2015 ANNUAL REPORT and program updates


Sustainable Surf protects and restores ocean health by shifting people to a highly desirable, low-carbon, Deep Blue Life.

A California-based non-profit, we use the mass appeal of “surf-culture” to inspire and activate people all around the world to start living a sustainable lifestyle. Sustainable Surf’s award-winning programs - The ECOBOARD Project, Deep Blue Events, Waste to Waves and Deep Blue Life - provide the onramps that make that vision possible.

We use a “systems change” approach to catalyze the radical change needed to protect ocean health, mitigate climate change and end plastic plastic pollution.

In 2015 our Deep Blue Life message reached an audience of 78 Million

This report provides a brief insight into the programs, projects and individual activations that Sustainable Surf focused on in 2015. For further information, please email us directly and/or follow us on social media for a daily does of Deep Blue Life.

We protect and preserve ocean-health by making people want a more sustainable lifestyle.


All surfers living an ocean-friendly life. That’s the vision we want to create, with your help.

As we reflect back on 2015, we can see a dramatic shift happening in surf culture toward sustainability. This makes sense, given the connection that all surfers have with nature. Who doesn’t want to live a fulfilled life, or run a profitable business, in a way that also helps protect the ocean we love?

However, actually living these values is more difficult than it sounds. It’s incredibly challenging, and these decisions are often portrayed as making a choice between personal and financial well-being, vs. the well-being of the ocean. This is what we call the “false narrative”.

The true narrative is that everyone can benefit and profit, while simultaneously protecting the ocean. We need more positive examples of this occuring. There are great sustainability solutions out there, but they need a voice. Sustainable Surf is that voice — we highlight those who have already made strides, and help others find their own authentic path into the ocean-friendly solution.

After four years of effort as an organization, we can now see the impact of this vision rapidly increasing. The production of ECOBOARDS is growing at 40% per year, the largest surf contests are becoming sustainable, and thousands of people are recycling their styrofoam waste into new boards. The transformation of surf culture is accelerating, in part because of our efforts to define this new vision, and our ability to work with so many different stakeholders in surf culture.

We want to tahnk all of our partners, sponsors, and individuals that are changing their practices to be more sustainable. Our community is getting stronger every year. We literally couldn’t do this without your participation in the vision of the future for a truly sustainable surf culture. We are all leaders in turning this vision into reality.

Michael Stewart and Kevin Whilden

The ECOBOARD Project verifies the use of more sustainable materials in surf, SUP, kite and windsurf boards. With over 50 brands making ECOBOARDS globally, it is easy for anyone to choose a more ocean-conscious surf-craft carrying the ECOBOARD logo.

The goal of the program is to create a permanent transformation in surfboard manufacturing, so that all surfboards are made with more sustainable materials, while proving that sustainable products can and do perform at the highest level. The program uses best-practices in sustainable product certification schemes, and verifies the use of more sustainable surfboard materials in boards with the “Verified ECOBOARD” mark.

The following is a snapshot of the key ECOBOARD Project achievements for 2015.

In 2015, The ECOBOARD Project continues to evolve and grow at a rapid pace. There were 25,000 ECOBOARDS built globally, with a 30% overall growth rate in the number of ECOBOARDS produced. Two new sustainable material manufacturers were added to the Qualified Materials list, which improves consumer choice.


The performance of ECOBOARDS has now been proven beyond any doubt. Following Michel Bourez winning at Sunset Beach in 2x overhead surf in late 2014 on a Firewire ECOBOARD, Joanne Defay won at the 2015 Vans US Open on a Channel Islands ECOBOARD. So it’s safe to say that boards built with ECOBOARD Qualified Materials work in all types of waves.

Also, a major milestone occurred at the 2015 Bells Beach contest - Kelly Slater rode a Channel Islands ECOBOARD in competition and won a few heats on it. It’s good to see the champ riding more sustainable equipment. He followed that up with a shock announcement that he was starting a new board company called Slater Design. These boards are to be 100% ECOBOARD certified as they will be made by Firewire Surfboards.

