5 Ways to Love the Ocean on World Oceans Day

Every year on June 8, people across the globe come together to honor our oceans and all that they do to keep us alive. If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the seas, here are 5 ways to love the ocean on World Oceans Day, even if you don’t happen to be near a coastline.

1. Watch: Webinars About the Ocean

Find knowledge and inspiration about our oceans from a few amazing panels of experts in a few of our favorite Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) webinars. PPC’s Global Webinar Series brings together our community of experts to share the latest information, tips, and resources to stop the growing plastic pollution crisis.

In our June 2023 webinar, Plastic-Free Seas: Diving Into How Plastic Impacts Health, Climate, and Our Oceans, we discussed the challenges that plastic pollution poses to our oceans and our bodies, how polluted waters disrupt the mental health benefits we gain from access to healthy oceans and waterways, and how we may restore our planet as well as our own physical and mental well-being.

During Deep Ocean to Outer Space: Plastic Pollution Solutions, in December 2020, we discussed the impacts of and potential solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean, as well as in outer space.

2. Read: Blogs About the Ocean

Surfers are some of the biggest advocates for our oceans, and were among the first people to call attention to the global plastic pollution crisis. Learn more about a dedicated subculture of wave riders who have turned to activism to protect the beaches and waters they love from plastic pollution in our blog Celebrating the Surfers Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution.

For people in the Northern Hemisphere, June means summertime: the perfect time of year to enjoy the beach or recreate in the oceans. It’s also the perfect time to rethink your beauty routine and make better choices to benefit our oceans, environment, and your health. Check out 10 Tips for a Summer Beauty Routine that is Healthier for Our Oceans.

3. Read or Listen: Books About the Ocean

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans by Captain Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips 

Read the story of Captain Charles Moore’s encounter with the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (The North Pacific Gyre) in 1997, and his return in 1999 to collect samples of microplastics for analysis on his custom built research vessel, ORV Alguita. The results of his first study in 1999 were shocking: plastic pollution caught in his research nets outweighed zooplankton, tiny animals that make up the base of the ocean’s food web, by a factor of six to one. As one of the main drivers of plastic pollution awareness, Captain Moore and Plastic Ocean remind us that an ocean free of plastic pollution is of utmost importance to the survival of all species. Learn more.

Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen

In 2008, two sailors drifted across the North Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii on a raft made from 15,000 plastic bottles tied in old fishing nets stuffed under a Cessna 310 Aircraft.  They called the vessel “JUNK.” The purpose of their 88-day, 2600-mile voyage was to build awareness and help build a movement to save our seas from plastic pollution. Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of 5 Gyres, who was one of those two sailors, tells the story. He shows us that there’s a great divide between how industry sees the future and what the movement demands.  This book is not only a story of adventure, but a vision of how we bridge that divide. Learn more.

Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis By Erica Cirino

Much of what you’ve heard about plastic pollution may be wrong. Instead of a great island of trash, the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of manmade debris spread over hundreds of miles of sea—more like a soup than a floating garbage dump. Recycling is more complicated than we were taught: less than nine percent of the plastic we create is recycled, and the majority ends up in the ocean. Erica Cirino, now Communications Manager at PPC, brings readers on a globe-hopping journey to meet the scientists and activists telling the real story of the plastic crisis. Learn more.

4. View: Ocean Art

Meredith Andrews, contemporary portrait, travel and lifestyle photographer based on the sub-tropical island of Bermuda finds much of her inspiration combing the region’s beaches for plastic pollution, which she artfully arranges and photographs. Learn more.

Jo Atherton is an artist who works with objects, including plastic pollution, gathered on the UK coastline. Her practice highlights the diversity of plastic washed ashore and how the ubiquity of this material characterizes our current geological age of human influence—the Anthropocene. Learn more.

Pamela Longobardi, an American artist and activist fascinated by the metamorphoses of the ocean in the age of plastic. Through her works, she launches warning messages to the viewer, thrown like (plastic) bottles into the sea. Learn more.

Susan Middleton is an artist, photographer, author, and educator specializing in the portraiture of rare and endangered animals, plants, sites, and cultures. Much of her inspiration comes from the oceans. Learn more.

Alexis Rockman is an artist known for his paintings that depict future seascapes and landscapes as they might exist with impacts of climate change, pollution, and other human-made problems. In particular, his Oceanus and Shipwrecks series illustrate the beauty of the oceans—and what could happen if we do not protect them. Learn more.

