Seriously, what’s cooler than surfing? Surfers don’t just ride the waves – they are one with nature. They don’t just predict ocean patterns, they have an intuitive, almost cosmic kinship with the great deep blue. Slate’s review of The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer said it right: “there’s something about the very act of surfing that connotes an otherworldly mystery.” Not to mention, surfers also master some pretty gnarly terminology.
It would make sense that in their innate connection to the ocean, surfers would have a stake in the climate crisis. They’re amateur meteorologists, using sophisticated metrics like tides, swells, wind speeds and underwater topography to predict surfing conditions. Sadly, eroding coasts, melting ice caps and excessive rainfall are jeopardizing one of the world’s most ethereal sports.
In reaction the climate crisis’ effect on surfing, a UK-based production company, Undercurrents, along with the org Surfers Path, has posted a series of podcasts called On the Push by filmmaker and surfer Anne Gallagher, which explores the impact of rising sea levels on Atlantic surfers in Northern Europe.
###The website is kind of a wreck (it’s nearly impossible to navigate efficiently between episodes, and much to my obsessive-compulsive chagrin, the episodes play in backwards order) and there’s little explanation of who’s behind On the Push, or what it’s really about. Which means you just got to watch it to find out what’s going on. And there are a couple of noteworthy topics if you’re patient enough to tease them out.
One of the more incredible visuals is not a hang-ten on a drop-jaw swell, but a 26-mile wave along the Severn Estuary caused by a tidal surge that “bore riders” catch and ride for its duration. Another good segment is an interview with Chris Hines, the sustainability director of the Eden Project, a huge charity dedicated to education and, among other things, the environment. Hines explains the inception of the Eco Surfboard, which bills itself as the world’s most sustainable. Unlike traditional Hawaiian boards made of koa and wili wili trees, Eco’s are 40% plant-based blank, laminated in hemp cloth and a bio-resin.
As the show points out, most surfers are already going “green,” setting up a number of organizations to help protect the shores they love so much. Surfers Path, which co-produces On the Push, is responsible for the first “eco-friendly” surf magazine, printed on 100% recycled paper, printed with soy ink.
Another org, Surfers Against Sewage (I say, aren’t we all—surfers and non-surfers alike—against sewage?), is a British campaign that rallies for clean water, threatened by excessive rain and overflowing sewage. (They have a cool quiz that is featured on the show called “How Green a Surf Warrior Are You?” which explains the dangers of climate change to surfers and rates your eco-intelligence.)
The fact that On the Push is a British vidcast, directed mainly at local surfers makes it a little less relevant to people outside of its geographic area. Add to that the problem of navigating through the content, and the show has a couple of strikes against it. But the message is universal and and certainly an important piece of “ecotainment.”
Perhaps someone should steal the concept for On the Push, and shoot in California and Hawaii. Lord knows it wouldn’t be the first time we snagged a programming idea from across the pond.