Surfer Kai Lenny on the World Surf League’s New Ocean Conservation and Environmental Initiatives

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With oceans around the world acting as the playing field for its surfers, the World Surf League (WSL) has a connection to the environment that most sports leagues don’t have. That’s one of the main reasons why the WSL has announced a slate of new initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, promoting sustainability, and helping with ocean conservation.

The new campaign for the WSL includes working to become carbon neutral by the end of 2019; to eliminate all single-serve plastics from WSL owned-and-operated events by the end of 2019; and working to leave each site of the WSJ Championship Tour in better shape than it was found.

As part of the initiative, the WSL’s non-profit arm, WSL PURE (Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment), is hosting a global paddle out on June 15 in honor of International Surfing Day to help raise more awareness of those environmental issues. The WSL is also asking pro surfers and others in the global surf community to make a pledge to #StopTrashingWaves and promote awareness to help keep the ocean clean.

WSL surfer and former SUP Race World Champion Kai Lenny was excited to see the initiative that the league is taking, and while he was in New York City this summer, he spoke with Men’s Journal about the campaign and ways that surfers—and everyone else—can get involved.

(Stay tuned for more from Lenny coming this summer, including his favorite places to surf, insight about his training, and his stories of surfing massive 80-foot waves.)

Men’s Journal: As a surfer, what does it mean to you to be environmentally aware and help protect the oceans?

Kai Lenny: I think as surfers and people who enjoy the water in general, it feels like a responsibility to be stewards of the ocean and mother nature, mainly because we’re interacting with it on such a personal level. I think society oftentimes makes us very removed from nature in general, but when I’m at home and I step off and go into the water, it’s like removing myself from that bubble, and I’m in that ecosystem all of a sudden. So my interaction with pollution plastic, climate change, it’s all very evident right in front of me. So to have people who want to make a difference like the World Surf League, which is a big organization within surfing, it’s really cool they’re focused on initiatives that help the oceans and the environment.