Low Impact Surf Contests

From Beachapedia

It’s no surprise that people love the beach. As a consequence, beaches are often used for numerous events, including surfing and volleyball contests, concerts, movie nights, and various fairs and festivals. Depending on how they are planned and run, these events can result in damage to the coastal environment or they can be “green” events that protect the coastal environment, set an example for sustainability, provide environmental education, involve the local community and “leave only footprints.”

Permanent Fence Protecting Beach Vegetation at Ubatuba, Brazil

There have been major efforts at conducting low impact surf contests since at least 1999. The 1999 WCT Barra da Tijuca in Brazil may have been the first “green” surfing contest. These efforts have continued and have become more formalized in recent years. For the Brasil Surf Pro, a partnership was formed with the Ubatuba Shire Environmental Council, the Itamambuca Beach Home Owners Association and the Ubatuba Surfing Association, where 10 Basic environmental criteria were established and met for the contest held at Itamambuca Beach, Ubatuba in April 2010. The criteria were:

  1. Calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of the event and offset them, whenever possible through a reliable regional tree planting program.
  2. Use biodiesel for the generators and clean energy options whenever possible.
  3. Guarantee coastal vegetation protection.
  4. Reduce or eliminate throwaway single use packaging such as plastic cups or bottles..
  5. Practice total waste management and get involved right from the event planning stage.
  6. Give priority to locally purchased goods and locally contracted services.
  7. Demand receipt proving correct destination of porto toilet waste and non recyclable land fill waste.
  8. Organize educational activities during the event remembering to provide meaningful experiences for social projects.
  9. Utilize environmentally friendly biodegradable cleaning products.
  10. Leave the beach cleaner than you originally found it.

In addition, 10 Guidelines for the Green Surfer were developed in the form of an agreement signed by the contest participants:

  1. Take care of your litter – If you are in the water or on the beach collect trash you see and throw it in the bin. Take special car with used board wax, never leave it on the sand. Whenever possible recycle, especially at home!
  2. Preserve the native beach vegetation – Take good care of it, since it is home to all kinds of beach fauna and prevents beach erosion. Be pro-active, in degraded areas plant native species home to this ecosystem.
  3. Mobilize your local surfing associations – Always encourage environmentally responsible practices back home at your local beaches especially during the staging of regional surfing contests. These events are an ideal platform to communicate, generate awareness and educate the beach goers, do your bit.
  4. Infect your sponsor in this fight to protect the oceans - Encourage sustainable practices within the surfing industry. Sustainability is a reality, so help your sponsor to make the correct choices.
  5. Be a planet friendly surfer – Find out how you can offset your own greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon zero surfer. The kilometers traveled in car, plane or boat trips in the search for the perfect wave all contribute toward global warming. Keep your carbon emissions down when back at home, travel by bike, on foot or utilize public transport.
  6. Be an example – Get involved in social and environmental issues back in your hometown. Offer your image to these causes and speak out against environmental aggression!
  7. Check if your shaper is eco-correct – In many countries surfboard manufacturers do not correctly dispose of the toxic and environmentally hazardous waste. Confirm if your shaper is in tune with the planet, if not, demand that he complies.
  8. Be a Green surfer – Try to be sustainable in your day to day living. Begin with the simple act of unplugging your electronic equipment when leaving the house to go surfing or on a surf trip. Say no to plastics, bring your own ecobags. Your attitude does make a difference.
  9. Practice Sustainable Tourism – Stay whenever possible in hotels or lodges that have adopted sustainable practices such as the use of solar energy to heat water, rainwater collection, water-wise practices and recycling of rubbish. Do a little research, these options do exist!
  10. Promote and amplify this planetary awareness with your friends and family. Be a positive example for others.

In October 2010 volunteers from Surfrider Foundation Rincon, Vida Marina at University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo (UPRA), the Rip Curl Planet Foundation, and Rescate Playas Isabela worked together to plant trees and plants at the surf spots Wilderness, Surfers, and Middles, install protective fencing and walkways to prevent dune erosion, and raise environmental awareness prior to and during the Rip Curl Pro held in Puerto Rico in November 2010.


The non-profit environmental organization Sustainable Surf worked with the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) (now World Surf League (WSL)) to produce a set of “green guidelines” for surfing contests in 2012. Sustainable Surf now labels surf contests that follow these guidelines Deep Blue Surfing Events that set a clear path for reducing environmental impacts of a professional surfing contest, while also providing social benefits for the local community. Deep Blue Surfing Events address issues directly related to the local contest area including waste reduction, protection of natural resources, and the building of stronger communities.

Events with this designation also reduce direct threats to the global sport of surfing itself, such as: sea level rise, ocean acidification, and the loss of the world’s living coral reefs, which leading scientific institutions warn are already harming our ocean, waves and beaches.

The list of past WSL / ASP events that have received the DBSE designation and have published reports are:

  • Volcom Pipe Pro 2015
  • Vans Triple Crown of Surfing 2014 (three events total)
  • Vans US Open of Surfing 2014
  • Volcom Pipe Pro 2014
  • Vans Triple Crown of Surfing 2013 (three events total)
  • Quiksilver Pro France 2013
  • Roxy Pro France 2013
  • Volcom Fiji Pro 2013
  • Volcom Pipe Pro 2013
  • Volcom Fiji Pro 2012
  • Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco 2011.

The basic tenets of a low impact surf contest or other beach event are protection of sensitive coastal ecosystems, minimizing trash generation, using renewable sources of energy, minimizing transportation impacts, obtaining local community support for the event, and leaving the beach cleaner than before the event.

As mentioned above, several entities, including Surfrider Foundation chapters and affiliates, other non-profit environmental organizations such as Sustainable Surf, local governments and state parks, have established guidelines for low impact surf contests and other beach events. Shown below is a synthesis of those guidelines.


Coastal Ecosystems

  • Provide coastal dune, wetland and vegetation protection . This may involve temporary fencing and/or designated walkways.


  • Implement a comprehensive waste diversion strategy to reduce, reuse, recycle, or compost event waste and building materials. Make sure all items purchased for the event are recyclable, compostable, or reusable.
  • Rise Above Plastics! Reduce or eliminate single use packaging and items such as plastic bags, cups or bottles. Avoid using polystyrene (Styrofoam) products, as they generally cannot be recycled.
  • Require vendors to recycle all remains at the event.
  • Give vendors/event staff/volunteers instructions so they know before the event starts what materials go where and the location of debris boxes. Clearly mark these locations.
  • Sort waste during the event as it is being thrown away.
  • Leave the beach cleaner than you found it!

Energy and Climate Change

  • Source all or at least some portion of event power from clean, renewable (non-fossil fuel) sources such as biodiesel, solar or other alternative energy sources.
  • Give priority to locally purchased goods and locally contracted services.
  • Calculate the total CO2 footprint of event, and mitigate this impact by purchasing certified/verified carbon offset credits through a reputable provider and/or a regional tree planting program.


  • Use cleaner/lower carbon fuel vehicles for internal operations, and support the use of public transportation, carpooling and human powered modes – walk, skate and bike – for event attendees (where applicable).

Community Support

  • Showcase the efforts of local environmental and social organizations, and include them as stakeholders for possible legacy efforts post-event.
  • Provide financial and/or outreach support for NGOs and charities working on local issues relevant to the event.
  • Organize educational activities during the event remembering to provide meaningful experiences for social projects.