Riding The Wave With Surfers For Climate

Surfers for Climate is an Australian-based registered charity dedicated to turning the tide on climate change, to ensure that we have surfing communities riding waves in thriving oceans for generations to come.

The organisation started in October 2019, after co-founders Johnny Abegg and Belinda Baggs attended a climate summit on Heron Island, Queensland. They were moved by what they learnt about climate science, the impacts of climate change and how many viable solutions there are from Australia’s leading scientists and policy experts. 

Most importantly, though, they were struck by the critical role the oceans play in our climate system. 

We connected with two key players working to get Surfers for Climate message out to the world, Tully White and Courtney Miller.
Tully White - Surfers For Climate Ambassador

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Tully, I’m 23 years old and live on Cannigal country on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I am a surfer and environmentalist, currently be competing on the WSL world longboard tour. I’m also studying Environmental science at university and am a proud ambassador for Surfers For Climate.
Tell us about your relationship with the ocean. 

The ocean has always been a special place to me, it is somewhere to connect with nature, connect with community and reset. The ocean has given me so much to be grateful for and I believe I have a role of stewardship as a surfer and ocean lover to help protect it.

Why did you get involved in Surfers for Climate? 

I first got involved with surfers for climate back when it was founded by Belinda Baggs and Johnny Abegg to keep the surfing community united in climate action after the successful fight for the Bight campaign. I really love Surfers for Climate as both a surfer and environmental science student I feel like it perfectly combines my passions. I also think for me it is important in this time where the climate crisis can feel overwhelming, to surround myself in a likeminded community united in protecting our coasts and pushing for action on climate. 

Fashion and surf boards are both luxury items (not necessities), how do you think consumers can help drive the industries to be lower impact? 
We have influence as consumers when we make conscious decisions about where we choose to spend our money. When we shop consciously, we throw our support behind businesses striving to change the industry. As consumers we can help drive these industries to consider sustainability in their supply chain, from choice of materials and packaging to labour and waste products. If you are just starting out in this journey you can look out for markers of sustainability such as certified B-corporations and Bluesign companies. 

What innovation are you most excited about watching evolve and scale?  

I am sure that there is a more sustainable way to be making surfboards, without sacrificing performance aspects that we know and love. One innovation I’m most excited about is using algae oil to blow foam to make blanks. Blanks are the foam outlines from which surfboards are carved out and shaped. Algae based blanks have very similar performance values to the blanks we are accustomed to, but instead of being made with crude petroleum oil, algae traps carbon dioxide as it is grown and its oil is live extracted and used in blanks. Also, the polymer materials built from algae oil can be designed to biodegrade which is awesome! I hope one day we all surf blanks made from algae oil.

Images by @wsl + @jessicahromas

Courtney (Coco) Miller - Surfers for Climate Board Member

Tell us a little about yourself. 

​I was born and bred in Byron - I left at 18 for a long time, always coming home for short periods ​but moved home in the wildness of 2020 and stayed for good. I have worked in politics, fashion, the art world and public service with the central thread being public policy.

Tell us about your relationship with the ocean.

My dad raised my sister and I really as water people - always feeling capable and confident in any type of water. I've always felt not quite myself when I can' be in some body of water everyday and this has always led me to swim in some random spots of the years. But the ocean is the best! I love having salty skin and whether I surf, swim or whatever, it makes a better person every session.

Why did you get involved in Surfers for Climate? 

​​I know how public policy works and how essential groups like Surfers for Climate are in campaigning on issues affecting our society. If I can play a small part in shifting the world to protecting and respecting our oceans, I will leave the planet a happy woman.

Is Surfers for Climate just for surfers? 

Not exclusively - like we wouldn’t put that as a ​prerequisite for any event but of course surfers or waterpeople are our key audience - I would say it's open to anyone wh​o cares about our oceans. My mum has come to a bunch of events, and as someone who grew up in a landlocked Canadian town she is not a surfer but LOVES the ocean so anyone in that camp is absolutely welcome.

Fashion and surf boards are both luxury items (not necessities), how do you think consumers can help drive the industries to be lower impact? 

​​This is always a bit tricky because ultimately the big ticket items we're facing are very structural, like the need to shift towards renewable energy and away from fossil fuels, and ultimately we really need to pressure/support our Government to make the strategic decisions on these fronts. Individuals can make really key choices but I would say whether or not they move to a hot water pump or an induction stovetop is more important than their dress or surfboard if that's an option. All of us can lower impact in both those relatively small decisions, but I would also say join in the campaign for the big ticket stuff too - we have a very small window to make a significant impact on Climate Change and Australia is a key player.

Images by @evie_hudson