Putting Eco-Friendly Surfboards To The Test

Toward A Sustainable Surf Craft

Surfers by nature have a strong connection to the ocean and the world around them, yet we ride and use products that are extremely unsustainable for the future of our planet. The ProTest: An ECOBOARD Challenge is a competition trying to show that we can still surf at the same performance level while riding a more sustainably constructed surfboard.

The surfboards shaped for The ProTest quiver were crafted by some of the world’s most renowned board builders, including Jon Pyzel, Daniel Jones, Kerry Tokoro, Wade Tokoro, Owl Chapman, Eric Arakawa, Kamalei Alexander, Carl Olsen, Jeff Bushman, Glenn Pang, Matty Raynor, Carl Schaper, Kyle Bernhardt, Mike Mattison, Drew Sparrow and Brett Marumoto. This winter these surfboards were put to the test on the proving grounds of surf design, the North Shore of Oahu, by a handful known and not-so-known surfers. The end goal: to raise awareness, prove that this new method of building a more eco-friendly surf craft is up to par with any traditional method, and make an edit worthy of winning $10,000.

This winter these surfboards were put to the test on the proving grounds of surf design, the North Shore of Oahu.

Meet Casey

One of the not-so-known test pilots and competitors in this competition is my good friend Casey Goepel. Casey and I first met five years ago on the North Shore through our mutual friend Brian Pollak. With Casey being from the Carolinas and his girlfriend Shae being from Westhampton we all hit it off immediately, I have stayed with Casey and Shae every trip since.

Casey and Shae live completely off the grid on a gorgeous farm where for the past year they have been raising their daughter Swede. If anyone is truly deserving of winning a surfing competition with the message of a more sustainable future, it is Casey Goepel.

Recently, I chatted with Casey on the North Shore and got to ask the East Coast transplant a few questions about The ProTest contest and living off the grid in Hawai’i.

Surf check

Grant Monahan: What brought you to the North Shore?

Casey Goepel: I went to UCLA to study environmental science, and after graduating my girlfriend Shae and I wanted to live off the land. We wanted to learn about farming, living more sustainably, and, of course, I really wanted to surf. We have been living on the North Shore of Oahu since 2012.

GM: Are you still living off the land and farming?

CG: Yep, still live here on the same property. We have a bunch of different fruits and vegetables growing: avocados, papayas, mangos, bananas, sugarcane, oranges, limes, lychee, passion fruit, breadfruit, and all sorts of tropical things. We are constantly propagating; planting, transplanting, trying to sustain what we have here, and trying to grow it into more. We also live completely off the grid; all of our electricity is from solar power, and the sun powers the pump for our well and heats our water too. We have absolutely no utilities out here on The Land—I haven’t paid a single utility bill in over six years! We built our house out of a shipping container with reclaimed and repurposed materials. We have a very minimal ecological footprint. There are not many resources we use except gas to drive the seven-mile stretch of the North Shore.

If anyone is truly deserving of winning a surfing competition with the message of a more sustainable future, it is Casey Goepel.

GM: So, is it just you and Shae managing the property?

CG: Yeah, it is just the two of us on this part of the land getting our hands dirty. Well, a year ago we had our first child, our baby daughter Swede. She has just been the most amazing addition to our family. We are so fortunate to have her growing up here living off the land and experience a sustainable lifestyle. Soon she will be helping on the land, too!

Casey, Shae, and Swede in Montauk

GM: What is The ProTest ECOBOARD Challenge?

CG: Professional surfers are given the chance to try a handful of surfboards that are shaped by well-known shapers and certified by an eco board label created by the organization Sustainable Surf. To be certified the boards must be made with at least 25 percent recycled EPS material and/or 30 percent bio-based resins. By April we all submitted a three-minute or less video of us riding these eco-boards. The winner is decided by fan voting and receives $10,000.

GM: If you win, what will you do with the prize money?

CG: Swede’s college fund! But first, we might have to take a family surf trip with a couple new eco boards!! [Laughs]

GM: Not being a professional surfer, how did you get involved with The ProTest?

CG: I heard about this contest while watching the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach. Kahi Pacarro, of Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i and one of the founders of this contest, were down on the beach with all these surfboards that everyone was checking out, and I was just naturally drawn to them. I starting looking at the boards and was blown away by all the shapes and designs and wanted to surf them, so asked how I could be a part of the contest, and they told me all I had to do was get video clips. I’m honored to be a part of the program and made it my mission this winter to only ride those boards and try to get footage. I was able to ride five or six different boards; it was incredible.

GM: How did the boards ride? You think they were as good as what you had been surfing prior?

CG: Absolutely! I was surprised to find the boards rode exactly the same as any other EPS surfboard. Some of them, especially the Firewire boards with their flex technology, rode very similar to our regular poly boards. After riding them so much I couldn’t even tell I wasn’t riding a ‘normally’ constructed surfboard.

GM: Who filmed you? Did you have someone following you around?

CG: Unlike a lot of the other surfers in the contest I don’t have my own personal videographer so I had to use my GoPro. I was able to get some drone footage and some water footage off of a few people, and between breastfeeding (sometimes during) Shae was able to get a couple shots of me from the beach as well. [Laughs] So I accumulated the footage I was able to get, and, with the help of Matt Paul, we shot the lifestyle clips and put together the edit.

Pipeline POV

GM: Are you the only East Coast surfer in The ProTest?

CG: Yeah! Honored to represent the East Coast in this contest!

GM: Living completely off the grid you had to make your edit using solar power. So technically you just made an edit about sustainable surfboards while lowering your environmental impact by using 100 percent solar energy… Sounds like a winner to me!

CG: [Laughs] Yeah that’s pretty much it. We really wanted to be a part of this program and competition because it is so close to home; the message is something my family is living. I feel like the sustainability of the planet is determined by our daily habits and choices. Now we have more sustainable choices we can make in the surfing world. It is so exciting to be able to buy a more sustainable and eco-friendly surfboard—now we can live a more sustainable life on the land, and in the water!

Vote for our friend Casey Goepel in The ProTest Challenge and represent the East Coast!

Go Vote for Casey Goepel

The ProTest: An ECOBOARD Challenge