Judith Selby and Richard Lang are artists who have spent more than 25 years visiting 1000 yards of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore to gather plastic debris washing out of the Pacific Ocean. By carefully collecting and “curating” the bits of plastic, Selby and Lang fashion it into works of art— art that matter-of-factly shows, with minimal artifice, the material as it is. Learn more.

5. Experience: The Blue Mind Challenge

The 11th Annual 100 Days of Blue Mind Challenge takes place May 26–Sept 2, 2024. Nominated for The Earthshot Prize in 2023, Blue Mind refers to a water-induced state of calm, unity, and inspired will to protect and restore nature. Researched and described by PPC Scientific Advisor Dr. Wallace J Nichols, this positive, holistic, values-based solution simultaneously addresses human well-being in a time of despair, and environmental protection in a time of destruction. The 100 Days of Blue Mind Challenge is simple: get near, in, on or under water daily. If you miss a day, don’t worry! Invite someone who needs it to join you from time to time. Share your stories in any way you like. If you’re on social media, use the #bluemind hashtag so fellow water-lovers can easily follow along. Here’s a list of 100+ ways to practice Blue Mind.

Take Action

We are all connected to the ocean, whether we live nearby or far away. It’s no secret that one of the biggest threats to our oceans is plastic pollution—which of course is not just an ocean issue, but a whole Earth issue. 

Please consider supporting our work to educate, connect, and advocate for a more just, regenerative world free of plastic pollution.

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June 18 is International Surfing Day, and surfers were among the first to call attention to the global plastic pollution crisis. From the coasts of the United States to the shores of Australia to the beaches of Southeast Asia and South America, plastic has been washing ashore at greater and greater volumes over the past several decades, as the plastics and petrochemical industries pump out the material at an accelerating pace. And so a dedicated subculture of wave riders found themselves turning to activism to protect the beaches and waters they loved from plastic pollution.

Plastic Pollution Coalition has worked with a dynamic range of surfers and surfer-led organizations for the past decade. In honor of International Surfing Day, we’d like to highlight a few of these inspiring colleagues and friends.

1. Surfrider Foundation

We begin with our friends and colleagues at Surfrider Foundation, as they helped create International Surfing Day! For over 35 years, Surfrider Foundation has been working to protect our coastlines (and the entire Earth) from plastic pollution. 

Beginning with organized beach cleanups in the 1990s, Surfrider shifted focus toward policy in 2011, petitioning lawmakers to ban single-use plastic items, among other efforts, to ensure plastic never reached the beaches in the first place. 

Now with many chapters worldwide, Surfrider has continued affecting positive legislative changes to reduce plastic pollution across the globe. 

2. Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater is an American professional surfer, best known for being crowned World Surf League champion a record 11 times. He is regarded by many as “the GOAT”—greatest professional surfer of all time.

As a staunch advocate for ocean protection by reducing single-use plastics, Slater supports alternative materials, founded OUTERKNOWN, and built the Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California.

Plastic pollution seems irreversible and so horrible. We are ruining numerous ecosystems by overwhelming them with physical and chemical pollution.

Kelly Slater, from conversation with Impacting Our Future

3. Allison Teal

Alison Teal is an explorer, filmmaker, and surfer. Growing up around the world and raised by adventurous parents world-renowned for their photography, which appeared in National Geographic Magazine among other publications, Alison has continued her life of adventure into adulthood and travels the world most of the year.

Alison is a passionate activist who has used her international platform to call attention to the global plastics crisis. She has produced many short films depicting her paddle surfing in a sea of plastic pollution around the world.

4. Dr. Wallace J Nichols

Dr. Wallace J Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and lifelong ocean protector. Nichols is a PPC founding member and scientific advisor. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature through his talks, writing, photography, and film.

His book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do is an international bestseller.

Dr. Nichols authored a blog for Plastic Pollution Coalition detailing trips to the beach with his daughters—who had become overwrought by the prospect of more plastic cleanups, and all the pollution that was preventing them from fully enjoying their beach time.

Dr. Nichols is currently hosting the 9th Annual 100 Days of Blue Challenge asking people to get near, in, on or under water daily. The challenge runs from May 30 through September 6 and invites people to share their inspiring experiences with water across social media networks by tagging #bluemind.

5. Mark Cunningham

Mark Cunningham is a body surfer—meaning rather than climbing up on a board to ride crashing waves, he rides using only his body. Mark is considered by many to be the best body surfer in the world. 

