Vans Triple Crown of Surfing 2013 – Sustainability Report

What is a Deep Blue Surfing Event anyway?

Deep Blue Surfing Event™  is a more “Ocean Friendly” event, that sets a clear path for reducing environmental impacts of a professional surfing contest, while also providing social benefits for the local community. The program was developed through a partnership with the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) – North America that produced the first ever set of “Green Guidelines” for surfing contests in 2012.

Deep Blue Surfing Events address impacts directly related to the local contest area, including waste reduction, protection of natural resources, and the building of stronger communities. Deep Blue Surfing Events also reduce global threats to the sport of surfing itself from the effects of climate change, such as reductions in global wave heightssea level riseocean acidification and the loss of the world’s living coral reefs, by reducing and offsetting carbon emissions from the event.

These videos showcase both sustainability and surfing at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
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Vans Sustainability Video
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Surfing Highlight Video

Summary of Impact Reductions:

* The 2013 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS) has exceeded the minimum requirements in five categories, and has been designated as a Deep Blue Surfing Event™ by Sustainable Surf.

Sustainability Performance Summary:

  1. Waste Diversion:  29% of waste diverted from landfill (25% minimum)
  2. Renewable Energy: Contest powered by B60 renewable biodiesel fuel (25% minimum)
  3. Climate Change: 100% of CO2 footprint mitigated  (50% minimum)
  4. Community Support: Supported four local non-profit organizations (one minimum)
  5. Transportation: Provided shuttle service for staff.

The overall effort and commitment by Vans to create a sustainable contest is commendable. Vans staff, the VTCS operations crew, and the NGO partners showed an impressive level of dedication to reduce the overall impact of the VTCS and find ways to support the local North Shore community.

The VTCS is a major six-week event that occurs in a small rural area, and therefore has unavoidable impacts as well as benefits. Vans’ commitment to impact reduction, measurement, and public reporting shows that they will continue to improve how the contests operate and leave a positive legacy for the local community.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing consisted of three separate events. The Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, and the Billabong Pipe Masters at the Banzai Pipeline.

See the detailed summary below of each impact category, including data results and suggested improvements.


ASP Green Guidelines Recommendation: Implement a comprehensive management and diversion strategy to limit waste produced from the production of the event.

Minimum Goal: 25% of total event waste diverted from landfill.

Result: The 2013 VTCS has exceeded the minimum goal for Waste Diversion : 29% of waste diverted from the landfill for all events combined.  (Haleiwa: 23%, Sunset: 31%, Pipeline: 31%)

Waste diversion at the VTCS is a complex issue. The waste footprint is the largest local impact from the event, because the high number of spectators leave behind a significant amount of trash. There are multiple event sites, each with unique challenges. Each site has a different mix of public and contest space, which makes it challenging to capture the waste from spectators. During the contest period, the VTCS is responsible for collecting all trash from spectators on the beach.

The 2013 VTCS used multiple strategies to enhance waste diversion from the three events. Because the City and County of Honolulu does not place separate recycling bins at the event site, the majority of waste diversion happens by post-collection sorting of recyclables from trash. Staff would hand-pick out recyclables from each full bag of trash collected off the beach. Only recyclables with a return value were collected (e.g. aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles). The total weight of trash and recyclables were then weighed before being sent to the landfill or recycling center.  It was not practical to separate food compost from this waste stream.

Vans also donated to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, which is a non-profit that educates the public on reducing their waste and keeping beaches clean. Sustainable Coastlines built and operated several pre-collection waste diversion stations, which had separate receptacles for recycling, compost, and trash.  This increases the waste diversion ratio by making it easy for the public to put their waste in the proper receptacle. It also gives them an opportunity to learn about waste diversion and ocean protection.  Sustainable Coastlines took the food compost to a bokashi compost system at a nearby farm on the North Shore.

The final day of the Pipeline Masters presented a unique challenge because of the extraordinary number of people that attended the event. There were 10,000+ people on the beach to watch the excellent waves and the world title showdown between Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning. A normal contest day would have 1,000 spectators. The trash management from this final day was extraordinarily difficult, and the Vans operation crew worked overtime  to separate the recycling from the trash.  The final day produced 350% more trash than the average day during the Vans Triple Crown, with 240 lbs of recycling, 170 lbs of food compost, and 1,525 lbs of trash, which is nearly one ton of total material processed.

Total waste diversion performance increased over time as the process became more efficient. The Haleiwa event achieved a 23% total of waste diverted from the landfill, while Sunset and Pipeline each achieved 31%. The Pipeline performance would have been higher if not for the very high volume of material on the final day. The first two days of the Pipeline contest achieved a 45% waste diversion ratio.

Other waste diversion efforts included beach cleanups each evening after the contest days by the North Shore Pony Club and the North Shore Christian School. These groups did an excellent job sweeping the beach of any trash after each day of competition.

