic insulation. It takes an impressive 20% of the energy to produce in comparison AND is half the weight. No brainer? There are a handful of small surfboard manufacturers that integrate flax into their shapes with varying degrees. Notox who have factories in France and Australia take this material and sustainable board making to another level —definitely worth a look.
Surfing is a love affair with nature. Unfortunately, with the abundance of chemicals, synthetic dyes, and fragrances in irresponsibly manufactured products that we are bombarded with daily— we approach this relationship in a false manner most of the time. Let’s not forget other sundry items like surf wax and sunscreen either, these too are part of the bigger picture.
But there is hope.
Next time you find yourself looking at a new wetsuit, surfboard or needing to grab a block of wax on the way to the beach —Take the time to look at your options. You’ll be surprised that green alternatives are out there and more accessible than you’ve perhaps been lead to believe.
Words by Alex Mitcheson
The life of a location independent freelancer and that of a surfer go hand in hand.
Not only does the freedom afforded to you as a freelance contractor allow you to surf whenever the waves are good, but being location independent also means you can post up at an exotic surf destination for days, weeks or even months at a time, with one eye on the swell forecast and the other on your email inbox.
Of course these are just a couple of reasons why the freelance lifestyle works so well with the lifestyle of a surfer. In reality though there are actually a whole bunch of reasons that prove being a digital nomad who surfs is like living life in a waking dream.
Check them out below and let us know in the comments section what you love most about being a digital nomad who surfs.
1. Strike missions become much easier to pull off
Convincing your boss to let you hightail it towards the horizon on the hunt for swell rarely goes the way you would like it to when you’re fixed to an office chair… but you’ve got options.
Option one is that you sub in a mannequin to sit at your desk and pray to Huey that your employer doesn’t notice you’ve skipped town for the day. Option two is that you rock up early with a bottle of Epicac and take a couple of swigs shortly before intercepting your boss on his or her way to their office, with the hope that your violent upchuck of stomach contents is enough to get you sent home.
Neither of these options are fool proof. In fact, they're far from it. As a freelancer who answers to no one though, strike missions are much, much easier to coordinate. Simply book those flights or load up your car and point your nose in the direction of where that swells gonna hit.
After all, what's the point of being your own boss if you're not going to take advantage of your freedom.
2. Flat days on surf trips don't seem so bad
It’s day 3 of your 7-day surf strip to an exotic island chain in the Pacific and you’re yet to see a wave break over 30 centimetres.
Your best mate has taken to drinking away his or her misery and has nearly consumed a weeks worth of beer within the first few days. Your other friend has been refreshing multiple swell forecasting websites simultaneously every 5 seconds in the hope that something, anything, will materialise.
You on the other hand, while also ruing the lack of surf, have been somewhat productive with your downtime.
Emails are being answered, new projects are being started and you’ve even managed to fire off some info to your accountant. But the best thing is that you’re doing this all in a beautiful setting and actually making use of your time.
3. There are plenty of coworking spaces that cater to freelancers who surf
When I first started freelancing, coworking spaces most definitely existed, but they were generally located in cities or other major population hubs.
With the boom of the #digitalnomad lifestyle, there’s been a massive uptick coworking spaces opening up in surf communities all over the world.
Take our very own Coworksurf for example; a coworking and coliving booking site, community and ethos that offers more and more spaces to hit the keys and the pillow at night with numerous locations around the world.
Here you can kick back, connect with likeminded individuals and surf your brains out in some of the hottest surf destinations on the planet.
Oh… and you’ll even have plenty of opportunity to work, given the fact that most locations offer comfortable workspaces with solid Wi-Fi and ergonomic chairs in a productive environment.
4. You don't need to don business attire post-surf
Once upon a time I was a real estate agent. During this time I wheeled and dealed with the best of them, only to be chewed up and spat out like a wad of well-dressed gum.
It was fun and exciting until it wasn’t. I blame an industry that’s so hell bent on appearing like they’re honest, they forget that being honest involves telling the truth.
That being said, I didn’t like a lot of things about the job. One of which was the fact I had to wear a suit and tie, which means whenever I ducked off for a surf at lunch or stayed out a little too long in the morning, I’d have to rinse off and change straight into a suit.
I’m happy to report though that as a freelancer, I don't wear a suit, shoes, tie, collared shirt or freshly pressed pants.
And if I was to ever wear one again, say to meet a client at my office or conduct an interview, I would remain in board shorts and pluggers and just throw a blazer and shirt on for a business up top, ready to surf down below kinda look.
5. There are opportunities to turn surf trips into paid pressers
This is flat out the dream scenario for anyone who writes copy for surf camps, surf lodges, surf hostels and surf schools around the world.
An all expenses paid trip to an exotic surf destination where all you need to worry about is meeting deadlines and not overdosing on fresh juice while sampling quality waves from a buffet of world-class breaks.
It’s something only a select few of us will be offered during our freelancing career, and it's an opportunity that you should seize with both salt encrusted hands.
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The current population of the USA stands at over 328 million people and every day all of those people must eat — it’s a fact of life. Agriculture though along with meat and dairy production has come to be the third biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions around the globe. It is calculated that approximately 150,000 tonnes of food are discarded across the nation daily.