Ways to Be An Environmentally-Friendly Surfer and Paddleboarder

Ways to Be An Environmentally-Friendly Surfer and Paddleboarder

by Adam Eyal

As surfing and paddleboarding grow in popularity worldwide, so does our impact on the environment.

In early 2017 it was estimated that there were approximately 23 million surfers and paddleboarders globally.

Imagine that!

With these figures expected to keep  increasing, we have a responsibility to preserve the environment where we surf or paddle.

Look at it this way:

With some forethought and planning, you can learn to appreciate the environment while keeping fit and having fun.

Starting from your paddleboard and kit through to how you treat the environment, making the right choices are key!


This takes some analysis

Many people don’t think twice when they are planning a day out on the water.

But the time has come for us to do exactly that!

Ask yourself:

  • Where am I going?
  • How will I get there?
  • What is going along with me?
  • How long will I be there?

Then make good choices, like when walking or riding off-road or over beach sand to reach your destination, keep to well-used paths. Wildlife will have learnt to avoid those paths because of constant disturbance.

Don’t create your own path to get where you are going quicker. Consider the impact you’re having.

How does surfing and paddleboarding impact the environment?

The most prolific damage caused to the environment by surfers and paddleboarders is accelerated erosion caused by vehicles and foot-traffic.

Many bird species nest and lay their eggs in short grass and scrub. Arthropods, insects and reptiles often live and breed just below the ground surface. These habitats get destroyed by vehicles and feet. Sensitive plant life can suffer the same fate.

If you are walking, consider your footwear. Heavy shoes or boots dig deep into the ground surface.  

Next is pollution; leaving rubbish behind!


The big thing is that you educate yourself on the environment in the area that you surf or paddleboard in and take steps to minimize your impact.

What are the long-term consequences on the environment?

The problem with the rapid growth in popularity of surfing, paddleboarding and other watersports is that it has encouraged the growth of tourism.

Tourist resorts have opened access to previously inaccessible surfing and paddling spots, which is great. But it is often at the expense of the environment.

Access is mostly over sensitive areas of beach or grass and scrub.

That doesn’t mean that you must not visit these spots and enjoy the thrill and beauty they offer. But please be aware of how fragile these spots are and treat them with respect.

If we, as surfers and paddleboarders don’t learn to treat these spots with care and respect, we will eventually destroy them.

What else can you do?

Adopt an eco-friendly attitude across the board.

Look out for patches or tracts of water pollution. If you find water pollution, don’t just move to another spot. Report it as soon as you can. And then don’t forget about it! Keep on following up until someone takes notice.

Join beach-clean ups in your area, or better still, start your own!

Look out for burrows, nests and tunnels and don’t just go charging over them without thought.

Even on a riverbed or ocean floor, look before you proceed. If you see signs of life in the sand, move to another spot.

Don’t use chemical insect repellants. Their negative impact will affect the environment long after you’re gone. Look for natural options.

Don’t disturb nature and definitely don’t hunt natural souvenirs. You could be removing something that can never be replaced.

Think before you  replace your board with a new one. Could a second-hand board work and upcycle it with eco-friendly accessories.


Check out eco-friendly surf boards as another option. They might not last as long as a traditional board, but they are much friendlier to the environment.

Choose resorts that offer eco-friendly tourism for surfers and paddleboarders.

It’s all about balance

Surfers and paddleboarders must find a balance between their sport and nature.

Actually, it’s not that difficult:

It’s about a shift in attitude not only to consider what we want, but what the environment needs.

It’s about making informed choices and knowing when to put the environment before ourselves.

It’s about speaking out and standing up for the environment.

It’s about finding like-minded people.

Join the growing number of surfers and paddleboarders who care.

Find them and follow them. Get involved; take the initiative!

Becoming environmentally aware starts off as an intention, and before you know it, it will become a way of life.