The World Surf League – How to use sports to encourage climate action.

On the second to last day at COP25, I randomly wandered into one of the most interesting events that I attended throughout the week. It was a talk by the World Surf League (WSL) titled ‘Courage and Commitment for the Climate- Surfing, Sustainability and UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action.’

The talk was led by a representative from the WSL who spoke about what the WSL is doing within the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action initiative. The UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Initiative is a UN Framework that sets goals in order to use sports as a way to unify and create solidarity about climate change among the global sports community. Under this initiative there is a variety of signatories, including kids’ leagues, national leagues like the NBA and international leagues like the WSL. I thought that this initiative was amazing and spoke to how we can engage all sectors to help engage citizens for climate action. I also was really interested on the reach that using sports can have on young children. Many young kids watch sports, so seeing their favorite athletes and players talk about climate change can be really impactful.

The WSL is making large amounts of headway under this initiative, largely due to the nature of the sport. Surfing is dependent on oceans, and many of the small-island nations where their competitions and events are held are facing serious issues in the face of climate change. The surfing community is starting to see the effects of climate change first hand and are actively trying to help.

Firstly, the WSL is investing heavily in carbon-offset programs. Due to the nature of the sport, surfers are often flying in order to chase the best and biggest waves, and since the surfing community is so spread out globally, getting to and organizing competitions can be a challenge. Because of the high levels of flying, the WSL feels the responsibility to offset their emissions. Also, theyre trying to regionalize their competitions and their corporate headquarters so that they can stop sending people really far and decrease emissions that way. Additionally, the WSL has implemented a program that educates their fanbase about climate change and encourages them to take action. During the Vans U.S Open of surfing they gave famous surfers like Kelly Slater jerseys that projected the colors of coral reefs as they fluoresce during bleaching in order to take a stance on climate change. Moreover, the WSL is implementing community events all over the world to broadcast information about climate change and engage the community.

The WSL’s hashtag for public engagement #stoptrashingwaves.

The WSL’s initiatives are great and exemplify how we can use global platforms for education and action.

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