For sure, most professional surfers tend to travel the world, ride great waves, and pick up the substantial monthly paycheck for being young, good looking, and talented. However, there are some who use their influence and earnings to make a difference, be it for the environment or to aid people less fortunate than themselves. Here we take a look at five pro surfers who are striving to make the world a better place.
On paper he’s probably not an obvious candidate for political activism, but the former Wolfpak member, World Championship Tour surfer, and professional MMA fighter has led his local community in raising awareness around the genetically modified organism (GMO) issues facing the Hawaiian Islands. Barca has been successful in helping pass a bill that forces companies like Monsanto to divulge what they are spraying on crops on his native island of Kauai, and he’s now turned his attention to the North Shore of Oahu. “I never really expected to be an activist ever in my life,” he told Surfer magazine. “The seed was planted in my head on this issue. I started learning more and started getting so disgusted and pissed off that this was going on.”
One of surfing’s best-known, most talented, and well-paid freesurfers, Dave Rastovich has engaged in environmental activism for the length of his decade-long surfing career. In 2006, along with Sea Shepherd crew member Howie Cooke, he formed Surfers for Cetaceans, which is committed to activating ocean-minded people everywhere to support the conservation and protection of whales, dolphins, and marine life. In 2009 he led an international group of surfers, celebrities, and musicians on a peaceful paddle-out ceremony to disrupt the Taiji Cove dolphin slaughter in Japan (see clip below), risking both personal injury and possible arrest as he swam with the dolphins awaiting execution. “I realize I am in a privileged position, being paid to surf,” he told GrindTV.com, “but hopefully I can live my life [as] ethically as I can and raise awareness on ways that can better help our environment.”
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Ranked seventh in the world at the end of 2013 and one of the world’s most progressive surfers, Lakey Peterson is also a committed philanthropist. She has raised funds for Hands4Others (H4O) and worked hands-on in the implementation of their clean water systems in third-world countries. She sits on the advisory board for Ocean Lovers Collective and is a spokesperson for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), which is the largest volunteer organization for students in high school and college. Peterson is also deeply passionate about raising awareness and money for children’s cancer and is connected to several children’s hospitals in Southern California. All this, a successful surfing career, and Peterson hasn’t even turned 20 yet.
As outlined recently on GrindTV.com, professional-surfer-turned-coach Dan Ross has directed his environmental activism toward the simple problem of plastic water bottles through his One Bottle for Life Project. “We want to stimulate direct action to consumers through keeping one bottle for your whole life,” Ross told GrindTV.com. “We want to revolutionize and change people’s thoughts to refill, reuse, and create real solutions to help minimize plastic pollution. It’s a simple idea, but it can make a massive difference.”
Through his Surfing for Change YouTube videos, Santa Cruz, California, surfer Kyle Thiermann combines surfing imagery and current global issues to highlight the power of individuals in creating a better world through everyday decisions. He has highlighted a series of social problems and, more importantly, provided easy, practical solutions on how to solve them. From looking at plastic bottles in Hawaii to investing savings in local community banks, investigating Bali’s trash, exploring nuclear reactors in Jeffreys Bay, and uncovering Monsanto’s GMO practices in Hawaii, Thiermann’s popular videos have educated a huge number of people and provided easy and entertaining means to improve our world. For his efforts he has been the recipient of the Blue Vision Youth Award, the Brower Youth Award, and the Surfrider Environmental Achievement Award. His TEDx talk was an Internet sensation.
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