With his deep understanding of the ocean, Mark has become a very proactive ally in the movement to address plastic pollution. From appearing in documentary films like The Smog of the Sea, to protecting the North Shore of Oahu, to creating and exhibiting works of art made from washed up and found plastic pollution, Mark’s passion for keeping the oceans and the rest of the planet free of plastic and its toxic impacts is inspiring.

6. Gerry Lopez

When it comes to legendary surfers, few achieve such renown for their abilities as Gerry Lopez, who has been dubbed “Mr. Pipeline” by his peers and surf fans around the world. 

From the age of 14, when he won his first state championship in his home of Hawaii, Gerry has traveled the globe riding the waves of superstardom for his surfing talent. Practically living in the water, Gerry watched as the beaches and oceans he loved began to transform into repositories of plastic waste. 

In 2011, Gerry wrote an essay for Plastic Pollution Coalition reminiscing fondly of a time when surfing was plastic-free.

The splendid waves of G-Land never seemed to change and we enjoyed surfing them over the next 20 years. It was a surf paradise beyond compare. And it opened my eyes to how quickly an absolutely pristine, totally natural place can become a mess. Plastic is a problem for all of us. It creates toxic pollution during its manufacture, use, and disposal. Recycling is not a solution, every bit of plastic made, still exists.

Gerry Lopez

7. Ben Harper

Photo Credit: Ben Harper at Bonnaroo Music Festival, by Danny Clinch.

Ben Harper is a three-time Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is also an avid skater and surfer and has been credited as a musician who makes music “for surfers by surfers.”

Ben uses his international platform to promote awareness on a multitude of issues, including plastic pollution. He is a founding member of Plastic Pollution Coalition.

8. Jack Johnson

Photo Credit: Dianna Cohen, Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Jack Johnson is a prolific singer/songwriter and avid surfer. The son of the late surfer Jeff Johnson, Jack began surfing at five years old and was the youngest participant at age 17 to reach the finals of the Pipeline Masters in Maui. Soon after, Jack left competitive surfing and began focusing on music and filmmaking.

Jack has also encouraged his fans to take part in the Plastic-Free July challenge. With Kim, Jack co-founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation—a non-profit organization that supports environmental education in schools and communities in Hawaiʻi, and created Plastic-Free Hawaii.

If you’re heading to a Jack Johnson concert this year in Washington D.C. on June 24; Berkeley, CA, on September 28; Los Angeles, CA, on October 1; or Chula Vista, CA, on October 7, be sure to say hi to the Plastic Pollution Coalition team! We’re excited to partner with Jack Johnson on his 2022 Summer Tour as an All At Once Non-Profit Partner. All At Once is Jack’s social action network connecting nonprofits with people who want to take action and give back to their community, by promoting sustainable and equitable food systems, plastic-free initiatives, healthy watersheds, and more!

9. Donavon Frankenreiter

Donavon Frankenreiter is an American musician and former professional surfer. 

Donavon uses his music and platform to elucidate to his global audience the threat of plastic pollution. As part of his plastic pollution activism, Donavon teamed up with Brazilian singer-activist Céu and others to produce the song and campaign “Listen to the Ocean”—a project aimed at inspiring people to take action to keep plastic from entering the ocean.

10. Chris & Keith Malloy

Surfer/filmmakers Chris & Keith Malloy have spent years traveling the world searching for the best little-known surfing spots. From Antarctica to Iceland and from Galapagos to New Caledonia, no matter how remote the place was, plastic was already there. They documented this experience in a short film titled Plastic Gets There First.

Keith’s debut solo documentary Come Hell or High Water, which he wrote, produced, directed, and participated on screen in, was dedicated to Plastic Pollution Coalition and to Keep The Country Country.

11. Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton, considered by many to be one of the greatest living outer wave surfers, is renowned as an original innovator of big wave surfing. He and a group of his peers invented the “tow-in surfing” method, where surfers are towed onto massive waves too large, powerful, and fast to be paddled onto. 

Laird has a rule: any plastic he encounters while surfing, he brings ashore. For as consistent a surfer as Laird, this is a tall order, as the oceans have progressively filled with more and more plastic each year.

In 2011, Laird and his wife Gabrielle Reece, professional volleyball player and model, joined Plastic Pollution Coalition for a special World Oceans Day PSA about reducing our global dependence on polluting plastics.

