2017 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 transformation needed to protect ocean health, mitigate climate change and end plastic plastic pollution.

In 2017 our Deep Blue Life message reached an estimated audience of 120 Million.

This report provides a brief insight into the programs, projects and individual activations that Sustainable Surf focused on in 2017. 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 a more sustainable lifestyle.


Mahalo, Merci, Takk, Gracias, Obrigado, Termi Kashi, Arigato, Danke, Grazie!

Any way you spell it, we just want to say “Thank You” to our community in 2017.

Sustainable Surf was founded on the vision of creating a modern sustainable surfing culture, that becomes a positive force for protecting our oceans. Now entering our seventh year, this transformation couldn’t be more important – as our oceans and waterways are under extreme threat from a variety of human impacts.

The rate and scale of these impacts (acidifying oceans, rising sea levels, marine plastic pollution) is rapidly accelerating, BUT our ocean-minded community is showing that there is a different path forward that allows all of us to thrive, while leaving a lasting positive impact on the ocean.

We call this living a “Deep Blue Life” – and we invite you to explore our core mission, meet the team behind the movement, and see some highlights of the impact we’ve been making in 2017 through the work of our four major programs: The ECOBOARD Project, Waste to Waves, Deep Blue Events, and #DeepBlueLife. Each of these programs has had significant impact in 2017, with the highlights shown in this report.

As 2017 comes to a close – we are clear-eyed about the challenges ahead for our oceans and ourselves, but we’re truly inspired by the ongoing transformation toward more ocean-friendly lifestyles happening in surf culture at every level and on every continent.

This change wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of the Sustainable Surf community. That means you – all of the individuals, companies and communities that are choosing more sustainable pathways in their lives and business.

We have big plans for 2018 to exponentially expand the positive impact of our own programs. We are stoked to take another exciting spin around the sun, on our watery world, with all of our Stringer Society members, ambassadors, collaborators, partners, and pals that make our work possible!

Michael Stewart and Kevin Whilden

The ECOBOARD Project verifies the use of more sustainable materials in surf, SUP, kite and windsurf boards. With over 150 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 2017.

In 2017, the ECOBOARD Project took a major leap in its impact around the world, with a rapidly increasing number of board builders following our vision for how to reduce the environmental impact of their boards. There were 58,000 verified ECOBOARDS made by 150+ shapers in 17 countries around the world - bringing the total number made since 2012 to nearly 150,000. The number of more sustainable boards made continues to grow at a dramatic rate, with a 30% growth rate in 2017.

Those numbers are set to grow even more over the coming years. SUP, kitesurf and windsurf brands have all started to embrace the program, taking the ECOBOARD message beyond the ocean and the waves, to lakes, rivers and rapids globally.

Performance Proven

The performance of ECOBOARDS has been validated, with pros like Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Michel Bourez, Lakey Peterson and Johanne Defay riding ECOBOARDS on the World Tour and winning heats and events. While free-surfers like Rob Machado, Dane Gudauskas and Alex Gray, have taken their ECOBOARDS to waves most of us can only dream of.

The following is a sample of some of the athletes that won events riding verified ECOBOARDS in 2017:

  • Sage Erickson won the 2017 Vans US Open of Surfing on a Channel Islands ECOBOARD
  • Jordy Smith placed 2nd at the 2017 Hurley Pro at Trestles on a Channel Islands ECOBOARD
  • Taylor Jensen won the WSL World Longboard Championships riding Firewire ECOBOARDS
  • Connor Baxter won the 2017 Pacific Paddle Games on a Starboard SUP ECOBOARD
  • Zane Schweitzer won the 2017 Ultimate Waterman Challenge riding Starboard ECOBOARDS (SUP, shortboard, longboard)
  • Finn McGill won the WSL World Junior Championships riding Firewire ECOBOARDS

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 advocates for the message of ocean protection. Two of the best examples from 2017 include:

Surfing has the power to influence general society with a message of sustainability. In 2017, Mini Cooper released a plug-in hybrid vehicle and made a video showcasing sustainable surfboards as part of the story of the car.

Qualified Materials

Material manufacturers continue to innovate new sustainable materials using our Materials Benchmark as guidance. In 2017, three new materials were approved for making ECOBOARDS. Signficantly, Sicomin resin has been approved to make Gold Level boards after finishing their own Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) for their resin manufacturing. Sicomin joins Entropy Resins as Gold Level material manufacturers. 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.

