How To Save The Planet In 7 (Semi) Surf Related Steps

Once upon a time people felt sorry for vegans… Now lentil burgers are something of a badge of honour.


1. Go Vegan/Vegetarian (ish)


Veggies, or veggo’s – as I like to refer to myself –  were traditionally viewed as a skinny, pale, weak, probably bespectacled (wearing the little round John Lennon ones), probably Marxist individuals who were bad at sport, and probably hadn’t been laid in a while. We were viewed with a combination of suspicion, bewilderment and pity by guffawing, red-blooded lads, and by the French. But there is good evidence to suggest vegetarians and vegans are choking the planet to death significantly less than their cattle, pig, sheep, chicken, duck, goose, venison or horse-guzzling buddies. As in, 1 ton less carbon emitted per year. One ton!

Surfing has a proud history of avant garde veggo’s: Jim Banks, Nat Young, etc etc. Rasta is a vegan. Possibly a fairly sanctimonious one, but hey, show me a non-sanctimonious vegan. As the saying goes, “How do you know someone is a vegan? Oh don’t worry, they’ll fucking tell you…”

Vegetarians don’t eat fish. Fact. Fish is an animal. Fact. Look up the biological classification of any fish, first thing it says: ‘Kingdom: Animalia.’ An animal, that you eat, is meat. Vegetarians do not eat chickens, either. If anyone tries to claim to be a veg and then says, ‘Well, I eat chicken…’ Punch them square on the nose. If they say ‘I’ve been vegetarian about 7 years…’ then order the sashimi, poke them in the eye then karate chop them in the voice box. Violence is the only way.

Maybe you can’t turn veg, it doesn’t always work out. Some folk kind of tend to waste away, as if they are terminally ill. Why not just try eating less meat, doing veggo-ness part-time, say during the week? (You can still shovel your horse lasagne down your throat on Sat and Sundays…lucky!). Humans who go veggo during the week will save 0.7 tons of carbon/year! That’s a lot… and your poo will smell better!

Win win.

“If they say ‘I’ve been vegetarian about 7 years…’ then order the sashimi, poke them in the eye then karate chop them in the voice box. Violence is the only way”

2. Just Say No to Palm Oil

This palm oil stuff is evil. I’m not sure if this is relevant, or even sound ethics, but bad stuff happening to the Indo jungle seems worse than other surf-less jungles. As wrong-headed as that might sound, if we can care a bit about environments we have some kind of relationship with, or handle on, well that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

85% of all palm oil globally comes from Indo, Malaysia and Borneo. In Indonesia, vast palm oil plantations are cut from ancient rainforest, home to rare animals like the Sumatran elephant, Sumatran tigers and Orang Utangs. The Indonesian government has set aside a whopping 18 million hectares of rainforest to palm oil production by 2020 (source: Rainforest Action network). Deforestation is responsible for 80% of Indonesia’s CO2, making it the 3rd largest Greenhouse gas emitter in the world (after USA and China).

Whether you’ve been to Indo, or not, whether you’ve had the Greenbush bush as backdrop, or not, you should have some kind of appreciation for keeping the jungle jungle. If you’ve been on Facebook and seen those pics of the dead, burnt orangutang covering its face and felt physically sick, well, haven’t we all?

What to do: Read the ingredients, boycott palm oil products. e.g Nutella.

It might only say ‘vegetable oil’. If it does and it comes from Asia, it’s palm oil.

If saturated fat is 40% of total fat, it’s palm oil.

Watch out! Just because it says ‘organic’ it might still contain palm oil. Many organic products contain it, read the label… and then scrutinise the fuck out of it.

3. Fly Less, Car Share More. Or Peddle!

“What’s worse? A bit of shitty vibe from some grumpy, crabby, stiff-top-turning troll that will be grumpy anyway, or ecological armageddon?”

Bit of a gnarly one to get your head around, especially seeing as you’re constantly being enticed to far-off climes by the likes of the hypocrite surf media, but air travel is a big contribution to your carbon footprint, and reducing your carbon footprint is essential to saving the planet.

So what to do? Well, you’re gonna take flights, that’s a given, and you can’t take the train to Indo. Long haul is relatively less carbon inefficient than short haul. So you can still go to Shipstern’s for that next swell… just don’t go for every swell. Maybe cut down on those short haul flights (e.g. to Biarritz) and take the car instead, with a few mates. Or go by rail. The train has a 10th of the impact of flights of the same distance, according to Greenpeace.

