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How the Stand Up Paddleboarding Community is Battling the Worldwide Plastic Pollution Epidemic

Written by guest blogger Jason Paul, editor of InflatableBoarder.com   Imagine paddling across a stretch of pristine blue water on a beautiful sunny day at your local waterway.  Your paddle board cuts effortlessly through the water leaving behind nothing but a silent wake.  You pull up your paddle and pause for a minute to enjoy the stunning wildlife only to notice that your SUP paddle has become tangled in a filthy plastic bag. These days, this is an unpleasant reality for many stand up paddlers. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways that the worldwide SUP community is coming together to combat the planet’s plastic pollution problem. We’ll take a look at some pioneering individuals, leading nonprofits, and standout SUP companies who are making a difference. Individual Initiatives Stand up paddlers around the globe are working to find new ways to combat plastic pollution. Phil Bresnahan and Séverin Vasselin are two such individuals who are leading the way through climate science and community engagement in an effort to clean up our oceans. Phil Bresnahan This stand up paddler started his journey to combat ocean pollution as a marine science Ph.D. student from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. By attaching a device of his own invention to the hull of a stand up paddle board, Bresnahan collects pH and oxygen levels for climate science research.  After beginning his research, Phil founded SUP Science where he hopes to engage the general public in science education.  By simply introducing people to a fun and safe activity on the water, Phil is engaging them in meaningful scientific research.  After starting with kayaks, Phil discovered that stand up paddle boards made the perfect research vessel for navigating the surf zone due to the fact that they are lightweight, portable, maneuverable, and have a minimal impact on the environment.  Today Bresnahan is the lead research engineer for SmartFin, a surf fin capable of collecting information on a wide array of marine science data points. Séverin Vasselin When not acting in feature films, Séverin Vasselin chooses to dedicate her life to connecting people to the water through stand up paddling.  Beyond merely introducing new paddlers to the sport, Vasselin founded Watertrek — an International non-profit that combines SUP experiences with environmental education.  While teaching in Southeast Asia, Vasselin discovered the importance of global efforts to combat plastic pollution.  Today, Watertrek works to educate and inspire stand up paddlers to take action on plastic pollution, climate change, and water quality in Burma, Thailand, India, France, and the UK. Nonprofit Initiatives The stand up paddle board community’s efforts to fight plastic pollution have inspired leading nonprofits to come together for this important common cause.  Paddle Against Plastic, Plastic Tides, and H20 Trash Patrol are all finding new and innovative ways to tackle plastic pollution with stand up paddleboarding. Paddle Against Plastic This UK based organization hopes to empower the stand up paddleboarding community to find solutions for plastic pollution.  Since 2016, Paddle Against Plastic has been using SUP to bring excitement and optimism to current plastic pollution issues.  Paddle Against Plastic knows that the environmental problems we face are daunting, overwhelming, and sometimes deflating.  Through highlighting our connection to the ocean as stand up paddlers, Paddle Against Plastic breathes new life into the effort to thwart this issue.  We know there’s still so much that can be done, and where better to start than a local clean-up in your community? Plastic Tides Plastic Tides works to educate and inspire others to care for our waterways through stand up paddle expeditions.  The team at plastic tides integrates SUP racing, youth education, adventure travel, citizen science, and community organization to raise public awareness on the issue of plastic pollution.  When not engaging youth, racing, traveling, or organizing, the folks at Plastic Tides work to support policy change to eliminate plastic from our lives.  Plastic Tides is actively educating the public on the importance of using reusable water bottles, boycotting plastic straws, and eating locally-sourced food. H20 Trash Patrol Based in Encinitas California, H20 Trash Patrol is mobilizing the stand up paddle board community to clean up waterways across Southern California.  The award-winning nonprofit is utilizing the versatility and accessibility of stand up paddling to collect waste from local waterways, harbors, rivers, and lagoons.  H20 Trash Patrol enlists volunteers schools, businesses, and the general public to clean up the ocean while paddling.  Paddlers strap a Home Depot bucket to the nose of their board and cruise the ocean in search of floating debris.  Today, H20 Trash Patrol continues to use stand up paddleboarding as an opportunity to connect and care for nature. SUP Company Initiatives Surf and SUP manufacturing has never been terribly sustainable in practice.  Foam boards alone leave a lasting mark on our environment long after they’ve snapped at your favorite break.  The following innovative organizations are looking to revamp the SUP market with sustainability. Sustainable Surf ecoboard Their name alone explains exactly what this organization aims to accomplish.  Through finding new sustainable materials for surf and SUP manufacturing, Sustainable Surf made a name for itself in the ocean-going community.  Sustainable Surf’s ECOBOARD program empowers board shapers and designers to outfit their practices with sustainable materials.  Each board carrying the ECOBOARD stamp of approval helped reduce carbon emissions, used recycled or upcycled materials, and employed processes to reduce toxicity levels through manufacturing.  By setting a new standard of sustainability, Sustainable Surf is changing the SUP industry for the better. Starboard starboard In addition to using plant-based resins in their board shaping process, packaging each board with biodegradable materials, and reforesting Myanmar’s Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park, Starboard is the first SUP company to outfit their paddles with a trash grabber.  And in case you’re wondering where you can get one of those ECOBOARDS mentioned above, Starboard is the first SUP company to receive the Sustainable Surf stamp of approval on all of its models.  Setting the bar high for the SUP community, Starboard is assisting in the fight against plastic pollution by mobilizing consumers to be more conscious of their purchases. Final Thoughts While there’s obviously a lot more work to be done in the ongoing battle against plastic pollution, it’s great to know that passionate and environmentally conscious paddlers all over the world are joining the fight.  If you’re a paddler who is looking for ways to take on plastic pollution, start small.  Organize a local clean-up, get some friends out on the water, and connect with some of the visionaries in this article to help put an end to plastic pollution.