This video shows the waste diversion bins in action, built by Sustainable Coastlines. The Sustainable Coastlines staff member helped guide spectators to the correct slot for their recycling, trash, and compost. Staffed diversion bins are very helpful to get materials sorted efficiently. Watch full screen because of the vertical formatting of the video.

Suggested improvements:
The VTCS showed strong commitment to divert and measure the waste generated by the event. The level of effort to sort and weigh every single bag of trash deserves strong recognition. It was not an easy task, especially on the final day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters which produced one full ton of waste from spectators. By committing to collecting good waste diversion data, the VTCS has created a baseline for reducing the waste diversion from future events.

Waste diversion performance at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing can be improved by a more comprehensive plan to collect and sort waste. Increasing the number of pre-sort recycling and compost bins on the beach will improve performance and reduce time needed to separate trash from recycling and compost. These bins worked well, and more would help. Also consider setting up a small materials recovery table in a dedicated trash-sorting area — this could greatly increase diversion performance while saving staff time. Vans should also commit to sorting food and serving-ware compost from the trash stream, which constitutes a large percentage of trash from the event, as well as committing to recycle as many materials as possible (such as cardboard and paper) in additional to cans and bottles.

Additional steps to reduce waste include operating water refill stations at the event, so that spectators can fill their own reusable water bottles instead of using single-use bottles. Also reducing the amount of gifts and accessories given to athletes, staff, and spectators would reduce trash, as these items were found in the waste stream.

With all of these improvements, it should be possible to get the waste diversion performance up to at least a 60% diversion ratio, with 90% diversion being the ultimate goal.


ASP Green Guidelines Recommendation: Source significant portion of power from clean, renewable energy sources.

Minimum goal is 25% renewable energy utilization for event’s power needs.

Result: The electrical energy for the three contests were provided by diesel power generators using biodiesel fuel. The fuel was a blend of 60% biodiesel and 40% petroleum diesel, which is called B60 biodiesel. 400 total gallons of fuel were used.

Biodiesel fuel for the contest was provided by Pacific Biodiesel, which is the oldest commercial producer of biodiesel in the USA. They pioneered the process of collecting waste cooking oil from restaurants and turning it into biodiesel fuel, and now are developing new ways to produce biodiesel from food crops with a test farm on the North Shore. The fuel that powered the VTCS was produced from waste cooking oil on Oahu.

Use of biodiesel fuel supports the local Hawaiian economy, reduces air pollution significantly, and is the best way to eliminate the carbon footprint of diesel generators. The use of B60 fuel produces a 50% reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the diesel generators.

Suggested improvements: 
Continue using biodiesel in generators, and increase the percentage of biodiesel. The use of B60 is a good achievement, and it should be possible to get use B80 or B100 with some pre-event coordination with the generator supplier.

The use of locally produced biodiesel is a great story which did not receive enough attention on the webcast and videos, and received only a passing mention in the sustainability video that Vans produced for the 2013 VTCS. The general public and spectators are very appreciative of the use of locally-grown biofuel, and this story is one of the strongest endorsements of the sustainability commitment of the VTCS. Furthermore, the authenticity of the story is strong because Hawaii and Pacific Biodiesel are true leaders and innovators in the biofuel movement, and there is a biofuel research farm on the North Shore not far from the contest sites. The 2014 VTCS should highlight the use of locally produced biodiesel to power the event.


ASP Green Guidelines Recommendation: Support and showcase the efforts of local environmental and social organizations, and include them as stakeholders for possible event legacy efforts.

Minimum Goal: Support at least one NGO working on a local issue relevant to the event.

Result: The 2013 VTCS has exceeded the minimum goal for Community Support by supporting multiple community-focused nonprofit organizations.

    • The VTCS supports North Shore non-profits, schools, charities and foundations. Funds are generated by the charity golf tournament and through sales of VTCS merchandise at each contest. The total financial contribution by the 2013 VTCS is $40,000.
      • The supported organizations are: Friends of Waialua Bandstand, North Shore Chamber of Commerce, Parks and Recreation Volunteer Fund, Surfers Coffee Bar (Surfing The Nations), Surfrider Foundation (Oahu Chapter), Sunset Beach Elementary School, Right on Reader Program, Haleiwa Main Street, Mauli Ola Foundation, Waialua Community Center, North Shore Community Land Trust, Rell Sunn Educational Fund, Waialua High School Surf Team, and the Kahuku High School Surf Team
    • Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii: Vans partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to educate beach-goers on reducing their waste footprint on the ocean, and to operate five pre-sort waste diversion stations on the beach.
    • Surf Credits: Buying a Surf Credit allows traveling surfers to support environmental and social projects operated by accredited local NGOs, in the local communities they visit while traveling. Vans encouraged surfers to buy surf credits during the contest through repeated announcements during the live web broadcast. All funds donated went to the Turtle Bay Foundation, which provides educational, environmental, and cultural opportunities for the North Shore community.
    • Beach cleanup organizations: North Shore Pony Club and the North Shore Christian School

Suggested improvements: 
The overall package of NGO support is very good, since it covers both local social organizations and local environmental organizations, and provides significant financial contributions. This helps give back to the local community that hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, and helps reduce the impact of the contest on the local environment. The total amount of financial support contributed to North Shore organizations is impressive.

