The only aspect of surfing that is bad for the environment I would say is the making of the surfboard, and perhaps the fossil fuels it takes to get to the beach if travel is involved, but that’s not really directly related.
The process of making a surfboard involves many toxins and release volatile organic compounds into the air. Aviso brand makes a greener surfboard, worth checking out. For more information see this previous answer:
As aforementioned, surfing in and of itself probably isn’t bad for the environment aside from the production of the surfboard.
What could be bad for the environment, however, is the people who come out to surf. If the people coming out the beaches to surf are not conscientious about picking up after themselves, then their act of surfing could indirectly negatively affect the environment. Beachgoers can contribute to an increased level of bacteria both on the beach and in the water resulting from a lack of proper trash disposal, neglecting pet clean-up and/or feeding the birds.
Both answers above are great responses to this question; I just wanted to draw your attention to a group of surfers that are trying to both mitigate the impact surfers have on the environment as well as raise awareness about ocean water health. Surfriders (see website below) is a non-profit group that aims to protect the oceans, waves, and beaches of the planet. It was begun in 1984 in Malibu, California by a group of surfers and now has over 50,000 members and 90 chapters around the world. Surfers are some of the best judgers of water quality and health, as they are submerged in it during all seasons and weather, and also have a vested interest in its health, because cleaner water and healthier oceans means a safer surfing experience.
There are very few things that we can do that don’t include some type of environemental impact. Camping or hiking may require transportation and the use of fossil fuels, bike riding requires the manufacture of the bike itself and includes, again, the fossil fuels used to transport them to market.
Surfing, in and of itself, is a low environmental impact sport. Tthe greatest environmental impact is usually the manufacture of the board itself, however, air travel to surf sites and contests contribute as well. Although we didn’t manufacture our own boards, we did fix any “dings” in our garages or anywhere we could, using fiberglass, sanding, gloss resin etc. at which point we rode our bikes, carrying our boards to the beach. We did not use any protective equipment or respirators, as we were kids and didn’t think about it.
Fortunately, professional shapers and those who work in the industry today, do so as safely as possible, including appropriate disposal methods and safe working conditions. Going forward, just as with other industries, the surf industry is looking at newer ways to design (CAD systems), and newer materials that are less toxic than currently used.
Many surfers, ex-surfers and beachgoers in general, are a part of Surfrider.org and work with a number of their campaigns to protect oceans and beaches.
Something that hasn’t been mentioned is the health of the coral reefs and other vast underwater ecosystems. Some great surfing (and other water recreation) is dangerously close to some great, biodiverse ecosystems. If surfers, and kitesurfers don’t pay attention they can damage them. Although it’s rare, it still occurs.
I’ve been an active member of surfrider and I highly recommend it to anyone who share’s it views.
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