2016 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 2016 our Deep Blue Life message reached an audience of 50 Million

This report provides a brief insight into the programs, projects and individual activations that Sustainable Surf focused on in 2016. 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.


The shift toward sustainability in surf culture is happening faster than ever before – and we’re proud to be at the forefront of catalyzing that change.

2016 was another XXL year for Sustainable Surf. We’ve grown and diversified all of our unique programs, providing “on ramps” for people to see how they can live a more ocean friendly, Deep Blue Life. We have developed partnerships with innovative companies that are thought leaders in sustainable business, that provide sustainability touch-points to their customers. Pro athletes are endorsing sustainable surfboards and winning competitions on them.

So much happened in 2016, that we had to produce a Top 10 List for the year. Please take a look, since only the highlights will be in this Annual Report.

THANK YOU to all of our sponsors and partner companies 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.

Looking Ahead – we want to partner with you to help effect a Deep Blue change and grow our community of Deep Blue Surfers. We will be providing more content and even more opportunities to help you live a Deep Blue Life. This is the first step toward protecting oceans in 2017.

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 2016.

In 2016, The ECOBOARD Project continued to evolve and grow at an exponential pace. There were 42,000 ECOBOARDS built globally, with a significant increase in the number of international board builders, and a 40% overall growth rate in the number of ECOBOARDS produced. Two new sustainable material manufacturers were added to the Qualified Materials list. We also finished a comprehensive Lifecyle Study, created a new verification tier (Gold Level) and a formalized audit process of board factories. In one year, The ECOBOARD Project has grown tremendously.


In 2016, we finished a major milestone for the ECOBOARD Project: the completion of the world’s first comprehensive Lifecycle Study of a surfboard. This study measures the environmental impact from all of the materials, energy, transportation and waste with regard to building a surfboard. This “LCA” provides the science behind The ECOBOARD Project, and proves that ECOBOARDS create meaningful environmental benefits with a 30% reduction in lifecycle CO2 emissions. See the full Lifecycle Study report for more details.

The results from the Lifecycle Study directly led to evolution of the ECOBOARD Project itself. In 2016, we launched the Gold Level designation for the highest performance in sustainable board construction. The Study found that waste and energy use during manufacturing were much more significant than we had thought, so Gold Level provides a pathway for manufacturers to follow.

Podium Finishes

The surfing performance of ECOBOARDS is constantly being proven by the best surfers and paddlers in the world. The following is a sample of some of the athletes that won contests riding verified ECOBOARDS in 2016:

  • Michel Bourez won the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters on a Firewire surfboard
  • Joanne DeFay won the 2016 Vans US Open of Surfing on a Channel Islands surfboard
  • Jordy Smith won the 2016 Hurley Pro at Trestles on a Channel Islands surfboard
  • Zane Schweitzer won the 2016 ISA Fiji Pro on a Starboard SUP
  • Zane Schweitzer won the 2016 Ultimate Waterman on several Starboard surfcraft
  • Connor Baxter won the 2016 Pacific Paddle Games on a Starboard SUP ECOBOARD

ECOBOARDS in the Media

Major media outlets continued to cover the progress of the ECOBOARD Project. The story of sustainability and surfboards is actively spreading Sustainable Surf's Deep Blue Life message, and pro surfers are excellent advocates for the message of ocean protection. Two of the best examples from 2017 are:

Qualified Materials

Material manufacturers continue to innovate new sustainable materials using our Materials Benchmark as guidance. In 2016, four new 'Qualified 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.

Building on many years of sustainable materials development, Entropy Resins became the first resin company to receive the ECOBOARD Gold Level stamp for three different resins.

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.

Museum Exhibitions

Waste to Waves created and participated in several museum exhibits in 2016. This program has always been about creating a story and vision where waste materials can be re-used in a way that protects the ocean from plastic pollution. We created educational exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco, CA), the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (San Clemente CA), and The Eden Project (Cornwall, UK). These exhibits showcased the breadth of of examples where our waste can become a resource.

