Vans Triple Crown of Surfing 2014 – Sustainability Report

The 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is designated as a  Deep Blue Surfing Event™.

A 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. This sustainability report is a transparent description of the sustainability performance of the event, and includes measured data, photos and videos, and suggestions for improvement. It is based on the international standard for sustainable event reporting – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

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.

Sustainability Performance Summary

  1. Waste Diversion:  60% of waste diverted from landfill (25% minimum)
  2. Renewable Energy: Contest powered by 80% renewable biodiesel fuel (25% minimum)
  3. Climate Change: 100% of CO2 footprint mitigated  (50% minimum)
  4. Community Support: Supported multiple local non-profit organizations with $72,800 in donations (exceeded minimum)
  5. Transportation: Provided and promoted alternative transportation for athletes, staff, and spectators (exceeded minimum)

* The 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS) has exceeded the minimum requirements in all five categories of a Deep Blue Surfing Event.

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.


Detailed summary of each sustainability impact category:

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 2014 VTCS has exceeded the minimum goal for Waste Diversion : 60% of waste diverted from the landfill for all events combined.  (Haleiwa: 61%, Sunset: 61%, Pipeline: 59%)

Waste diversion at the VTCS is a complex issue. The waste footprint is the largest local impact from the event, because of the high number of spectators that 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.

By achieving a 61% waste diversion ratio, 2014 VTCS has significantly improved waste diversion performance compared to the 2013 VTCS, which achieved a 29% waste diversion ratio. Multiple strategies were used to improve performance in 2014.

Vans hired Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to provide a comprehensive waste diversion strategy for the event. Having a full-time crew during contest days kept the beaches very clean and minimized trash and waste from those days.

For the 2014 VTCS, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii managed waste diversion stations in the public areas of each contest, and in the private VIP/athlete areas. These stations had separate bins for recycling, compost, and trash. The bins were covered by a tent structure that unified the look and feel of the waste diversion.

The waste diversion tents are designed to change the “psychological dynamics” of how a person engages with discarding their waste. The tents do not look like a normal waste bin, so a person has to think just slightly more to discard their waste. The hope is that the person will take a moment to separate their waste into recycling, compost, and trash.

The waste diversion tent concept worked well in practice. People used the tents and contamination rates between bins was lower than normal. There was still some contamination, so SCH workers would periodically reach into the bins to make a correction.

As each bin became full, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii would move the bag of material to a staging area where it would get one last sort to remove incorrect materials. At the end of the day, SCH would weigh each bag of material and record the data. Compost was taken to Waihuena Farm, recyclables were recycled, and trash was sent to the landfill.

Food waste collected at the event was taken to Waihuena Farm, which is directly across the street from Pipeline. The food waste is composted using a bokashi system by Each One Teach One Farms, which accelerates the composting process and can handle meat as well as vegetables.

The Vans Triple Crown 2014 was catered by Ke Nui Kitchen, which sources local, high quality fresh ingredients. Ke Nui Kitchen also made sure that 100% of the food was GMO-free. All plates and utensils were made from compostable material, and shredded on the farm to speed up composting.

This year, Flow Water provided water refilling stations for water bottles. This eliminated the need for single-use water bottles and drinks, and significantly reduced the amount of waste from the event. In prior years, an official drink sponsor produced a large number of single-use drink bottles. Even though these bottles were recycled, it increased the overall waste diversion burden by around 100 lbs per day.

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.

The final waste diversion report from Sustainable Coastlines has more detailed information and photographs.

Suggested improvements:
The VTCS showed strong commitment to divert and measure the waste generated by the event, and improve on performance over the prior year. All staff from the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing showed dedication and passion to reduce the waste footprint of the event. In particular, hiring a dedicated waste diversion staff essentially doubled the waste diversion success ratio vs. 2013, as recommended in the 2013 VTCS Sustainability Report.

There are a number of lessons learned from the 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. These can improve waste diversion performance for future events.

