Sustainability Report – 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search

Sustainable Surf was tasked with the role of designing and managing the sustainability efforts of the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search surf contest in San Francisco. With the enthusiastic support and help of the team at Rip Curl, this effort provided a real world case study of how to best run a sustainable surfing event, which in turn helped to provide the foundation for Sustainable Surf’s – “Deep Blue Surfing Event” program. For that, we are very grateful towards Rip Curl for providing us with that opportunity, and  we are very proud of the efforts that were made to not only significantly limit the negative environmental impacts of producing the event, but to also leave lasting, positive benefits to the local community.  The consensus at the time was that this contest represented the “greenest” ASP World Tour surfing event ever produced, and that it would prove to be a useful blueprint (and a catalyst) for other ASP events to follow. Please see the ASP’s full post-event story on the sustainability efforts of the event here: “Green Is Gold at the Rip Curl Pro Search“.

Video from the contest showing details of several efforts:

You can check out the info below to see full scope of the efforts used to “green up” the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco – This material ran as individual stories on the Rip Curl website during the event, and so is written in the present tense. Please see here for more info on the post-event evaluation of  sustainability efforts at the event: “Green Is Gold at the Rip Curl Pro Search“.


Surf Contest Powered By Waste Grease from San Francisco Restaurants

From Taco to Truck: biodiesel fuel for the contest derived from 100% waste grease from local SF restaurants.

Running a world tour surf contest involves building a mini town on the beach (complete with hot showers), which requires a lot of electricity to power the PA system, the judging stands, athlete facilities and of course the global webcast. Even though grid power in San Francisco is relatively clean, we wanted this event to have as low of a carbon footprint as possible.

The diesel generators used to provide electricity for the event ran on  locally sourced and produced “Biodiesel” / B-100) made from waste grease collected from San Francisco Restaurants. Electricity really doesn’t get much greener than this! Biodiesel derived from waste cooking oil is non-toxic and has the lowest environmental footprint of any commonly used fuel. Waste grease biodiesel reduces lifecycle CO2 emissions by 80%.

Here’s how it works:  the City’s SF Greasecycle program enables restaurants and even city residents to give their waste cooking oil to the City of San Francisco. This waste oil is then made into biofuel by local production companies, and is even available at several public retail biofuel filling stations.

People’s Fuel Cooperative will provide biodiesel (B-100) for Rip Curl Pro Search. They are a worker-owned company that has been supplying high quality, petroleum-free biodiesel to San Francisco for many years. They are surfers and started their company in 2004 from a surfboard stocked garage in Ocean Beach.

• Although the the Rip Curl Pro Search in SF is sourcing mostly B-100 (petroleum-free) Biodiesel, there was some B-20 (20%) biodiesel that was already present in the rental generators when they were picked for use at the contest site. This represents a major step by the Rip Curl Pro Search SF to help lead the way for others to follow towards the use of 100% renewable energy to run their event, because many events and festivals that generally talk about being powered by “Biodiesel,” are typically only running  B-5 (5% bio-content) or B-20 (20% bio-content). This turned out to be a very complicated task to accomplish, and we want to thank all the partners who bent over backwards to make it happen including Rip Curl, People’s Fuel, and Cresco Generator Rentals.


Zero Waste Event: Goal of 90% Waste Diversion

One of the most obvious impacts of the contest is the amount of trash that could be generated from thousands of people coming to Ocean Beach, to watch the world’s best surfers battle it out in CA’s heaviest beach break. To keep the beach sparkling, the Rip Curl Pro Search has hired Waste Busters, who specialize in producing “Zero Waste” events. Since at least two-thirds of all trash can either be recycled or composted, all of the waste resource collection areas at the event will have three separate receptacles for recyclable materials, compostable materials, and actual trash. These areas will also be staffed by Waste Busters employees who will help attendees to put it all in the right place; and who will also sort and then measure the diverted waste stream. The goal for the event is a 90% reduction in waste that would otherwise have gone to a landfill.

San Francisco is leading the nation in comprehensive strategies to reduce municipal waste, with a city-wide average of 77% waste diverted from the landfills, and it was the first city in the nation to enact a plastic bag ban. All public events in San Francisco that serve food or drinks are required to at least recycle and compost food waste, but the Rip Curl Pro will attempt to go far beyond that baseline requirement.

Broken Surfboards Will Be Repaired and Donated to Kids In Need

Ocean Beach is a powerful beach break famous for dishing out punishment. You can bet that there will be a fair share of broken boards at the contest, so to divert these from the local landfill, nonprofit ReRip will place a collection bin for busted boards inside the competitor’s area. All boards collected here will be repaired by ReRip, who will then give the boards away to deserving kids in need. Surfboards busted by hard charging locals can be dropped off at the brand new ReRip collection bin inside of Aqua Surf Shop.

Contest Banners Upcycled Into Board Bags

A major surf contest uses several thousand square feet of contest banners made from PVC vinyl. Typically, a significant fraction of these banners are unique to the event and are thrown away at the end (if some kids don’t steal them first).  The Rip Curl Pro Search will instead have the banners “upcycled” into board bags and tote bags by The Progress Project. All bags are made in the USA in San Diego county. Contact us if you want to order one.

