The water sports industry is a paradox. Dreams of crystal blue waters, white beaches and salty hair on the one hand. Pictures of turtles caught in plastic, beaches with more trash than shells and broken boards on the other hand.
Although windsurfing and paddleboarding are powered by nature, the boards itself can still end up being harmful to the environment when they are no longer being used. Realizing their own impact made Starboard focus their vision strongly on the environment and to protect its blue beauty.
The day will come when your board is no longer being used. Either because it broke or because there are just too many newer and better ones out there. Therefore SUP Product Manager Ollie O’Reilly feels deeply responsible to make the boards as sustainable and long-living as possible:Ultimately those boards come to an end of life and producing them means having a responsibility to deal with what happens with that product in the end. In general, the water sports industry is quite a pollutive and toxic industry, just because of the materials used in the products. At the same time, it’s a desirable lifestyle and a source of so much joy.
So you’re creating this dream lifestyle where you’re involved in nature, you surf in the ocean. Yet at the same time, you create products which don’t really align with that. So you come to realize that you have to do something more.
So we’re trying to find ways to lead an example. To make products that are generally better for the environment and to spread awareness. Particularly here in Asia, you see the problem first-hand. There have been days that I’ve spent in Bali and haven’t been able to go surfing, because there is too much plastic in the ocean. So there is that fear of knowing that we might not be able to enjoy this sport in the future if we don’t take action now. So we are doing as much as we can to protect and prolong what we love for generations to come.
When Starboard was founded 25 years ago, we did not realize the threats to ocean health the same way as today. Svein Rasmussen founded the company with the vision of bringing innovation, quality, and inspiration to the world of wind, water and waves.
Back then in 1994, the goal was to make some good boards, to win many races and to have many people out in the water. That was really the idea. Today our mission is to not only be the best in the world but also the best for the world. We try to utilize that initial strength of being a leader in the industry as a platform to see how we can motivate as many people as possible to protect the environment in any way possible.
Reaching out towards anyone from our own staff, to our customers, our suppliers, but also to organizations and governments, to give them some ideas and see if they can maybe take them further. And challenge them at the same time.
This brings some purpose to the company. Now there is a meaning in the fact that you can actually be useful. You can make a positive impact or a negative impact, that is really the bottom line.
But aren’t selling many boards and doing good for the environment two contradictory goals?
Absolutely. There is a big contradiction. And that is why we’re trying so hard. That is why we claim to be 10 times climate positive and pick up trash on the beach. Because we know that with every board we build, we cause pollution. And people using the gear cause pollution, because of the way they travel. So we need to realize that this is humankind today, that’s where we’re at. And if we want to continue living our current lifestyle instead of just going back to the jungle, we need to make up for it every single day. Be a polluter, but make up for it 10 times over, so that in the end a positive impact is created.
Asking Svein, why he personally cares about the environment, he puts it this way:
The protection of the environment is like protecting yourself really. And yourself means basically everybody else on the planet. Obviously, you want to enjoy what is there, you want to sustain it. So that future generations can have an as wonderful life and experiences as you did. It is just really so personal. Protecting the environment is as meaningful as protecting any cell that you have in your own body. So do what can you do to sustain your life and your happiness