Along the Kamehameha Highway, there are many food trucks to provide means to the public. These trucks are often adjacent to contest areas and are popular during contest days. Most of these trucks do not use compostable plates and serving ware, so these materials need to be removed from the food compost stream by hand, which is difficult. The Vans Triple Crown and the local community should work to educate these caterers to use compostable products.

Tourism is popular on the North Shore, and tourist buses regularly stop and deposit a large number of people to visit the contests for an hour or so. Observation shows that these tourists throw away a large amount of trash at the contest, and seem to pay less attention to putting their waste into the proper receptacle. We recommend that improved signage is placed at a special waste diversion station located strategically close to the tourist bus stop. Also, this station could be staffed with a live person, and is a good education opportunity for the general public.

To-date, waste diversion efforts at the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing have been active only on contest days, and all data collection and reporting pertains only to contest days. No waste diversion staff or systems were in place on non-contest days during the waiting period. It is clear that a significant amount of waste is generated during non-contest days at the event sites, because every day has at least a morning show and therefore staff and athletes are present. A strategy needs to be developed to manage and measure this waste effectively.

Each event has significant infrastructure and scaffolding, which takes many days to set up and tear down. These setup days are outside the waiting period for the event. The workers who manage the setup also generate significant waste, and in particular are provided water by single-use plastic water bottles. The Triple Crown should develop a strategy for managing waste during setup days, and provide refillable water stations for workers.

Each event has a store to sell t-shirts and other merchandise to the general public. These items are wrapped in often wrapped in plastic bags. If possible, the plastic should be eliminated, or removed prior to being sold to the general public.

On significant contest days like the final day at Pipeline, many vendors and marketers show up that are not directly associated with the Triple Crown. These groups hand out schwag and marketing materials that quickly become waste. For example, one group handed out tiny single-use plastic water bottles to people on the beach. They stopped the practice after being asked, but there could be some kind of greater educational effort by the Triple Crown to prevent this from occurring in the future.


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 80% biodiesel and 20% petroleum diesel, which is called B80 biodiesel. 600 total gallons of fuel were used.

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 B80 fuel produces a 64% reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the diesel generators.

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. Recently, Pacific Biodiesel built the most advanced biodiesel processing plant in the USA on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The fuel that powered the VTCS was produced from waste cooking oil on Hawaii. The Restaurants for Renewables program collects waste cooking oil from hundreds of restaurants all over Hawaii.  The Vans sustainability video shows Dane Gudauskas helping with the process collecting waste cooking oil from Turtle Bay Resort. This oil is then shipped to the Big Island, where it is processed into biodiesel. The finished fuel is then used to power cars, trucks, and buses, and is available from public pumps throughout Hawaii.

Suggested improvements: 

Continue using biodiesel in generators, and increase the percentage of biodiesel. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing improved performance, from B60 in 2013, to B80 in 2014. It may be possible to get to B100 with some pre-event coordination with the generator supplier.

In 2014, the VTCS communicated the story of locally produced biodiesel through the sustainability video they produced. Pro surfer, Dane Gudauskas, visited the biodiesel facilities of Pacific Biodiesel and explained the process to the public. This was a job well done.

For future events, we recommend that the VTCS develop public signage that can communicate the use of biodiesel to spectators at the events.  As shown in the photos, the generators are in full public view, and this story could be told with a simple sign. 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.


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: Provide financial and/or outreach support for at least three NGOs and charities working on local issues relevant to the event.

Result: The 2014 VTCS has exceeded the minimum goal for Community Support by supporting multiple community-focused organizations with $72,800 in donations and in-kind support.

The VTCS supports North Shore non-profits, schools, charities and organizations. Funds are generated by the charity golf tournament and through sales of VTCS merchandise at each contest.

The supported organizations are: The Surfrider Foundation, North Shore Community Land Trust, Maui Ola Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, Sunset Beach Elementary School, Sunset Beach Right On Readers Program, Department of Parks & Recreation, and the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

The VTCS also supported the restoration of public bathrooms with significant cash. This includes the Ali’i Beach bathroom at Haleiwa, and the Ehukai Beach bathroom at Pipeline.

