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Anya Gilbert reports from the Global Wave Conference 2015 

“So is this the new custodian of the marine environment?” asked Lucy Siegle, pointing at the face of Captain Birdseye on the screen. “What happened to Neptune?”

This issue of responsibility when it comes to protecting the Earth’s oceans was one of many questions raised by ethical journalist and a keynote speaker at this year’s Global Wave Conference, Lucy Siegle.

Her delve into what she called the “uncharted waters that are ocean issues” kicked off the first day, breaking environmental destruction into “digestible pieces” and setting the tone of a conference that explored the solutions to better protecting surf habitats and the latest sustainability developments from the surf industry.

Lucy Siegle, Brad Gerlach, Ramon Navarro, Greg Long and Hugo Tagholm

Lucy Siegle, Brad Gerlach, Ramon Navarro, Greg Long and Hugo Tagholm

The three day event by Surfers Against Sewage brought together representatives from every corner and continent of the enviro-surf community; respective surfers, campaigners, grassroots activists and Marine experts to discuss the protection of waves, oceans, beaches, wildlife and surf habitats worldwide.

“The most urgent environmental issues impacting our coastlines world wide today are truly without borders, from plastic pollution to climate change,” said Hugo Tagholm, Chief Exec of Surfers Against Sewage, “It’s a vital that we collaborate to truly have global impact in protecting our oceans.”

James Otter and Tom Curren talk wood

James Otter and Tom Curren talk wood

Now a deeply established organisation, Surfers Against Sewage was originally started in May 1990, in response to major water pollution at Cornwall’s breaks and beaches.

“To put it simply” said Hugo Tagholm, “sewage will make you very very sick”.

It took the biggest enviro-surf petition ever to parliament and influenced the passing of the 5p plastic bag tax

SAS had one goal; to tackle marine sewage disposal and since then it’s achieved so much more. With 15,000 community volunteers, the organisation has succeeded in changing national political policies as well as Cornwall’s local water quality. It took the biggest enviro-surf petition ever to parliament, influenced the passing of the 5p plastic bag tax and has created a Safer Seas app that gives real-time alerts of sewage spills around the British coastline.

Global Wave Conference 2015

Big wave surfer Greg Long delivering his keynote speech

As part of the event, three times World Surfing Champion, Tom Curren was presented with the inaugural Global Wave Champion Award for his services to protecting the environment.

Tom said, “I’m honoured to be awarded the inaugural Global Wave Champion Award for the part I played in setting up the Surfrider Foundation Europe. It’s great to see the organisation still growing and creating positive change for our surf habitats. I’m also stoked to see Surfers Against Sewage and the global enviro-surf movement collaborating to protect sites of special surfing interest everywhere, for everyone. Thank you”

If you have the knowledge but don’t take action you’re not an environmentalist yet

Hugo ended the day by saying “I’m so proud. And I want to engage more surfers than ever before. We call on everyone to join the movement; if you have the knowledge but don’t take action you’re not an environmentalist yet. Your support counts, join a beach clean, or start a campaign, or be the eyes and ears of your spot. You may never see the results of the movement but you’ve got to have the confidence and commitment to push towards a cleaner and brighter future.”

“Surfers don’t just care about their care about their own break”

Brad Gerlach and Tom Curren performing in the evening

Brad Gerlach and Tom Curren performing in the evening

The second part of the conference saw attendees take on the House of Parliament

The second part of the conference saw attendees take on the House of Parliament

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