12. Garrett McNamara

Garrett McNamara is an 8-time Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave ever surfed—which breaks on the shores of Nazaré, Portugal.

In 2018, Garrett launched a campaign to reduce plastic pollution—dubbing it as his effort to give back to the oceans and seas what they had given him after a lifetime of surfing. He has organized beach cleanups and awareness events, and uses social media extensively to encourage people to reduce their own plastic footprints. Garrett is featured in the award-winning HBO documentary series, 100 Foot Wave.

13. Sierra Quitiquit

Sierra Quitiquit is a model, skier, surfer, and activist who co-founded Plastic Free Fridays in 2019. Plastic Free Fridays’ mission is to help individuals avoid single-use plastics by raising awareness and shaping positive habits, while also working towards systemic change on the community, corporate, and policy levels.

14. Plastic Soup Surfer

Merijn Tinga is a biologist and artist—but once he steps into the water, he becomes the Plastic Soup Surfer

Tinga has made it his life’s mission to stop plastic pollution from entering the oceans at the source: the industries that pump out more than 400 million metric tons of plastic annually. The Plastic Soup Surfer advocates for better regulations to put pressure on companies to take responsibility for their plastic pollution.

15. Surfers Against Sewage

Surfers Against Sewage is a grassroots collective of surfers and activists who have, since 1990, organized across the UK to eliminate plastic pollution, sewage, and other hazardous pollutants from beaches.

In 2017, Surfers Against Sewage launched their Plastic Free Communities, Plastic Free Schools, and Plastic Free Coastlines initiatives, creating action plans for community leaders and helping schools and businesses become plastic free.

16. Surf and Clean

Surf and Clean is a Spain-based non-profit organization founded by Surfers. Their mission is to educate the public about plastic pollution and its impacts on social justice and the environment—especially how it harms the ocean. 

They have a simple message for all surfers: “Siempre que vayas a surfear recoge algo de la playa.” [Whenever you go surfing, pick up something from the beach.]

17. Surfers for Climate

Surfers for Climate is an Australian-based NGO founded by surfers and dedicated to turning the tide on climate change.

Surfers for Climate was co-founded by surfers Johnny Abegg and Belinda Baggs, who attended a climate summit on Heron Island, Queensland, Australia, in October 2019. They were moved by what they learned about climate science, the harmful effects of climate change on people and nature, and the solutions that were presented by Australia’s leading scientists and policy experts. Most importantly, though, they were struck by the critical role the oceans play in our climate system, and they committed to raising awareness of these issues in Australia and beyond.

18. Cigarette Surfboard

The Cigarette Surfboard Project was founded by documentarian surfers Taylor Lane & Ben Judkins who are currently making a documentary about plastic pollution and funding the film by making surfboards out of washed up and collected plastic cigarette butts from beaches around the world.

19. The Wahine Project

The Wahine  Project was created in 2010 as an effort to reach young girls around the world who would otherwise not have access to the resources that would allow them to surf. 

The Wahine Project seeks to break down the barriers that prevent the participation of youth in ocean sports—whether geographical, financial, or a lack of opportunity—and provide youth the chance to become proficient “water humans.” As a result of this relationship, young people are given a sense of responsibility and instilled with an awareness of climate change, environmental injustice, and their ability to create positive change in the world.

20. Dianna Cohen

Last but not least, Plastic Pollution Coalition CEO & Co-Founder Dianna Cohen is an eternally aspiring longboarder and scuba diver.

A visual artist from Southern California, Dianna watched as beaches worldwide began accumulating more and more toxic plastic over the decades. She began transmuting the plastic she found into compelling works of art, and upon learning more about the material, pushed for plastic to be called what it is: pollution. She has spent over a decade advocating for policies to reduce plastic production and use and encouraging people to refuse single-use plastics.

In 2019, Dianna received the Environmentalist of the Year award from the Surf Industry Members Association (SIMA) and was presented the award by PPC notable, multiple Academy Award-winning actor, and surf enthusiast Jeff Bridges.

YOU CAN HELP PROTECT THE OCEANS TOO!

Celebrate International Surfing Day and help keep the oceans—and our entire planet—free of plastic pollution. Take the pledge to refuse single-use plastics, and ask your friends to do the same.

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Photo by Ben Hicks

It’s World Oceans Day! We invite you to listen, learn, and take action today with the resources below. 