The Deep Blue Bag

Sometimes you have to create examples of the vision you want to see. When Sustainable Surf came to MAFIA Bags with the idea to create the perfect bag for everyday urban adventures in water-bound cities like San Francisco, they knew the perfect partner to engage: Award-winning designer, avid surfer/kiteboarder and Sustainable Surf ambassador – Yves Behar of Fuseproject

Sustainable Surf wanted a bag packed with useful features, that could enhance and enable people’s connection to the ocean playground that surrounds the San Francisco Bay area. Yves Behar designed a one-of-a-kind bag full of unique and functional features, that also carries his trademark sculptural design aesthetic. And with your help, MAFIA will be creating the first run of bags, using recycled boat/kiteboard sails and climbing rope. Made right there, by the bay in San Francisco.

All profits from the Deep Blue Bag were used to amplify and expand Sustainable Surf’s award-winning Waste to Waves program. Keeping plastic out of our oceans by reimaging waste as a resource, instead of a problem. Crafted from retired boat sails, upcycled wetsuits and climbing ropes from Yosemite’s El Capitan, each unique bag also saves 10 square feet of material from the landfill.The Deep Blue Bag shows how waste materials can be made into a super-rad backpack that supports the urban surfing professional lifestyle.

The Deep Blue Bag was launched on Kickstarter, and was fully funded in five days after receiving coverage from WIRED Magazine, Dwell Magazine, and many other publications. MAFIA Bags donates all profits from the Deep Blue Bag to Sustainable Surf.

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 2017.

In 2017 we also 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 2017 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.

Volcom Pipe Pro - 100% BIO-Powered

The 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro continues to set the bar for a sustainable surf contest world-wide. It became the first major contest to be powered entirely on renewable energy. It used 100% biodiesel sourced from Pacific Biodiesel, and solar photovoltaic electricity from roof-top panels on the Volcom houses at Pipeline.

Each Deep Blue Event has a transparent sustainability report that gives quantitative performance data and suggestions for further improves. Please see the 2017 Volcom Pipe Pro sustainability report.

Other events that went 'Deep Blue' in 2017

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 2017.

The Deep Blue Survey

To better understand how surfers view their relationship to a healthy ocean, we completed the first-annual Deep Blue Survey. This scientific study, which measures attitudes and behaviors around sustainability, was conducted in partnership with Dr. Greg Borne of the University of Plymouth, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The results of the survey show that there is a highly engaged segment of the surf population, who already go far beyond the norms in sustainable behavior. This shows the potential for surfers to become leaders around the world for living an ocean-friendly Deep Blue Life. Interestingly, climate change is viewed as the #1 threat to the oceans and 10% of surfers already buy carbon offsets, which is a very high number, relative to the general population.


In an effort to explore and highlight the role technology is playing in driving sustainable development within surf culture, we invited the Silicon Valley community to converge on the local Patagonia store for the inaugural SHREDx event. Showcasing the latest in surfboard building technologies, software, upcycling and big ideas, SHREDx helped to elevate the discussion around the future of surfing.

A big crowd (reportedly the biggest to attend an event at Patagonia Palo Alto) got to experience first hand:

  • ECOBOARD glassing by Ashley Lloyd Surfboards
  • Next-generation bio-resin recycling from Conorra Resins
  • Live 3D printing of a surfboard using ocean plastic and bio-plastic by the Dolphin Board of Awesome
  • A board made from cigarette butts
  • The latest low-carbon electric skateboards from Inboard
  • Upcycled yoga mats (from wetsuits) from Suga Mats
  • Beer and snacks from Patagonia Provisions
  • Tunes + laughs!


2017 was a year of steady growth for Sustainable Surf. Our total income was $351,818 and our total expenses were $362,145. 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 and events.


A significant addition to Sustainable Surf in 2017 is adding a new employee, Brett Giddings, who has extensive experience with sustainable product verification programs and who now manages all of Sustainable Surf's programs, with a focus on the ECOBOARD Project and Deep Blue Events. These programs are becoming increasingly complex, with a large number of international participants, so Brett’s expertise is essential for managing these programs.


  • 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