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Want To Travel With The Surf Pros?


Over the last four years, I’ve tried to time parts of my travel with the World Surf League’s (WSL) Championship Tour Schedule. It’s uncanny to think that I’ve focused so much on planning my travels around these surf events, especially considering I could barely swim until I hit my mid-thirties. However, there is so much more being offered at these surf events than meets the eye. This competition not only provides the opportunity to witness some of the best in the world tackle the most insane waves but also to give back to the local communities and ocean in unprecedented ways.

The Championship Tour brings out elite surfing talent to compete to maintain their ranking on the leaderboard, but also with the incentive to earn an income whilst doing what they love. The competition circuit is their livelihood and offers an opportunity for these surfers to make an indelible mark on the sport’s history. Each event is made up of several knock-out rounds, whereby two to three individuals are in the water at any given time. competing against one another to avoid elimination. Using criteria of 1-10, with 10 being the highest score one can receive for any single wave, the surfers are judged on each wave, with their two top-scoring waves in a heat counting towards their final score. Five highly qualified and seasoned judges, usually former pro-surfers themselves, are in charge of determining the winners.

John John Florence, WSL Professional Surfer at Pipeline Pro 2024. Photo Credit: Adam Moore

WSL facilitates a handful of different series: the Championship Tour, the Challenger Series, the Qualifying Series, Big Wave, the Longboard Tour, the Pro Junior Tour and ad-hoc specialty events. And what’s great about the various stops of these tours is that the destinations don’t just boast epic waves, but are some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

For example, the Championship Tour will take surfers to places such as Portugal, Victoria Australia, Western Australia, French Polynesia, El Salvador, Brazil, Fiji and the California USA. They aren’t just going to the major hubs of each of these places, they are going to remote spots where the waves are pumping and the natural landscapes are often breathtaking. Simply put, physically following these tours will bring you to some special blue venues presented by Mother Earth herself.

But it’s not just the waves, talent and natural wonders that are captivating those who make their way to places like North Shore, Oahu in Hawaii to witness the Pipeline Pro or Sunset Beach competitions. It’s also the WSL activations that go alongside each of these events, specifically catered to getting the community involved in coastal conservation and restoration as well as waste reduction and management.

The waves during the Lexus Pipe Pro 2024 finals. Photo Credit: Adam Moore

This is what brought our expedition team to the shores of Oahu to see first-hand what it means to link conscious exploration, surfing and conservation.

In 2021, WSL launched an initiative called One Ocean, dedicated to bridging the gap between the sport of surfing and ocean conservation. To protect and conserve the ecosystems and coastal communities the Championship Tour visits each year, One Ocean engaged in a significant collaboration with local communities, Indigenous and First Nations peoples, surfers, and an alliance of over 100 organizations.

To give you a sense of how successful this effort has been, we dug into the 2023 One Ocean Impact Report. We found out that, during the Championship Tour last year, One Ocean and its collaborators hosted more than 16 local impact projects and activations, highlighting the tangible benefits of collective action in environmental stewardship.

The 2023 season’s achievements included the protection and restoration of 45,374 hectares of land in Hawaii, Australia and Brazil, as well as long-term reforestation efforts in Uruguay as part of WSL’s carbon offset initiatives. Notably, the partnership succeeded in planting 100,000 corals through collaborations with Coral Gardeners, removing 2 tons of plastic via river intervention projects in Latin America, engaging 1,635 volunteers in WSL One Ocean activations and educating 3,041 youth on cultural and environmental stewardship. Needless to say, WSL boasts an impressive resume when it comes to last year’s conservation efforts.

But how exactly did they manage to accomplish so much in just one year? Well, it’s no secret that sports have a heavy influence when it comes to inspiring action. The WSL One Ocean team is a firm believer that if the professional athletes are contributing to conservation efforts, if they are involved in the communities they visit and if they’re actively talking about the work they are doing, it will create a trickle-down effect. And that was about to happen once again when we arrived on Hawaii’s North Shore this February.

To start, we participated in a large-scale beach cleanup with the nonprofit Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii (SCH), where we got to see an all-hands-on-deck approach, with both athletes and volunteers sifting through micro, meso and macro plastics. But what excited us even more was seeing what SCH was doing behind the scenes at the Hawaii-based competitions.

WSL One Ocean beach clean up with WSL Professional Surfer, Brisa Hennessy. Photo Credit: Marla Tomorug

Every time the WSL sets up a major event in these special and remote places, thousands of people flock to the sites, creating waste that piles up on the beaches when not in trash receptacles. And even so, when we throw something away, it means our waste ends up in one of the following places: landfills, the ocean, incinerators, (which are even more troublesome in the toxic emissions they create as a byproduct), or even poor nations that are sadly used as dumping grounds (something we’ve had the displeasure of seeing first hand on our expedition trail!)

Solutions are urgently needed for events and experiences that generate significant waste, particularly those closely linked to ocean health.

When we travel, we tend to take, use and “throw away.” That’s because historically, we haven’t been told the harms of this mentality, nor have we been given better alternatives. For a lot of cultures and communities around the world, exploring means to see and do as much as possible. And sometimes, that comes at a serious cost to the people we meet and the places that we visit. That’s why SCH has worked onsite with WSL for the last ten years to create alternative solutions, educate spectators on waste management and effectively remove waste that accumulates. All so that it can be “thrown away” more effectively.

Lexus Pipe Pro 2024 finals day. Photo Credit: Marla Tomorug

SCH calls the act of waste diversion “Resource Recovery” where the disposed products go on to the right places, allowing them to have another life. The team sorts waste into three categories: food waste, recyclables and cardboard. Food waste will go to a composter where it will be repurposed into usable soil. The recyclables will be sorted and then distributed to other initiatives around the island, such as Bottles 4 College. This is a program that uses recycled bottles to help provide education scholarship money to local Hawaiians.

As for the cardboard, all the containers used at WSL events are made of this material and are sent to the compost as well. According to the Executive Director of SCH, Rafael Bergstrom, the aim is to have nothing “in the trash” coming out of these events. He went on further to tell us that year-over-year since partnering with WSL, they are seeing incredible results, with 80% of the waste recovered from events being repurposed.

And the best part? If you are visiting the North Shore during the Pipe Pro event, you can get involved and participate in the activations. Not only do you get to watch the incredible talent beast the elements and meet athletes who are contributing, but you also get the opportunity to give back to the places and spaces you’re fortunate enough to be immersed in. You become directly involved in the paradigm shift that’s needed to keep our planet healthy for years to come.

So if you’re planning your next trip, consider checking out where WSL and the WSL One Ocean teams are going to be next. If you manage to make it happen, there are so many incredible opportunities waiting for you upon touchdown. You never know what surfers you might meet, what wave you might catch and what community project could have the power to change your worldview forever.