Surfers take pride in their environmentally-friendly lifestyle, right? They are always taking part in beach cleans, ocean preservation projects and forming organisations like the Surfrider Foundation.
But, as much as it pains the avid ocean dweller to hear it, surfing contributes to climate change in a fairly big way. The average surfer's carbon footprint is a whopping 50 per cent bigger than the average citizen, according to researchers.
Tobias Schultz’s ‘The Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave’ project revealed that a typical surfer emits 10 tonnes of CO2 per year just from surfing.
Chemical resin surfboards and petroleum-based wetsuits aside, surfers have a habit of flying to the furthest corners of the planet, meaning they are adding on to their personal CO2 emissions.
“Surfers’ have a higher carbon footprint on balance compared to the average Joe so what credible moral resource might we have in mounting arguments based around sustainability?" says Dr Neil Lazarow, senior research scientist from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia.
Surfing locally can be a greener option for those who do it recreationally. But for professional surfers, travelling halfway around the world to catch waves is a way to make a living.
Long haul flights can emit up to five tonnes of CO2 - that’s about half of the average person’s annual carbon footprint.
When you take into consideration the 44 surfers taking part in the 11 contests of the WSL World Tour each year, surfing starts to weigh heavily on your conscience.
But flying doesn't seem so bad when you discover that even if they surf at home, a surfer can cause as much damage to the environment as they do when they fly. This is because the production of one surfboard alone can have a higher CO2 emission than a five hour flight.
Early surfboards were made from redwood or cedar wood. When they were broken or too old to be used anymore, they were left to decompose.
However, the manufacturing of fibreglass surfboards today is very harmful to the environment and the resin finishing of surfboards contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.
The production of surfboards creates on average 220,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to Rick Lomax from Surf Science.
Lomax says that an average polyester resin 6’1" shortboard has a carbon footprint of 400lbs CO2 emissions and an epoxy 9’1" longboard around 1,000 lbs CO2 emissions. That’s more than the carbon footprint of a flight from LA to Hawaii (around 750lbs CO2 emissions).
No wonder surfers have been trying to find more sustainable material for their surfboards, like this group of surfers from the University of San Diego who have invented algae surfboards.
Even big brands like Patagonia are trying to do their bit for the environment. This year, they are launching the world's first neoprene-free wetsuit.
Every surfer will check for good weather conditions, swells and warnings of a storm before getting in the sea - because every one of them is dependent on the climate and environment to practice the sport they love.
It is best to be informed about the detrimental consequences that surfing can have on the environment and to make more sustainable choices, surfing locally when we can, even if the waves aren’t as great as they are elsewhere, before climate change puts an end to surfing altogether.