The VTCS and the ASP developed a unique charitable concept by purchasing nice beach cruiser bicycles for the Top 16 surfers that also served the purpose of raising funds for the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT). VTCS/ASP gave the bikes to NSCLT at the beginning of the Triple Crown. The NSCLT auctioned them off to winners who presented the bikes to the athletes, who used them to offset car use during the VTCS. At the conclusion of the competition, the bikes were returned to the winning bidders to stay within the community.

Beach cleanup organizations supported included the North Shore Pony Club and the North Shore Christian School. These organizations did a beach cleanup after each contest day. The VTCS also organized a beach cleanup at Kaena Point.

In November, the VTCS hosted a Sustainability Summit dinner on Kohl Christensen’s farm. This allowed local leaders of sustainability on the North Shore and surf industry leaders to discuss key event sustainability issues as they apply not only to the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, but to other famous surf event locations around the world.

The Association of Surfing Professionals also provided charitable support to the Hawaiian community. This included supporting Waves for Water to provide access to clean water for disadvantaged families on Hawaii. The ASP also paid for a Big Wave Safety Summit to help local surfers improve safety in big wave conditions. More than 80 pro surfers and big wave riders attended this summit free of charge.

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.


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 2014 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. The estimated footprint is  454 metric tons CO2e.

Carbon emission data includes:

  • Air travel and airport transit for all invited pro surfers, Media, ASP and Vans staff (86% of total).
  • Biodiesel and petroleum-diesel power generators for the contest generators (6% 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 the 2014 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing has been 100% offset by the purchase of high quality, 3rd party certified carbon offsets from the Rimba Riya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo, Indonesia.

The Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve conserves tropical peat swamp forest, which is one of the world’s most biodiverse habitats, and is excellent orangutang habitat. These forests are great carbon sinks, but they are now being slashed, burned and converted to palm oil plantations at an alarming rate — thus creating large carbon emissions while destroying pristine habitat.

The Rimba Raya project protects pristine rainforest while providing jobs, clean water, and health services to the local indigenous community. The carbon offsets purchased by Vans and others provides the capital to develop the project, which is designed to produce sustainable sources of income that don’t depend on carbon credits in the future. For more info, please see a detailed interview with the project’s founders, and a PDF document describing the project.

Suggested improvements: 
The Vans US Open of Surfing purchased carbon offsets for 100% of measured emissions, and uses broad boundaries that include air travel and spectator travel. The offset project chosen is a high quality, 3rd-party verified project. Overall, this is a job well done.The VTCS significantly improved communication on the need to offset carbon emissions. The sustainability video produced for the event provided great educational content on the threats to oceans and surfing from CO2 emissions. This story should be told at future events as well, and find additional ways to show how all sustainability efforts at the event protect the future of surfing itself.


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 and promote alternative transportation options for staff, athletes, and spectators, where applicable.

Result: The VTCS and Turtle Bay provided shuttle service for the public, staff and athletes housed at the Turtle Bay Resort. The VTCS website provided public transportation information to spectators on the “spectator tips” web page.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing did an excellent job of promoting and providing alternative transportation. This included working with Turtle Bay Resort to create a shuttle for spectators and staff. The VTCS posted public bus transportation information on the “spectator tips” website.

The VTCS also purchased sixteen cruiser bicycles that were given to the top-16 WCT surfers to use for commuting during the Triple Crown. At the conclusion of the contests, these bikes were given to the North Shore Community Land Trust, and auctioned off to raise money for their programs. These surfers were seen riding their bikes on the local bike path, which helps raise awareness and attention to the option of bicycle commuting.

Suggested improvements: 
As recommended in the 2013 report, the VTCS posted information on all public transportation options and encouraged bike use by athletes and staff.

Traffic and parking for the public is still a major problem for spectators and residents. Ultimately, it may be possible to develop a dedicated 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: Kevin Whilden and Michael Stewart of Sustainable Surf.