Shapers embrace eco- materials

In May 2015, we worked with surf personality Scott Bass to make the Boardroom Best In Show competition a showcase for some of the best ECOBOARDS on the planet. Based in San Diego, CA, the Boardroom is the largest public exhibition of surfboards, and the Best In Show is a highly coveted prize. This year, the only requirement for entry was that a surfboard met our ECOBOARD Project requirements. This endorsement by the Boardroom shows that ECOBOARDS are breaking out into the mainstream surfboard market.

To judge the competition, Greg Long, Rob Machado and a number of other surfing and sustainability legends chose their winning boards. Congrats to Maurice Cole, who won first place with a board glassed by Ryan Harris at Earth Technologies. Second place went to Gary Linden, who made a board from 100% agave (blank, resin, and cloth). See more photos here.

ECOBOARDS in the Media

Major media outlets continued to cover the progress of the ECOBOARD Project. The story of sustainability and surfboards is a very attractive proposition, and pro surfers are excellent spokesmen for the message of ocean protection. We had our biggest news coverage yet, when CBS News did a national news story on the ECOBOARD Project. Our total media reach for 2015 was 78 million people. Here are the most significant stories from 2015:

Waste to Waves reimagines waste as a resource. The award winning program inspires people and companies to view waste as a resource, instead of a problem. It seeks to stop plastic pollution at the source, by highlighting innovative projects that recycle and upcycle waste into gear that people can buy - and in doing so, become part of the solution.

In 2015 we worked with our ambassador, Rob Machado, to make a showcase video for Waste to Waves.

Foam Collections

Waste to Waves started in 2011 collecting styrofoam packaging to be recycled into surfboards with Marko Foam. This continues to operate effectively, with over 10,000 lbs of styrofoam collected in 2015. We have formed a nice partnership with City of Malibu to hold bi-annual foam collections. These month-long events regularly collect a large quantity of waste styrofoam.

Deep Blue Event™ is the world’s first sustainability designation for professional surfing and surf-culture events. In 2015 Sustainable Surf worked with six events all around the world to develop sustainability strategies and publicly report on the environmental and social performance of those events.

A Deep Blue Event™ is a more “Ocean Friendly” event, that sets a clear path for reducing environmental impacts, while also providing social benefits for the local community. Sustainable Surf provides a transparent reporting platform that evaluates the sustainability performance of each event based on the international standard for sustainable event reporting – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The program focuses on five key sustainability impacts: Waste, Energy, Community Support, Climate Change and Transportation.

Major Events go 'Deep Blue'

In 2015, many of the largest surf contests became Deep Blue Events. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Vans US Open, and the Volcom Pipe Pro all took major steps forward to become sustainable events.

Each of these events used biodiesel to power the generators, diverted at least 55% of their waste from the landfill, offset the entire carbon footprint, and supported the local community with financial donations to schools and non-profits. These Deep Blue Events are truly world class examples of a sustainable sporting event.

See the full reports for all Deep Blue Events in 2015:

We believe that the key to solving most environmental problems, including climate change, is for individuals & organizations to begin making sustainable choices in their everyday lives that are engaging, cost effective, fulfilling – and yes, even fun.

Deep Blue Life is a simple strategy for creating an Ocean-Friendly lifestyle. Better Choices. Daily

Our programs, projects and activations provide the onramps people need to start living a Deep Blue Life. Below are some of our key Deep Blue Life activations for 2016.

Greg Long Earth Day Event

We were proud to celebrate Earthday 2015, by creating a community event to showcase San Francisco's own local sustainable surfing culture – and featuring a live storytelling evening from athlete ambassador Greg Long. The evening featured his documentary film , To The Edge and Back, A Big Wave Journey

Big thanks to all of our event sponsors and local partners who made the evening possible including:

  • Presenting Sponsors: Clif Bar, New Belgium Brewing, Peligroso Tequila, Patagonia Provisions and New Resource Bank.
  • Deep Blue Life Activation Partners: Sunset Shapers / sustainable surfboard glassing demonstration , Hook Fish Co. / sustainable seafood bites, Hess Surfboards / Sustainably Built Wooden Sungevity.org / renewable solar power demonstration, Surfrider Foundation, SF Chapter / grassroots ocean activism, Walter Blair Tom / artist turning broken surfboards into sculptural works, Sustainable Surf Trio / featuring local musicians Robin Applewood, Kenny Crowley & Tony Glaser
  • Adam Bergeron and his dedicated team at the Historic Balboa Theatre, for letting hold our event at their incredible community gathering spot for the Outer Richmond neighborhood at Ocean Beach.
  • Jon Finger, Co-founder of Hog Island Oyster Co.: for hosting our pre-event sustainable dinner for Greg Long and friends at the new Hog Island Oyster Bar at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Deep Blue Dinner

Top professional surfers, marine scientists, artists, musicians, farmers and friends – came together under the California stars last Fall for Sustainable Surf’s first annual, 'Deep Blue Dinner', to help us “talk story” with some of the best and brightest within surf culture, about how we can protect the health of our oceans by how we eat, live and surf.

This engaging video follows Greg Long as he first explores the setting and the ethos behind the Deep Blue Dinner at The Ecology Center with founder Evan Marks, Greg's own passion for protecting his local home ground for waves, and finally, what it looks like when we all come together with the same "Deep Blue" intentions.

In short – we all came together to learn more about living a 'Deep Blue Life', as engaged and aware surfers who stoked about living an ocean-friendly lifestyle that can help protect our oceans, while building strong, healthy communities.

The dinner was created in partnership with The Ecology Center and was held at their beautiful historic farmstead in San Juan Capistrano, which is an award winning educational center that teaches hands-on environmental skills and solutions to the local community.


2015 was a year of steady growth for Sustainable Surf, with a total budget of $294,000. Income increased by nearly $50,000


  • Kevin Whilden, Co-Founder and Executive Director
  • Michael Stewart, Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships

Board of Directors

  • Scott Coleman (Board President) — Head of International, Pinterest, Inc.
  • Jim Moriarty — Director Brand Citizenship, 72 and Sunny Former CEO of the Surfrider Foundation
  • Evan Marks — Executive Director and Founder, The Ecology Center
  • Abigail Whilden — Chief Operating Officer, Junior Achievement of Southern California
  • Mark Marovich — Chief Responsibility Officer, The Responsible Gift
  • Adam West (Board Treasurer) — Manager of Business Analytics, Medicines360
  • Kevin Whilden (Board Secretary)– Executive Director and Co-Founder, Sustainable Surf
  • Michael Stewart — Director of Partnerships and Co-Founder, Sustainable Surf


  • Greg Long
  • Rob Machado
  • Alex Gray
  • Kassia Meador
  • Alison Teal
  • Kyle Thiermann
  • Dave Wassel
  • Torrey Meister
  • Bianca Valenti
  • Eoin Finn

Advisory Board

  • Dr. Margaret Leinen — Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Chris Malloy — Surfer, film maker, rancher
  • Adam Werbach — Co-Founder, Win The Future
  • Dr. Wallace J. Nichols — The Blue Mind Collective
  • David Hertz — Founder and president of David Hertz FAIA Architects,inc. and S.E.A., the Studio of Environmental Architecture
  • Alex Hausman — Sustainable Reporting and Disclosure Director, Nike
  • Dr. Gregory Borne — Direct of the Plymouth Sustainability and Surfing Research Group
  • Steve Reiss — Producer, Publisher, Ocean Activist
  • Brian Thurston — Partner | Business | Impact | Sustainability
  • Pamela Wilhelms — Founder, Wilhelms Consulting Group
  • Dan Fitzgerald — Founder, The Conscious Investment Collective
  • Dr. Jess Ponting — Director, Center for Surf Research, San Diego State University
  • Jeff Mendelsohn — Founder, New Leaf Paper
  • Gary Groff — Director of Business Development and Senior VP, New Resource Bank
  • Tom Wallace — President and CEO, Label Networks
  • Dr. Allen Hershkowitz — Founding Director, Chairman of the Board, Sport and Sustainability International
  • Dean LaTourrette — Senior Marketing Consultant / Content Strategist / Writer

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