This year’s award winners are chosen from nominees that you, the readers, said we should consider. Every year an ever-expanding list of people, groups, companies and assorted surfing entities begins to bulge in our in-boxes, and every year we call upon our judges (previous winners of the Emerald Path Award so far: Chris Hines, Glenn Hening, Matt George and Mark Massara) to join us in reviewing the list and selecting a nominee in each of seven categories.
US Editor Drew Kampion and I then tally up the votes and discuss the way the cards have fallen. It’s sometimes clear-cut, but often ambiguous. When we have agreed on the winners, we seek the approval of our judges again, then make these announcements.
Here are the final verdicts. Thanks to you for your nominations, to the judges for their time and considerations, and to all of the nominees for making the surfing world an ever more positive place to be.
- Alex Dick-Read
Individuals Who Surf
Winner: Dave Rastovich
Dave Rastovich got half the votes, and former Midnight Oil front man, surfer and now Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett got the other half.
Peter Garrett has only recently been elected to a position of real executive power, so we figured it would be smarter to wait to see how he does in this role. Most environmental activists effect change from without, but he has his hands on the levers of power, so we want to watch and see how he uses them.
In light of this, Dave Rastovich was our preferred choice for the award. We had some initial issues with the fact that, however bohemian and off-the-wall, he’s a mainstream surf pro working for one of the big surf companies. But we feel he deserves great respect for using his position of privilege and mass appeal to send out some powerful, positive messages, at some personal and professional risk.
As a founder of Surfers for Cetaceans, which aims to stop the slaughter of whales and dolphins worldwide, Rasta has shown that he sticks with his principles and lives by his beliefs. Earlier this year he was in Taiji Bay, Japan where they annually murder thousands of dolphins and pilot whales. Rastovich led a small group of protestors who snuck into the bay and paddled out through the bloody water to try and stop the killing. Risky business. Through clever maneuvering the crew managed to narrowly avoid being assaulted, arrested and worse. The slaughter was only slowed, not halted, but the intended message went far and wide.
Rastovich is closely associated with the wonderfully radical Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which believes in direct action to protect the planet, and as one of Sea Shepherd’s most high-visibility crew-members, he’s spreading their philosophy into demographics that don’t normally make space for things like front-line activism.
Even within Billabong, Rasta has spearheaded the enlargement of their organic and PET surf clothing range, which they might easily not have bothered with.
So while at first glance Dave Rastovich may seem to be just another talented surfing pop icon, he’s not. He stands out from those who dare not risk their contracts with anything more radical than a late take-off, and thus he is a worthy recipient of this award.
Dave Rastovich responds: “I am not alone. I might be the only young surfer you see doing this stuff, but that certainly doesn’t mean I am the only one. I have a young friend in Australia who is just 15 years old and has already addressed environmental ministers from all the countries who are involved in the whaling issue. She’s a little dynamo who just doesn’t understand the older generation that’s so bent on environmental destruction. I was joined in Japan by Hayden Pannatierre, a Hollywood starlet, just 18 years of age; and Isabel Lucas, a 22 year-old Aussie actress who didn’t even flinch when I asked her to come with me into the bloody waters of Taiji Bay to try and stop the annual dolphin kills. And then there’s my wife, Hanna Fraser, a mermaid, artist, and model who tirelessly works on exposing oceanic issues. And what about the amazing young activists-in-waiting who have contacted me since our action in Japan, vowing to go to the front-line when it comes to issues like dirty beaches, toxic rivers, and over-fishing in their local areas?
I gratefully acknowledge the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as my chief inspiration and also the greatest environmental inspiration for other young surfers around the world. Their no-bullshit style resonates with us, and I think it’s realistic to say that you¹ll see an army of compassionate, fearless surfer/activists rising up in the near future, modelled off Paul Watson’s strategies. I humbly accept this acknowledgment from The Surfers Path, and hope that our support for each other continues. I am far from being a completely neutral, non-destructive human being, but I am doing what I can to balance my destructive impact on this world. It always lifts my spirit to read an issue of TSP and know there are so many other great surfers also giving back to Mother Earth.”