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By Taylor Lane and Ben Judkins

The first rain after long, hot summer months sometimes known as the “First Flush” often fills waterways with discarded everyday items, forgotten but never gone; all our waste, garbage, trash, plastic, styrofoam, pollution, runoff, etc. on land inevitably make the journey through rivers, creeks, and streams all the way to the sea. Land and water are inextricably interconnected.

Logos from the companies responsible for this plastic packaging are visible as they float by out to sea.

Landlocked or coastal, we all rely on the sea for the air we breathe, and in turn we all affect the sea with our consumption and waste habits. This was shot in one hour on one small segment of one creek from one bigger river in one big city on one tiny spec of the earth; our collective actions really do add up.

Our cultural out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality is toxic and this flow of trash is a reminder that there truly is no “away.” Prevention, choosing alternatives to single-use plastic, and stopping production of virgin single-use plastic at the source is far more effective than any clean-up measure; we live in a plastic world but it doesn’t mean we as consumers have to perpetuate the problem.

As much as you can, refuse to use single-use plastics; and as surfers, we have an indisputable obligation and opportunity to fight for the ocean.

Filmed at Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, Los Angeles, California 10/13/2018. Learn more at thecigarettesurfboard.com

Music – Getaway Dogs getawaydogs.bandcamp.com 

Surfer – Fergal Smith, Ireland

The Cigarette Surfboard Film:

Industrial Designer Taylor Lane and filmmaker Ben Judkins are creating an environmental surf film that uses the Cigarette Surfboard to question the mentality of littering cigarette butts, and how this largely represents our single-use plastic culture and its effects on the ocean. Our goal is to inspire, educate, and share creative solutions to encourage a “call to action” for the international surf community / industry to become more engaged stewards of the sea. We aim to provide people (surfers and non-surfers alike) with tools to help reduce their impact on the ocean. 

We will use the film as a way to help preserve surfing’s message. Surfing is culturally rooted in respect and commitment, and we believe it is our obligation as surfers to have a positive impact on the health of our oceans. Through our travels, we are connecting with internationally acclaimed surfers to ride a variety of Cigarette Surfboards in our order to help spread our message. Support the film.

Join our global Coalition.

By Jason Paul

As a child in Southern California, I remember spending years of my life with toes sandy and trunks wet. There was always something new to explore, from a tide pool or shipwreck, to the “gnarly” break just around the bend.

I remember vividly the first time I found a piece of plastic floating in the ocean. I must have been 9 or 10 years old and I was swimming, as I often did, past the breakers, underwater, eyes open. I noticed something small and shiny that seemed oddly out of place. At first I assumed that it must be some exotic species that I hadn’t noticed before but upon closer inspection, I noticed a dial-code for international calling. I had stumbled upon a plastic-coated phone card that had inevitably floated downstream to my playground: the ocean.

Today, it’s hard not to notice all of the floating plastic that is plaguing our waterways. Plastic bags imitating jellyfish are as abundant as traveling sargassum. Broken beach toys and bits of Styrofoam can be found intertwined with washed up chunks of kelp. Personally, I’ve noticed a change in the environment over the past few decades, and as a young parent, I question what world we’re leaving behind for the next generation.

The effect that plastic is having on our world is difficult to fathom. It was recently estimated by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation that by 2050 there very well may be more plastic in our oceans than fish (by weight). It’s hard to believe, but it becomes scarily realistic after looking at the statistics. In the greater Los Angeles area alone more than 10 tons of plastic pour into the ocean on a daily basis.

But aside from this catastrophe, what can we do? How can we be pragmatic about having a positive effect on our environment rather than stuffing it full of “recyclables”? Read on to discover 10 top dangers of plastic pollution and what you can do to fight back.

Danger #1: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but do you really know what it is? In 2003 Captain Charles Moore took a shortcut through a Pacific gyre on his way back to California when he discovered something unexpected: a sea of plastic. It took he and his crew a week to cross the patch before they were able to glimpse clear water again free of debris; bottle caps, plastic bags, fragments of hardhats or long forgotten toys. Recent estimations put the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at three times the size of France. In a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, it’s estimated that at the surface of the patch, plastic outnumbers organisms by 180:1, so you can forget about 2050.

Action tip: Pledge your support.

Support local beach and waterway cleanups near you, and support organizations that are working on source reduction, or stopping the flow of plastic into our waterways, oceans, and environment.

Danger #2: But wait, there’s more.