Recycled Bamboo Rash Vests

Rip Curl has made a special recycled rash vest for competitors. They are made from 61% recycled polyester, 27%  bamboo, and 12% spandex. Look for Kelly, Owen, Mick and the rest of the boys rocking these day glow eco-minded jerseys, as they enjoy the juice (and practice their duck diving skills) dished out by the famously heaving barrels at Ocean Beach.

Quench your thirst from a Refillable Water Bottle

Single-use water bottles are one of the largest contributors to plastic trash in the ocean and in landfills. To stop this rising tide of plastic pollution, The Rip Curl Pro Search will provide free water stations to the general public. If you don’t have your own refillable water bottle, you can buy one of the super cool Rip Curl stainless steel bottles at the contest site. Proceeds from the water bottle sales will support the local SF Surfrider chapter’s Rise Above Plastics campaign, which is looking to install a unique water bottle filling fountain at Ocean Beach.

Green Transportation

If you’re a San Francisco local, chances are good that you know all about using alternative and public transportation to get around town. SF traffic is notoriously bad, especially when big events come to town or when it’s a sunny day at Ocean Beach.  Rip Curl has taken the following steps to limit traffic congestion and CO2 emissions from public attendance of the event.

Skateboard and Bike Valet Service (Nov 5-6 only)
Go ahead and push or pedal your way to the contest and drop off your ride for safe keeping with our skateboard and bike valet service, provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition. You heard that right – a skateboard valet service! Thrasher Magazine (SF born) would be proud.

Bicycle Transportation for Rip Curl Staff

Rip Curl staff are also cutting their CO2  footprint by riding bikes provided by the local community to commute to the contest site. Bikes donated include some amazing cargo bikes from local bike company – Yuba Bikes (, some La Playa Specials recycled from the latest Burning Man, and even some OB beach beaters lent out by local SF chapter Surfrider members who had an extra cruiser in the garage.

Public Transportation
It’s San Francisco after all, so hop on a biodeisel / electric powered Muni bus, an electric light rail, or take the  Golden Gate Park Shuttle service. Leave the driving (and the parking headaches) to the pros. Check out the public transportation guide.

Community Collaboration to Support Local NGOs

Having Rip Curl bring their contest to San Francisco is a big deal, but the contest will be over in two short weeks and then it’s back to normal (if SF can ever be considered “normal”). Rip Curl wants to use the buzz of the contest to support local surfing non-profits in their work and leave a lasting legacy.

Official Kickoff Party to Benefit the Surfrider Foundation: Tuesday, Nov 1
Perhaps the biggest issue threatening great surf at Ocean Beach is the Sloat Erosion problem. This well-known big wave surf spot is threatened by coastal armoring and is a major campaign issue for the SF Chapter of Surfrider. Rip Curl and Surfrider will throw a party to support the Sloat Erosion Campaign. Don’t miss it! Get your tickets here.

Save the Waves Film Festival: Nov 4th
Rip Curl is a major sponsor of this film festival that will be showcasing the best films that connect the love of surfing and the environment. This annual event is always a hot ticket even without the pros in town, so get your tickets early.

Beach Cleanup with SF Surfrider and Rip Curl: Sat, Nov 5th 10am – Noon

Join members of the local SF Surfrider chapter, Rip Curl folks and your regular SF neighbors as we all show Ocean Beach some love. We will be sweeping the beach areas adjacent to the contest site to keep the coast clean!

Carbon Neutral Event

As with many of its other world tour surfing events (including RCP Portugal and Bells) Rip Curl wants the contest in San Francisco to be a climate friendly event. They know that among other things, a rapidly warming climate means rapidly rising sea levels and major threats to coral reefs from ocean acidification. All of this spells trouble for those who live on the coast or who “Search” the oceans for the world’s best waves.

Many of the event’s initial greening efforts, such as generating power on waste grease biodiesel, will provide a significant benefit to reducing the CO2 footprint of the event. However, for actions that are impractical to reduce otherwise, such as air travel, driving, lodging, food and on-site event power, the use of certified carbon offset credits can be an important tool to help mitigate the climate impact of running the event. That’s why Rip Curl is choosing to voluntarily offset all of those emissions detailed above related to all Athletes, ASP Staff, Media and Rip Curl staff who are attending the contest. Certified offsets that will support projects located in the US will be purchased and retired on behalf of Rip Curl through non-profit provider

Post-Event Evaluation Report

Rip Curl has been taking some serious steps towards making their World Tour surfing events a model of sustainability. Together with Sustainable Surf, they want to use this event in San Francisco as a case study for how to raise the bar for a sustainable surfing event. The final component of the Event Greening Strategy will be a report on the final evaluation of the event’s success and areas where improvement is possible. This will provide a road map for improving the sustainability of surfing events in the future for Rip Curl, as well as other companies that produce ASP World Tour surfing contests.