Surf-related Nonprofits and Organizations
Joint winners: Save The Waves and Wildcoast
Save The Waves (pictured left) and Wildcoast took more votes than the others, although the Hawaiian anti-Superferry protestors and LEAP (Local Empowerment Assistance Project, based in the Hinako islands also had one each. The judges agreed that STW certainly deserves the award because they have consistently and intelligently fought hard to protect surf spots all over the world. They do this by working closely with local groups wherever waves are threatened, by direct action, in-depth research, and multimedia savvy. Their film about the battle to protect waves in Madeira, Lost Jewel of the Atlantic, as well as their ongoing work in Chile where pulp mills and sewage are threatening pristine coastlines, were singled out by some of the judges. Founder Will Henry was also singled out for special praise for his tireless efforts.
It was widely agreed that Wildcoast (pictured right) also deserves recognition, not just for its day-to-day work as an active nonprofit, but also for taking on a truly enormous but important mission bringing the plight of the ocean environment to the attention of all Latin Americans. Ther’¹s a lot of coast between Tijuana and Southern Chile and if the oceans are going to recover from past/present abuse and avoid it in future, the message really needs to hit home in the cultures that inhabit those shorelines. Wildcoast has had an impact already, from its heavy pressure on both sides to clean up beaches around the US-Mexico border, to convincing the government to halt a recent shark slaughter in Mexico, to educating the public about the importance of turtle eggs, a delicacy in parts of Central America. By mixing clever media maneuvers that reach all across Latin America, with local, community-based action, they are already succeeding in raising ocean consciousness around the Hispanic world.
We want to acknowledge the spirit and energy of these two nonprofit groups, and encourage them in their missions.
Winner: Gary Young
While Greenlight Surf Supply got one vote, the clear winner here was the Big Island’s master bamboo board-builder, Gary Young. It makes sense to give him some serious recognition because wood, bamboo and other alternative surfboard materials have hit an all-time high right now but Gary Young has been weaving his bamboo magic for decades, certainly way before ‘green’ became mainstream. Of course in that time Young has inspired numerous others to either work in the same material, or think in the same direction. We’re working on a full profile of the man in the mountains of the Big Island, so look out for that in an upcoming issue.
Winner: Matunas Surfboard Wax
Matunas won the most votes in this category, and while we love last year’s winners Betty Belts and all their community and environmental work on Bali (stand by for a new clean-water scheme over there), all the judges were happy to go with a wax company that’s hit the mainstream without leaving a toxic petroleum trail in its wake. (Consider the global impact of millions of deck-rubbings every day - no man’s greatest Earth-crime, but a classic example of how the small things that we do to damage the planet can change if we put some thought into them). Other companies are making serious efforts to address this issue (Wet Women and Funky Puffin were also nominees), but it’s clear that Matunas is leading the field.
Winner: Sliding Liberia by Britton Caillouette and Nicholai Lidow
Sliding Liberia took the most votes in the Surf Media category. This extraordinary film touches a lot of nerves with its blend of beauty, horror, humanity and surfing. It mixes harsh reality with great storytelling, moving characters, cool waves, great filming, and a message of oneness. The film has garnered great praise within and outside the surfing world but we’re particularly glad to be able to recognize Sliding Liberia because it comes from a seed that we helped to germinate way back in TSP-52 when we published Nicholai Lidow¹s first rendering of his Liberia story.
Special mentions were also made of the website Phoresia.org, which offers great news, features, and angles on all things green in surfing; and the film Lost Jewel of the Atlantic by Save The Waves.
Winner: Sumatran Surfariis
Sumatran Surfariis - a no brainer according to the majority of judges. Chris Scurrah and his partner Christine Fowler have been running surf trips around Sumatra for almost 10 years. During that time not only have they initiated a whole lot of pleasure and tube-time, Scurrah and his team have also kept a low-key aid programme going that has included vital post-tsunami and earthquake relief and ongoing general assistance to communities from the Mentawais to the Hinako islands. It was unanimously agreed that Surfariis’ consistent dedication to the people in whose area they operate, without fanfare or publicity, shows an exemplary approach to mitigating human need in surf zones where extreme poverty and natural disasters prevail.
