• Culture

Surfers for Climate: Custodians of the ocean and political advocacy coexist

Inner workings of a climate advocacy group revealed

In partnership with Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival 

When you think of a surfing community, political campaigning and climate advocacy aren’t necessarily what come to mind. But that’s exactly the point of Australian charity Surfers for Climate, which was formed in 2020 to mobilise surfers to protest against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight. 

Founded by climate activists Belinda Baggs and Johnny Abegg, Surfers for Climate, which initially was created to activate the surfing community to leave the world in a better place, exists to advocate for political change related to fossil fuels. It champions female surfers, acknowledging that while there is gender inequality, climate will always take a back seat, and recognises there is still a lot of work to do galvanizing the surfing community to become custodians of the ocean they love.

“Surfers for Climate was formed because there was a gap, there weren’t really any surfers organisations addressing climate,’’ says Josh Kirkman, Surfers for Climate CEO, and former body boarding Australian champion.

“We advocate across three areas in our work, all within a banner called The Line in the Sand campaign, which is all about drawing a line in our sand for our ocean. We want to see an end to fossil fuel exploration in our ocean by 2028, we want to see surfing and coastal communities jump on the groundswell of renewable energy and benefit from that; and we want to see more marine protected areas around the Australian coast line so we can protect biodiversity.’’

Surfers for Climate CEO Josh Kirkman

Surfers for Climate CEO Josh Kirkman

Josh acknowledges how diverse the surfing community is, which is how they have arrived at a toolkit of educational tools and programs its members can access, all with the overarching purpose of mitigating climate change.

“What we know is surfers are all different people, with different politics, different social situations, different ethnicities. We try to create what we call, take off points for surfers, to initiate a wave of action,’’ says Josh 

Surfers for Climate’s programs include Trade Up, which is a program that helps trades people who love surfing do something about climate change at work and in the water. Carpark Cinema events facilitate the screening of feature films highlighting the impacts of climate change, showcase solutions, and inspire individuals to take action.

Other programs include Salty Brains Trivia frameworks that can be rolled out at any community event, and Wavechanger, which is a resource for surfers wanting to have an impact on climate.

Surfers for Climate’s main focus for the last 18 months has been campaigning the NSW government to ban offshore fossil fuel drilling in NSW waters.

“In the last couple of weeks our climate goals took a big leap forward with the NSW government bringing forward legislation to ban offshore gas in NSW waters, off the back of some significant campaigning that we had done in working with the national and liberal party, ’’ Josh says.

“That’s our political work at play, by working with politicians across the spectrum we have managed to get all of them to agree it’s a  good policy to deliver. People think the Federal Government is the only body that can make rules related to fossil fuels and the ocean but the reality is the State Governments have a lot of power . . . everyone should remember COVID we learnt that State Governments could lock boarders.’’

This positive outcome is a reminder that advocating effectively can make a difference. Josh’s advice is simply to become engaged in your community, attend climate related events, and most importantly be curious about the role renewables are going to play in reducing carbon emissions.

“We need to translate the science and the opportunity so we can can talk clearly about the all the benefits out there, of offshore wind farms, solar in your home, batteries in your garage, an EV in your driveway,’’ Josh says.

“What does all of that look like and what are the community benefits that can be extracted from it?’’.

Josh Kirkman will be speaking o the panel of Climate Action – What’s Brilliant What’s Bullshit, Thurs March 21, Bondi Pavillion
More info: Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival 



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