I am a free surfer. From an early age, I tried many sports, but the ocean was always calling me. I was raised in Puerto Rico, were I started representing my country in world competitions. To find out that competing was not my passion, But chasing world-class waves & new destinations became my devotion, this is when I left competitive surfing to travel the world in search of perfect waves. With a committed approach I had the fortune to earn a stack of magazine covers, and continue to produce valuable editorial content. Also as co-founder of Granito de Arena, a surf and environmental organization that works with youth in low-income coastal communities. We are dedicated to teaching kids how to reduce and reuse plastic in a positive way, We get their attention through teaching them to surf, then educate them about how plastic is affecting their playground, the ocean.
What inspired you to start “Granito de Arena”?
When approached by my friend Andres Fernandez with the idea of challenging the on going plastic problem that we face day to day, I was in. He said something that rung my bell:“Instead of leaving a better world for our kids why don’t we leave better kids for our world”. That inspired me to take action and do my part.
Why did you chose to target youth for your program?
It is evident that educating the youth is part of the answer and what better way to show them respect for the ocean then by teaching them how to surf. This opens their eyes to discover that the ocean is the biggest playground in the world at the same time we are influencing them to protect what is theirs to enjoy.
You have been surfing for a while, does this problem seem to be getting worse?
I see it every day, everywhere I go, no matter if it’s a first or third world country. Plastic is all over, It ends up even in the most protected places in the world.
Is this a local or a global issue?
It is a Global issue indeed. This becomes everybody’s problem when someone throws plastic unaware of were it would end up. Usually it ends in the ocean and further more in places where it will deplete natural resources.
Are there any specific products we can avoid to help the issue?
Yes there is much we can do, stop drinking plastic bottled water. First of all they are not good for you, they leach toxic chemicals to the water you are drinking. Fact : Americans used 50 billion water bottles last year. The US recycling rate is only 23 %, which means 38 billion water bottles = 1 billion worth of plastic are wasted each year. Buy a water filter, get a reusable water bottle and save money.
Do you have any plans to expand your program?
I would like to learn about more ways to deal with this ongoing issue and look forward to collaborate with like-minded organizations & companies to help spread the word to make a difference.
Are there any programs similar to yours that you know of?
There are, but many focus on different things to create awareness for the same cause. Through surfing I think we can channel the energy in something that we are passionate about creating a connection with nature and fosters the sense of stewardship.
What can the average person do to help the issue?
Just think before you use plastic. One thing we can all do is use reusable bags when grocery shopping or shopping in general. Support your local farmers market, it makes a world of difference when you are part of your community.