Unfortunately, the effects of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch go far beyond the view. Based on recent research from The Ocean Cleanup, 84 percent of the plastic found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contain harmful chemical pollutants. This has an impact on the ocean in the form of increased acidification, but frankly we don’t know the effect these chemicals could have on the environment in the long-run. But that’s not the worst of it. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of 5 gyres in the world where plastic has begun to accumulate at astonishing rates. The North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans all have their own patch that is slowly spreading across the ocean

Action tip: Get educated and get involved.

Stay informed. Don’t get lazy and don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to get bogged down in the negativity of today’s world, and watching the news doesn’t always help. The worst thing you can do is alienate yourself by removing yourself from the conversation. Instead, dive deeper, learn more, and educate others. The more you know, the more power you have to change the direction things are headed in.

Danger #3: Micro what?

Affectionately called MOOP by Burning Man aficionados worldwide, microplastics are simply the tiny bits of plastic that seem to find themselves everywhere and nowhere all at once. Your favorite kindergarten craft ingredient, glitter, is microplastics. Anything from the size of the period at the end of this sentence to the quarter in your pocket, microplastics are bad news. A popular haunt for the microplastic is the inside of a micro-invertebrate like krill. Serving as the main food source for nearly half of all whales, seals, penguins, squid, and fish, microplastics may work their way up the food chain towards humans.

Action tip: Take two.

A British non-profit has taken to social media to spread the word of helping our environment.  #2minutebeachcleanup, a project of 1% For The Planet, calls itself “a growing family of beach lovers rolling up their sleeves to help rid the world’s beaches of marine litter and plastic pollution, 2 minutes at a time.” The idea is simple, during your next seaside jaunt, before heading back to your car, take two minutes to pick up as much trash as you can find. Snap a photo and post it to your social media using #2minutebeachcleanup. The response has been overwhelming — moving quickly from a little known hashtag to a worldwide movement. Every little bit counts, so don’t forget to grab some MOOP on your way off the sand.

Danger #4: Another great extinction.

At one point, megafauna like giant sloths, dire wolves, mammoths, and even giant beavers roamed North America. Some scientists speculate that their extinction could have been caused by Paleoindians, the first North Americans, who hunted these species to extinction. How fitting that today, our oceans are experiencing a comparable event, caused by humans. Everything from plankton to whales have been found in the ocean having digested microplastics. But does this have an effect on our species? Scientists say large amounts of plastic in the ocean can have bio-accumulative effects on food webs.

Action tip: Cut it out.

The simplest thing you can do to change the amount of plastic going into the ocean is use less plastic. Start with single-use plastic such as bags, bottles, and straws. Buying whole, unpackaged foods can seriously reduce the amount of plastic waste that you produce. Many recycling centers simply don’t have the infrastructure to recycle plastics like bits of Saran Wrap or food packaging. Less than 8 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S., so buying food with less packaging will make a difference.

Danger #5: Paradise Lost.

Bali is one of the most sought after travel destinations for surfers in the world, made famous for long peeling right-handers and square barrels breaking over shallow chunks of reef. Today, one of Bali’s top tourist destinations, Kuta, is making headlines for something entirely different.  Government officials in Indonesia recently declared a “garbage emergency” for the 100 tons of garbage that wash up, daily, on beaches from Kuta to Jimbaran and Seminyak. If we do
n’t change the fate of Indonesia could be the fate of surf sanctuaries worldwide.

Action tip: Book a trip.

You can help this problem by simply going to Bali. Tell your friends how epic the surf is, how great the parties are, and how much trash is floating in the line-up. The more folks know about these problems, the more likely we’re going to see change.

Danger #6: More people, more footprint on the earth.

The greater outdoor industry, aquatic sports included, amounted to an 887 billion dollar industry in 2017 and is showing signs of growth. Adventure is trending and with it comes responsibility.  Unfortunately, our participation in outdoor activities from sea to summit has an impact on the environment. In 2016 alone, the National Park Service tallied their highest visitation rates to date: 331 million visits. Visitors who aren’t well versed in ‘leave no trace’ environmental ethics may choose to wash diapers in local streams, leave plastic bottles behind, or carve their name into old growth forests.

Action tip: Stay active.

The good news is that with growing participation in outdoor recreation, we may see a rise in environmental attitudes and behaviors. Studies have shown that people who participate in outdoor recreation activities are more likely to have an “appreciative” outlook on the environment rather than a “consumptive” outlook. Meaning, they may be more likely to carry beliefs and thus take action to preserve our natural spaces rather than exploit them.

