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How to be a sustainable surfer – Giving up traveling?

An important part of being a serious surfer is to travel to uncrowded breaks and afterwards to brag about the kamikaze-level waves you scored with just a few local guys out, somewhere in the Pacific Islands. You are willing to use hours of your weekend in a car checking various surf spots, just to make sure that you get the best possible waves before Monday hits. And if you have had a period of only flat days at your local break, you are more than willing to throw yourself on a plane to Biarritz in order to score some waves, even if it was just for the weekend. Sound somewhat familiar?

Back in the day surfers used to cram as many people, boards and wetsuit into a minivan and travel to the closest possible break. This was before air travel and driving private cars became more affordable to the average surfer. Nowadays it is easier to take a short-haul flight to somewhere in Europe, rather than organising a group trip to a spot closer by. We are also getting more and more curious about new surf spots and want not only to score some waves, but also to learn about other cultures, drink exotic beer and surf somewhere none of your friends have surfed before.

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From a sustainability point-of view, traveling is not all bad. Seeing places that are highly affected by issues such as climate change and marine litter, makes us understand why we need to be aware of our environmental footprint in the first place. A kind of a catch twenty-two.

So is it even possible to ‘live the search’ and to be a sustainable surfer? Sure it is. Being aware of the problem is the first step, as AA has taught us. Knowing how to take action is the second. That is where the following tips may come in handy:

1. Go old-school: Surfers were traveling far more sustainably long before we knew about climate change or resource depletion. They did not travel sustainably in order to save the planet, but because splashing out on a flight to a faraway destination just was not feasible. It was also much more hard-core to discover a new surf break somewhere in West Africa after five days of traveling on top of a train with cows, chickens, bicycles, and a hundred other people. Not to say that this is the optimal way to implement surf trips in today’s world, but just that maybe we need to start thinking down these lines. Gather a group of friends, buy a train pass and see where you end up. You skip the hassle of airports, do a favor to the nature and get to go on a modern-day adventure. 

2. Live by the surf: Why not move to the surf? If you are a person who can work from home or find work close to surf, and do not have any other good reasons why you cannot move to your favourite spot, why not just do it? You will save money, time, and the environment. You will also become a true local, be the guy/girl who knows exactly when the break works and be there when it is pumping. Having your morning coffee while watching the waves break isn’t too bad either.

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3. Take one long trip in stead of many short ones: If you are going to fly, fly one long flight rather than many small ones. This means that it is best from a sustainability point-of-view if you take one long holiday a year and skip all the small trips between Oslo and Ericeira/San Sebastian/Biarritz rest of the year. Of course, being away for a longer time means that maybe you do not even have to fly, thus being able to go old school and travel by train, bicycle and/or bus. See point 1.

4. Do mini-adventures: Before planning an all-exclusive trip to Hawaii, take a look around your backyard first. Are there breaks you still have not surfed? Ones you have always wanted to check out? Maybe you do not need to travel far to get the ultimate surfing experience, but rather explore the breaks around you. Or even better, have a look on Google Earth or a traditional map and go out for a hunt for unridden breaks. Norway, amongst many other countries, has an impressive coastline, most likely still hiding some spot X’s. 

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5. Use technology: Go online and get prepared. Check surf forecasts, create swell alerts, share tips, and find friends to share a car with. By using technology available to us, we can save time, fuel, money and nerves, at the same time maximising time in the water. A win-win for you and Mother Nature.

6. Do not travel if you do not have to: If you absolutely have to burn fuel to get to the surf, maybe you can find other ways to reduce travel. Think home office, video conferencing, taking the bicycle to work. Especially if you live in a city, using public transportation or a bicycle might even save you time, and most likely save you nerves. Maybe you will enjoy catching up on reading while taking the train to work. Biking, walking or skating also might even make you fitter and more attractive. The only way to find out is by trying.

Happy travels and tavaha!

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Vilma, Nordic Ocean Watch

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