Winner: Loose Fit
The folks at Loose Fit surf shop are clear winners of this award for the second year, both in terms of votes from the judges and for their unrivalled attempts to fuse environmental awareness into a surf retail business. It’s a tough one to pull off, but are there any other shops that can lay claim to so many initiatives, from carefully-chosen stock to planting a tree for every board sold? Loose Fit appears to offer a viable blueprint and inspiration to surf shops everywhere that want to acknowledge retail’s role in the great chain reaction that human consumption is having on this planet.
Surf Apparel Manufacturers
Winners: Patagonia and Finisterre
Surely Patagonia wins, hands-down? The company has been and remains a pioneer in more than just the surf and mountain realm its ethical approaches to its products, strategy and day-to-day operations have had a huge influence on business worldwide. However, some judges voted for a shared prize with Finisterre, a comparatively small outdoor clothing operation based in Cornwall, UK. It was agreed that Finisterre represents something important: If Patagonia is a pioneer, Finisterre represents the best of a new breed that has taken its lead directly from the Guru of Ventura, California.
Since starting up in 2002 Finisterre has grown into its own distinct brand, developing new initiatives (‘Offset The PLC’, researching new fabrics particularly through ‘biomimicry’, pulling production out of China and moving it to a women’s outreach project run by nuns in Colombia, and using the most recyclable materials possible). They make every effort to ensure that the lifecycles of their products remain completely transparent and accountable (i.e. where the raw materials are made, what of, who assembles the goods and how are they shipped, etc.) and they’re fast developing into a serious player they recently won an Observer Ethical Award and were chosen by Al Gore as an example of young, ‘green’, business excellence and asked to speak at his events. We think these are all great achievements worthy of our recognition.
So, this year, a joint award in this category: Patagonia and Finisterre – representing both the inspiration, and the best of those so inspired.
THE EMERALD PATH AWARD
Winner: Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson received more votes than Peter Garrett but offered similar concerns to Mr Rastovich’s selection: how mainstream, how predictable, how politically correct! What about the little guy?
Well, we were concerned too, but, as with Rasta, believe that while such questions will inevitably arise, JJ is reaching a LOT of people and, unlike most rock stars, he’s using his position to spread a message that we fully support. His Kokua Music Festival (a joint effort with his wife Kim) raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for local/regional community recycling schemes, as well as raising awareness for the Islands’ serious environmental issues.
Johnson’s recording studios use solar power, recycled materials, and create minimal waste. His album sleeves are made of recycled materials, his concert tours are as low-impact as possible, etc. These are approaches that millions of his fans and many among his colleagues in the music industry have taken note of. For example, Jack’s ‘green’ concert tour agenda has been taken up as a blueprint used by other bands who sympathise but couldn’t quite get their shit together, and has already caused numerous live venues across the world to change their rules on power-supply, recycling and waste disposal.
JJ is, in part, a reluctant rock star. As every profile says, he’s happiest surfing with his friends or hanging at home with his family. Maybe this has helped him glide through the turbulent waters of music stardom with such ease and grace, leaving behind him a clean, green trail that millions of people are noticing. Folk like him can affect great change, and we think he’s done his level best when, really, most wouldn’t have bothered.
So, while the GWA won’t forget the Herculean efforts of the little guy, we are proud to acknowledge the positive work of gentle giants like Jack Johnson.
Jack Johnson responds: “The Surfer’s Path is a magazine that makes you feel proud to be a surfer,” Jack said on learning he’d received our award, “Not just because of the imagery and vibe, but because of the topics they choose to focus on, and the integrity of their production. I am honored to be associated with such a great publication.”
Images by: Hilton Dawe and Branden Aroyan; Artwork by: Rick Reitveld