Cars produce about half the CO2 of flying the same distance, so the best way is to take the car and share. But! Here’s the tricky part: Nobody likes a rent-a-crowd, and rocking up with a car full of bros in deemed a no-no in surf etiquette. But seriously, what’s worse? A bit of shitty vibe from some grumpy, crabby, stiff-top-turning troll that will be grumpy anyway, or ecological armageddon? Well?

  • Fly a bit less, but when you do, make it count.
  • Pack more bros in your wagon.
  • Go choo-choo train, not plane, for those cross-country journeys.
  • Ride your bike.

4. Shop Green

How green is your quiver?
Not very.
But you can try and you can try to support brands who make gear with sound-ish practices… the important part is that the product needs to actually work. If it’s ‘green’ but doesn’t work, then it’s worse than not having it at all, right? The other thing to bear in mind is that it’s worth being fairly cynical about branding and marketing. Just because it’s part of an ‘eco’ line with a brown cardboard tag featuring a tree, cartoon Planet Earth, a whale, etc etc, doesn’t actually mean much at all. It might simply have 0.5% organic cotton as opposed to 0.0%, or have made some other kind of miniscule concession purely in order to market itself.
Clear as mud, right?

  • Buy stuff that lasts longer. Spend a bit more, infrequently, rather than less, regularly.
  • Take care of shit you already own. Wash your wettie, look after it. Repair your clothes. Just consume less in general. The surf business is pretty much fucked anyway, so if you’re gonna save one or the other, you might as well save the planet.

A video posted by Michael Picon (@mikypicon) on

5. Walk to the surf

Walking to surf is not only better for the planet in terms of reduced gas guzzling, it’s better for you too. Rather than perform endless surf checks and do your own head in pulling into car parks, get out, get back in, etc, before ending up back where you started, you’ll just make the best of what’s out the front. Miky Picon who lives just behind the dune at La Graviere, couldn’t agree more. “I’d rather surf average waves by my house, than take the car somewhere else, any day. Walking to go surf is the best; it warms you up on your way out, and then on the way back it gives you that little bit of time to reflect and think about your session… which is especially good if you snagged a bomb haha.”

6. Shun Industrial Fishing

The journal Science published a four-year study in November 2006, which predicted that, at prevailing trends, the world would run out of wild-caught seafood in 2048. This is a worry. Currently, as little as 10% of many commercial species stocks exist, compared with 1950’s levels.

What can you do? Well, you can try only eating fish you caught, or fish caught by someone you know. Now that is great if you are lucky enough to be able to pull it off, but in practical terms, may be unrealistic. Not everybody lives at the coast, of those that do, not everyone can hold their breath for five minutes like Mark Healey, or spend hours holding a rod. So at the very least, if you must buy fish, buy responsibly, eating fish caught by non-industrial methods. Trawling? Evil. Purse Seining? Evil. Go for the line caught option. Does it come from another part of the world? Don’t buy it. Does it come from industrial fishing practices? Don’t buy it. It’s only a trillion dollar industry because the consumer creates demand. Take away the demand, the little guys (and big guys) swim free in the big blue, the seabed is alive and everyone’s happier. Everyone, especially the next generation of kids we’re about to tell you to not have…




Crowds. No surfer likes them, chiefly because they can tend to hinder his or her wave count, and that’s no fun. But on a global level, thinking about the health of the planet, there are possibly even more serious consequences than your wave count being reduced… with about 7 billion of us already, there are probably too many people on Earth for it to function healthily. Not only are they stealing your waves but they are breathing your air, eating your bread, pissing in your water supply and pooing in your latrine.

But what can you do? Breed less? Well, it mightn’t be such a bad idea. China’s one child policy is pretty controversial, as indeed is eugenics, and various other ‘designer baby’ propositions. But as a general rule, you could wear a sheath.

Aside from sexual practices denounced by the Pope and his 1.2 billion flock (who think Aids is bad, but not as bad as condoms), the only real practical advice you can put to use today is to think of yourself as part of the problem. ‘You’ are the ‘they’. Crowds, in the surfer’s mind traditionally, are viewed as ‘everybody else, except me’. You might use a rethink there. Think of yourself as definitely another burden on a finite resource, be that resource breaking waves, water, oxygen, hell even peace and quiet. You’re just another exhaust pipe, in an atmosphere already choking on them.

You might not save the planet as such, today, but you might walk another few hundred yards and paddle out at another, empty peak, rather than the one in front with fifteen choads already out. And that can only be a good thing for the universe.



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