2018 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 globally-recognized programs - The ECOBOARD Project, SeaTrees, Deep Blue Events, Waste to Waves and Deep Blue Life - provide the onramps that make that vision a reality.

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

In 2018, our positive message reached an estimated audience of 200 million people by leveraging the reach and following of strategic brand partners and influencers.

This report provides a targeted insight into the programs, projects and individual activations that Sustainable Surf focused on in 2018. For further information, please email us directly and/or follow us on social media for a daily dose of Deep Blue Life.

We protect and preserve ocean-health by making people want to live a more sustainable lifestyle and support coastal ecosystem protection.


Now, in our eighth year, the Vision of Sustainable Surf is fast becoming a reality.

Our mission is to be the catalyst for surf culture to become a powerful force to protect ocean health. While the impact of a catalyst is sometimes hard to judge, our influence around the world is now apparent.

For example, the vision of a more sustainable surfboard is now a global phenomenon. There were 68,000 Verified ECOBOARDs made by 250+ board builders in 20 countries, with seventeen materials having passed our standard.

Numbers only tell half the story. We are continually inspired by how hard the envelope is being pushed by innovators everywhere there is surf - and beyond. From Earth Technologies and Firewire Surfboards making commitments to go zero waste, to 3x World Champion Mick Fanning proving that ECOBOARDS from the world’s best shapers work in all conditions, to Ashley Lloyd making 3D printed surfboards from packaging waste. There is one common factor:

The vision that surfboards can perform and be dramatically more sustainable.

While this may seem obvious now, we can tell you that very few believed this story in 2011. We partnered with pioneers, like Entropy Resins, Marko Foam, Firewire Surfboards and Earth Technologies, to gain exposure, acceptance and ultimately - sales of their sustainable board technologies. The rest is history - because we don’t see the movement toward sustainable boards slowing down or going away now.

What we’re focused on now is a shift from doing ‘less bad’, to the global ocean-loving community actually ‘doing good’. And to create that next wave of change, we’ve soft-launched our newest program - SeaTrees. A way for ocean-lovers all around the planet to plant and protect coastal ecosystems - saving the ocean playground we all enjoy so much.

Watch this space!

And finally, we would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to our partners and collaborators. Without you, the sustainable future for surf culture wouldn’t be reality.

Kevin Whilden and Michael Stewart

Co-Founders, Sustainable Surf


Surfing becomes the official State Sport in California

In August 2018, the Governor of California signed AB1782 into law, which designates Surfing as the official State sport. Sustainable Surf played a role in writing a significant portion of the law’s language, including two sections that reference sustainability. These are:

(h) California is the heart of the surfboard building industry, which has innovated surfboard technology and pioneered sustainable manufacturing practices and techniques.

(k) California’s surfing culture is taking a national and global leadership role in promoting sustainability as a core value, while also placing a high value on environmental protection and stewardship, in order to preserve the ocean, waves, coastline, and wildlife that make the state such a unique place to surf, live, and visit.

The full text of the law can be seen here

The significance of this designation is that it elevates surfing as a symbol of what it means to be a Californian. Symbols matter because they help define our values, identity, and world view. More on this here.

This can influence policy makers as well, which became reality when the California Coastal Commission used this law as part of the inspiration to require equal participation for women and men at the Mavericks big wave surf contest, which ultimately led to the World Surf League [WSL] providing equal pay for women at all WSL top-tier events.

Check out this New Yorker Magazine story for a detailed look into this.

United Airlines

United Airlines sponsored Sustainable Surf as a result of the visibility created through California designating surfing as the State Sport. United Airlines also announced an elimination of surfboard carriage fees on flights to and from California. This was received with much praise in the surfing world and gained widespread coverage in surf media.

This Surfline article is a favorite.

SeaTrees Soft Launch

In 2018, we soft-launched the initial SeaTrees concept at the Global Wave Conference in Santa Cruz. This is our major program initiative in 2019. It has the goal of protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems worldwide. Learn more.

We were also invited to present at the United Nations Environment Program, Day For the Ocean conference in Thailand. This lead to the publication of this article by UNEP.

SeaTrees makes it easy for ocean-lovers to have an ocean positive impact by protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems - like mangrove and kelp forests, seagrass, coral reefs and waterways. The regeneration of these blue-carbon ecosystems provides critical habitat for countless species, sustainable long-term employment for local communities and sequester carbon emissions.

The ECOBOARD Project verifies the use of more sustainable materials in surf, SUP, kite, river, wake and windsurf boards. With over 200 brands making ECOBOARDS in every surf-able continent, it is easy for anyone to choose a more ocean-friendly surf-craft that carries 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 2018.

In 2018, the ECOBOARD Project continued to grow in all regions around the world. There were 64,000 verified ECOBOARDS made by more than 200 brands in 20 countries around the world - bringing the total number made since 2012 to more than 200,000 boards. The number of more sustainable boards made continues to grow at a steady rate.

Those numbers are set to grow further. SUP, kitesurf, windsurf, river, surf, wake and skate brands have all started to embrace the program, taking the ECOBOARD message beyond the ocean and the waves, to lakes, rivers, rapids and streets globally.