Danger #7: The Surfing Problem.

Surfing as an industry is notoriously not sustainable. While many of us consider ourselves environmental stewards, leaders, and general sustainability aficionados, the fact is that the gear we use typically doesn’t biodegrade. Wetsuits are made from petroleum, boards are made from fiberglass, and leashes made from plastic aren’t great for the environment. This isn’t helped by bulk superstores’ favorite poster child: Costco. Since Costco dove into the surf industry with everyone’s favorite board to hate, the Wavestorm, it seems that the $99 8’0” longboard has found its way into every line-up around the globe. While the fact that crowds may simply harsh your mellow, this isn’t the biggest issue with Wavestorms. Made popular by it’s cheap price and remarkable maneuverability, Wavestorms have one secret weapon: they’re eternally returnable.  With a Costco membership, you can return a Wavestorm for just about anything from years of sun damage, delamination, dings, or decapitation. Unfortunately, once returned there’s only one place these boards will end up: the landfill.

Action tip: Ride a beater.

Considering Americans alone produce nearly 250 million tons of trash each year, it’s high time we figured out something to do with our used gear. There’s no shame in riding a board until it’s dead, filled with water and dinged from nose to tail. In fact, some longboarders prefer a heavy board for earlier drop-ins. That being said, there are a number of companies you can choose from that are recognizing the sustainability loophole in our favorite pastimes and finding new ways to address it. Companies like Patagonia, Matuse, and Soöruz, are finding new ways to green-up our surf gear by making wetsuits from plant-based materials. In the SUP industry, several companies who are well-known for manufacturing some of the best inflatable paddle boards on the market are working to incorporate more environmentally-friendly materials into their board designs. Others like RERIP are finding new and innovative ways to recycle old boards to be donated to deserving groms around the globe. Bottom-line: demand transparency in your purchases and search out companies doing their part to protect the places where we play.

Danger #8: Those pesky tourists!

If you’ve ever been on the biting side of a localism display, you may have a slight bias against tourists – it’s safe to say that tourism doesn’t always bring the most environmentally conscious.  The industry itself can inspire environmental destruction in the form of man-made beaches where mangrove forests once stood and crushed turtle eggs under uneducated flip-flops. Just as uneducated visitors can damage pristine wilderness areas, self-centered tourists can ignore the effect they may have on our coastal areas.

Action tip: Take a trip with a purpose.

Organizations around the world like Waves for Development can help to ensure that your next trip leaves a positive impact on the environment and community. With destinations in Mexico, Peru, and Nicaragua, Waves works to ensure that surf travel benefits the people and communities where it happens. Don’t forget that while helping local communities, you’ll be scoring some of the best waves of your life from Lobitos in Peru to Popoyo in Nicaragua.

Danger #9: Puff, Puff, Pollution

The cigarette is the most common piece of litter found in North America. While smoking rates are down in today’s youth, cigarettes still amount to about 40-50 percent of all waste collected from roads and streets. As stated by your local storm drain, all waste eventually finds its way to the ocean and in turn leaves a lasting mark. Plastic components found in cigarette filters cannot biodegrade. Recent studies have shown that cigarette butts, when exposed to water, can leak harmful chemicals capable of killing 50 percent of fish in a controlled laboratory. One can imagine the effects that millions of cigarettes can have on the ocean and its wildlife.

Action tip: Quit.

Kicking the habit is easier said than done, but if you’re not motivated purely by the damaging effects smoking can have on your body, think critically about its effect on the environment. Be the change you want to see in the world — if you want to see a change in our environment, stop smoking.

Danger #10: All those people, all that sunscreen.

If it weren’t for sunscreen, I’m pretty sure I would have quit surfing a long time ago. While I’ve never truly been a fan of UV protection, I do recall a colossal burn in my early 20’s that left me boiled and blistered. These days I tend to slap a bit of zinc wherever I can. Recent studies have shown that oxybenzone, a popular chemical found in many sunscreen products, is having a devastating effect on coral reefs. According to findings from the National Park service, nearly 6,000 tons of sunscreen is absorbed by coral reefs each year. Choose a nontoxic sunscreen without oxybenzone before you head outside.

Action tip: Be a teacher

The best way to share your love, knowledge, and experience in the ocean is to share it with others. While you may have worked a few surf instructor jobs through your youth, take a moment to teach others why our oceans and outdoor spaces mean something to you. Teaching is an extension of learning, in that you will inevitably learn a
nd grow from interaction with your students. Teaching can help you understand new perspectives and find new ways to share the importance of protecting our oceans and environments. So take your friend out into the line-up, push a child into a wave, or find your way into the classroom.