The partnership with Surf Credits could be made stronger with increased promotion of the program. Surf Credits provides a way for the webcast audience to donate to supporting sustainability at the VTCS, and feel more connected to the event. However the marketing of the partnership could be improved with more coverage on the webcast and website, and social media engagement.

ASP Green Guidelines Recommendation: Calculate and mitigate the total CO2 footprint of event by purchasing 3rd party certified carbon offset credits (or through direct actions taken at event).

Minimum Goal: 50% of CO2 footprint of event offset or mitigated.

Result: The 2013 VTCS has exceeded the minimum goal for Climate Change  – 100% of CO2 emissions resulting from producing the contest were offset by the use of 3rd party certified carbon offsets. This is considered to be a “carbon neutral” event. The estimated footprint is 467 metric tons CO2e.

Carbon emission data includes:

  • Air travel and airport transit for all invited pro surfers, Media, ASP and Vans staff (89% of total).
  • Biodiesel and petroleum-diesel power generators for the contest generators (2% of total)
  • Emissions related to hospitality for athletes and staff (hotel and food production)(3% of total)
  • Emissions from spectator transportation to the event(5% of total)

Mitigating the event’s CO2 footprint helps reduce direct threats to surfing from climate change/global warming such as: sea level rise, ocean acidification, reduced wave heights and loss of coral reefs globally.

The carbon (CO2) footprint from this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series have been 100% offset by the purchase of high quality, 3rd party certified carbon offsets from the Garcia River sustainable forestry project in California.

Located in redwood country in Northern California, the Garcia River forest and watershed were severely damaged by decades of logging. Now this land is being restored to create a healthy forest ecosystem that provides habitat for salmon and steelhead, spotted owls, mountain lions, beaver, the pacific giant salamander, and the very unusual coastal tailed frog.

This Garcia River sustainable forestry project removes about 80,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually. These tons are verified under the Forest Project Protocol by the Climate Action Reserve. The 2012 verification report makes for interesting reading on how carbon offsets projects are proven to work as a way to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

Suggested improvements: 
The Vans Triple Crown is a carbon neutral event, which includes collecting data to measure the carbon impact and then buying offsets to mitigate the carbon footprint. This means that the event will not contribute to ocean acidification and sea level rise, which is important for protecting the surfing resource that the event depends upon.

The boundaries of carbon emission calculations are very broad. There are few major sporting events that become carbon neutral, and most of these have narrow boundaries. Most commonly, these events calculate only emissions from electricity at the stadium, while a select few measure the emissions from staff and athlete travel. The comprehensive carbon emission boundaries used by the VTCS are in the top 1% of all sporting events.

Communication can be improved regarding why going carbon neutral matters. This step directly supports the health of the world’s living coral reefs and prevents sea level rise, which negatively impacts the waves in Hawaii. We recommend increased visibility about this important issue via the event webcast and website, which would be a very positive improvement.


ASP Green Guidelines Recommendation: Enable shuttle services, source hybrid/alternative energy powered vehicles, and encourage the use of public and alternative transportation for event spectators. Minimum Goal: provide shuttle service to and from event for event staff, and/or encourage and facilitate the use of human powered modes of transport such as biking, skateboarding and walking by local spectators.

Result: The VTCS and Turtle Bay provided shuttle service for staff, media, and athletes housed at the Turtle Bay Resort.

Other than the staff shuttle, the VTCS did not mitigate the transportation impact of the event.  This can be understood, given that the transportation and traffic issues on the North Shore have been a problem for a long time, and are very difficult to solve.  There is limited bus and shuttle service, that is not practical for most spectators.

Suggested improvements: 
Even though public transportation is difficult, it does exist.  Vans should post information on bus and shuttle transportation options on the “Visitor Information” portion of the website. Additionally, since the North Shore is a compact area, bicycle transportation is a viable option for athletes, staff, and spectators that are housed on the North Shore. Vans should encourage bike transportation on its website, and consider providing a secure bicycle parking area or a bicycle valet service.

Ultimately, it may be possible to develop a shuttle service from Haleiwa to Pipeline and Sunset for spectators, particularly on weekends and finals days. This could be done in conjunction with existing public transit services and State agencies that seek to reduce traffic congestion on the North Shore.



The authors on this report are: Michael Stewart and Kevin Whilden of Sustainable Surf, with assistance from Dave Wardlow.