Performance Driven

The performance of ECOBOARDS has been validated, with the continued success of professional surfers like Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Michel Bourez and Lakey Peterson riding ECOBOARDS on the WSL World Tour and the world's top Stand Up Paddlers winning on ECOBOARDS - Connor Baxter, Zane Schweitzer and the Hasulyo Brothers. While free-surfers like Rob Machado, Dane Gudauskas and more, inspire surfers with their own ECOBOARDS on daily basis.

Mick Fanning - Stab in the Dark

3x World Champion, Mick Fanning rode 11 ECOBOARDS from some of the world’s best shapers for Stab Magazine’s annual blind surfboard test - Stab in the Dark.

When you see Mick surfing on these boards, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that surfboards made with more sustainable materials performance at the highest level

Congratulations to Channel Islands for taking out the win on their Spine Tek construction and Pukas Surfboards a close second with their InCa Tek construction.

ECOBOARDS in the Media

In addition to Stab in the Dark, surf media and mainstream 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 perfect advocates for the message of ocean protection. Two of the best examples from 2018 include:

Qualified Materials

Material manufacturers continue to innovate new sustainable materials using our Materials Benchmark as guidance. In 2018, two new materials were approved for making ECOBOARDS. Overall, the steady growth in the number of material manufacturers is proof that the market for sustainable boards is becoming even more robust. See the full list of qualifying ECOBOARD materials.

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.

EOS x Ashley Lloyds Surfboards

We brought together EOS [Evolution of Smooth] and renowned female surfboard shaper, Ashley Lloyd Thompson to explore ways to use technology to upcycle packaging waste and ocean plastic into a range of surfboards.

Made in collaboration with SURFFF, Closed Loop Plastics and Earth Technologies, we produced a range of surfboards that were used to promote a new ocean-friendly lip gloss range from EOS.

Foam, Wetsuits and Sails

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 2018.

In 2018 we continued to expanded our wetsuit, sail and kite collection network along West Coast USA. Working with our partner Suga Mats, wetsuits are given a new life as upcycled yoga mats. Sails are sent to MAFIA Bags to be turned into upcycled backpacks, totes and duffles - including the Deep Blue Bag.

Deep Blue Event™ is the world’s first sustainability designation for professional surfing and surf-culture events. In 2018 Sustainable Surf worked with four 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.

Volcom Pipe Pro - expands sustainability focus to food and sourcing

The 2018 Volcom Pipe Pro continued to set the bar for sustainability at a surf event. It became the first major contest to be powered entirely on renewable energy in 2017 and pushed to focus further on food and their supply chain as part of the 2018 event.

Each Deep Blue Event has a transparent sustainability report that gives quantitative performance data and suggestions for further improves. Please see the 2018 Volcom Pipe Pro sustainability report.

Events that went 'Deep Blue' in 2018

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 2018. Below is a snapshot of several Deep Blue Life activations from 2018.

Discovery Channel - Innovation Nation

ECOBOARDS and Sustainable Surf were featured by the Discovery Channel in their Garage Innovations documentary. Several of our key partners were highlighted and interviewed. This show had a maximum reach of 80 million people across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Our segment appeared in Episode 1 - 7:55.

Discover of Cape St. Francis - Inspiring #oceanpositive Surf Travel

We are excited to help produce a feature length film on the origins of surf travel. Richard Yelland's "Discovery of Cape St. Francis" film will follow the story of Dick Metz, who's pioneering surf travels led directly to the famed Endless Summer movie. The film will highlight the sustainable solutions around surf travel and surfboards, and will feature an ECOBOARD made by Josh Martin, Tyler Warren and Mickey Munoz. The film will also be wiping out its carbon footprint with SeaTrees.

Deep Blue Discussions – Designing Sustainability Into the Fabric of Surf Culture

Sustainable Surf hosted an exclusive event at SoHo House / Little Beach House Malibu - a private club for creative influencers. We invited friends and members to join us for a relaxed conversation & exploration into the current state of innovation, design thinking, creativity and ocean conservation within modern surfing culture.

Sustainable Surf founder Michael Stewart kicked off the evening with an overview of our “Deep Blue Life” program, followed by a roundtable discussion with a select crew of some of our favorite collaborators, to discuss how their creative pursuits and entrepreneurial businesses – are reinventing “surf culture” as a force for good.

  1. Kassia Meador – founder / Kassia+Surf
  2. Marcos Mafia – founder / Mafia Bags
  3. Donald Brink – founder / Brink Surfboards
  4. Julie Cox – founder / Traveler
  5. Brian Shields – founder / Suga Yoga Mats


2018 was a year of steady growth for Sustainable Surf. Our total income was $452,206 and our total expenses were $462,888. Please see the charts below for a breakdown on income sources and expense categories. We diversified our income stream and dramatically increased the income received from individual donations.



  • Kevin Whilden, Co-Founder and Executive Director
  • Michael Stewart, Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships
  • Brett Giddings, Programs Manager

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
  • CJ Olivares — Chief Executive Officer, ETN Media
  • Steve Shipsey — Assistant Attorney General at State of Oregon
  • 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
  • Ruben Lenten
  • Kassia Meador
  • Zane Kekoa Schweitzer
  • Connor Baxter
  • 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
  • Yves Behar — Founder, Fuseproject
  • Eric Chin — Partner, Crosslink Capital
  • 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