While our world will certainly continue to face challenges, there are actions that we can take as ocean enthusiasts, leaders, and stewards to impact the direction we’re heading in. As surfers or general outdoors loving people, we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations can enjoy our world as we have. It’s up to us, today, to ensure that our children, and our children’s children live in a world where we can dive deep in clear blue water, swim through dense kelp forests and coral reefs, or explore dense forests free of plastic debris.

Be the change you want to see — if all you do today is pick up a few cigarette butts or refuse single-use plastic, you’re on the right track. It’s daunting to think that our world has changed so drastically over the course of the last hundred years, but we can ensure that the next hundred years has a positive impact on our environment and helps to save the precious natural playground we’ve all grown to love.

Jason Paul has had a long-standing love affair with the ocean. He is a stand up paddleboarding enthusiast and lead editor of InflatableBoarder.com and currently lives in beautiful Panama with his wife and two small children.

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay first appeared on our website in 2011.)  

WHAT A MESS

Remembering a World Before Plastic Pollution

By Gerry Lopez

I spent a lot of time surfing a spot in Indonesia called G-Land. Remotely located on the edge of the Alas Purwo National Park, on the southeastern tip of Java, it was, relatively speaking, far from civilization. Actually, as the Indonesian sea eagle flies, it was only about 15 kilometers from the nearest village but with the terrain and local inhabitants in between, it might as well have been a million miles. Residents of that area included the Java tiger, herds of wild boars, the Indonesian wild water buffalo, the Komodo dragon, more deadly snakes than one could shake a stick at… well, I often wondered what I was doing out there with no more protection than a few surfboards.

In the mid to late 1970s, we were permitted to build a temporary camp with some bamboo tree houses and a shack to cook in. The lack of human presence made the beaches —the only area we frequented—absolutely pristine. We brought our drinking water in glass bottles, the only containers available at that time. We dug latrines out in the jungle and burned all of our garbage. When the coming of the monsoons heralded the end of the surf season, we left.

When we returned the next year, it was like no one had ever been there. One time, we discovered a mound of rubber slippers in a little nook of one of the rocky sections along the shore. Except for some broken pieces of wood that could have been part of a boat or some huge teak log with sawn ends, there was nothing else to indicate the hand of man. The wood we salvaged to use for our camp, and the slippers came in handy to walk out on the exposed reef if we got too impatient to wait for the high tide to come in. I remember how, back in Bali, instead of using tape to secure a package, tied coconut leaves or vines served the purpose. The natural functioning and simplicity of the G-Land camping made me endeavor to leave as few tracks and as small a wake as possible, in a figurative way of living.

We enjoyed that simplistic surf-camp lifestyle for about three more seasons. Then one year, the water came in plastic bottles, not the glass ones anymore. In the ferry towns of Banyuwangi and Gilimanuk on the Bali side, we noticed that food sold to those awaiting the ferries, previously wrapped in banana leaf, now came in plastic bags. When we got to the fishing village of Grajagan, we saw the shoreline littered with plastic garbage. A fishing boat dropped us ashore on the far side of the bay and, at first, it looked as though the area around our surf camp was as devoid of humanity as ever. Later on, when we walked further up the beach to paddle out to the break, where the high tide swirled the flotsam and jetsam, we hung our heads in shame.

By nautical definition, flotsam is the floating wreckage or cargo of a ship; jetsam is something jettisoned to lighten a ship’s load. Either would seem to have a place washed ashore on this Robinson Crusoe-like beach but what we found was neither. Instead, it was simply trash, almost entirely of plastic packaging of some sort. Clear or colored, it seemed infinitely more dirty and unwelcome than the rubber slippers from season’s past. When we asked our camp boys to help us gather this rubbish and burn it, they looked at us as if we had completely lost our minds.

The splendid waves of G-Land never seemed to change and we enjoyed surfing them over the next 20 years. It was a surf paradise beyond compare. And it opened my eyes to how quickly an absolutely pristine, totally natural place can become a mess. Plastic is a problem for all of us. It creates toxic pollution during its manufacture, use and disposal. Recycling is not a solution, every bit of plastic made, still exists. 


Photos: Gerry Lopez at Grajagan, Indonesia (above at right with Peter McCabe). Credit: Don King.

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