New materials

While Waste to Waves started in collecting and upcycling styrofoam into new surfboards, this was only the beginning. In 2016, we launched several new materials for recycling and storytelling. We partnered with companies that had developed innovative new ways to recycle some kind of waste into something that people want to buy. The following partnerships and materials are now part of Waste to Waves:

  • Upcycling used wetsuits into yoga mats with SUGA Mats
  • Upcycling torn kite, windsurf and boat sails into backpacks, totes and duffles with MAFIA Bags
  • Recycling used wine corks into yoga blocks and traction pads with ReCork

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 2016. Along with our usual surf-shop collections and the bi-annual Malibu City collections, we held a special event at Mothers Market in Costa Mesa. This 2-day event collected a small mountain of foam, with one person claiming he had been saving styrofoam packaging for three years before learning about this event.

Deep Blue Event™ is the world’s first sustainability designation for professional surfing and surf-culture events. In 2016 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.

First Deep Blue SUP Event - FIJI ISA WORLDS

2016 was the first year in which a major SUP contest became a Deep Blue Event. The Fiji ISA Worlds was the world championships of SUP competition, with the best SUP athletes in the world competing in multiple disciplines. Surfing (at Cloudbreak), distance race, technical racing, and more… The full sustainability report can be viewed here.

VOLCOM PIPE PRO continues to shine

The 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro continues to push the envelope for sustainable surf contests world-wide. It used 80% 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 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro sustainability report.

Other events that went 'Deep Blue' in 2016

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.

Growing Community at Two Pine Farm

We produced a video with one of our good friends and surfing buddies in Marin County, Ari Lurie. A couple of years ago, Ari started growing food on his property in Sausalito. Before he knew what had hit him, Ari had turned this into a farm and was selling produce to local restaurants. That’s how to live a Deep Blue Life.

Blue Mind conference

We were honored to be invited to participate in the 6th annual BlueMind Summit conference, at the Asilomar Conference center on the Monterey peninsula. We joined a stellar group of panelists and facilitators to discuss the neuroscience of play, happiness, romance, success, peace and freedom right where these topics intersect with the water world around us.

This annual conference shows the power of water to change peoples lives. The act of immersion in water lights up neurological pathways in our brain that enables a new perspective on our relationship to nature. This is why we believe our surfing community can become more powerful as stewards for ocean protection. We’re already most of the way there, just from the act of getting wet. We just need to be shown the easy on-ramps, which is the goal of the programs of Sustainable Surf.

Thanks again to Dr. Wallace Nichols for creating and curating this amazing gathering. We are honored to have him as an official advisor to Sustainable Surf.

Sustainable Surf Soiree in Santa Cruz with Eoin Finn

We produced our first ever "Sustainable Surf Soiree" March 11th at Sawyer Land & Sea Supply in Santa Cruz, CA –an evening of tasty drinks, organic treats and deep thoughts from our ‪Yoga Master‬ ambassador Eoin Finn from Blissology (and a couple special guests too), about how we can all enjoy our ocean playground, while also protecting it.

Every year, we host events like this as a way to build stronger local communities and connect them with the growing global sustainable surf movement. These events help like-minded people meet each other, and learn about our core partners that exemplify the change we are trying to create.

At the #zerowaste Sustainable Surf Soiree, people were encouraged to bring their waste styrofoam, wetsuits, and kite sails for recycling with Waste to Waves. They could then check out the products from SUGA Mats, MAFIA Bags, ECOBOARDS from Ventana Surfboards, Raw Elements sunscreen, Head High Wines, Patagonia Provisions, and more.


2016 was a year of steady growth for Sustainable Surf, with a total budget of $294,000. We increased our operational budget by approximately $40,000, allowing us to invest in, much needed, external program support (see below).


In 2016, Brett Giddings, who has extensive experience with sustainable product verification programs was contracted to help manage the ECOBOARD Project.


  • 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
  • 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
  • Kassia Meador
  • Zane Kekoa Schweitzer
  • 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
  • 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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