Re-post from The Beach Reporter – “Riding the waves of life: Big-wave rider Greg Long”
Big-wave surf star Greg Long had an epiphany when he nearly lost his life in a surfing accident two years ago at Cortes Bank near the Channel Islands off the coast of California. That experience “turned his life upside down and inside out.”
“I came back with a renewed sense of perspective—what’s really important and what I feel my purpose is here as I move forward in my professional surfing career and where I direct my main focus … (I want to) branch out to other things that inspire me and fulfill me,” Long said.
Long was always environmentally conscious, but the accident gave him more focus on those issues. Long will talk about protecting the oceans, other environmental issues, as well as his “adventures and misadventures” as one of the world’s big-wave surf icons Thursday, Sept. 25, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Hermosa Community Theater.
The event is presented by Sustainable Surf, a Manhattan Beach and San Francisco-based non-profit that was launched to address environmental issues that threaten “surf habitats” and the ocean. One focus is the “Waste to Waves” recycling program. While polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is nontoxic when it breaks down, it takes hundreds of years for that to occur. The foam collected by the company is used as part of Sustainable Surf’s efforts to turn that waste into surfboards and other products, limiting the environmental impact of the polystyrene foam as well as CO2 emissions.
Sustainable Surf started the ECOBOARD Project, which created a way for surfers to choose more eco-friendly surfboards by developing a label that designates those surfboards that are created using recycled polystyrene foam or plant-based resin. They also founded Deep Blue Surfing Events, an effort to cleanup global surfing events by targeting five areas of environmental impact including carbon missions, energy consumption and waste production.
“Greg is an inspiration to anyone who loves surfing and wants to live a healthy, ocean-friendly lifestyle,” said Sustainable Surf co-founder Kevin Whilden, who is also a Manhattan Beach resident. “We are very happy that Greg is an ambassador for Sustainable Surf and our Deep Blue Life program.”
Long has become an athlete ambassador for Sustainable Surf because of the “direct connection to the surfing world and the surfing culture that they are creating.”
“It’s an amazing place where we can be that catalyst for change,” said Long about using his notoriety. “We’re adopting this mindset to inspire others who want to partake in that fun, active, beach culture lifestyle to do exactly the same so it can transcend well beyond our surfing world. But it starts with us and simple acts in our everyday lives, which are easy … that can have a significant impact in creating that change that we need to see.”
Long will also discuss his big-wave surfing explorations that have taught “most of my life lessons,” as well as “reflect on my purpose here as a surfer and steward of the ocean.”
Long grew up in San Clemente with his brother Rusty who is also a surfer. Their father was a lifeguard supervisor for San Clemente State beaches and instilled in them the “importance of protecting and preserving” nature for future generations. He said he tackled big-wave surfing as a “personal challenge” to overcome fear.
“It’s the physical and mental challenge of trying to overcome the fear that I’m regularly exposed to when I’m out there in the ocean at its wildest state and out of a familiar element, out of my comfort zone,” Long said. “So the fear is a huge driving factor and the mental challenge of learning to understand my thoughts and turn it into something constructive as opposed to having negative connotations as so many people seem to do when something invokes fear in them. The physical side of it is the most exhilarating sensation when you’re actually able to harmonize your energies with that of these massive ocean swells and ride one of these waves.”
Long went on to great fame, being the only surfer to win the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational, the Maverick’s Surf Contest and the Red Bull Big Wave Africa events in the same year, defeating the likes of Kelly Slater and more of the world’s best.
After the wipeout at Cortes Bank in December 2012, it took about three weeks to return to big waves for the Maverick’s competition, where he finished third.
“It was one of the more difficult things I have ever done,” recalled Long. “(I was) experiencing the ocean from this place of gut-wrenching fear that I had never experienced before in my life and learning to embrace those feelings and move beyond them and be comfortable with the fact that my life had changed significantly. (I was) accepting that change and fully facing it and doing great things with it.”
Long is expected to return to competition in October for the Big Wave World Tour that will take him to Mexico, Spain and Maui. At 30 years old, Long has advice for the next generation of surfers who might follow in his footsteps.
“Never lose sight of how lucky and fortunate you are to be able to partake in such an amazing sport and the good fortune we have,” Long said. “That’s the purpose of going out there in the first place, is to have fun and to appreciate where you’re at.”
The Hermosa Community Theater is located at 710 Pier Ave. A reception will take place at 7 p.m. with the lecture beginning at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or online at sustainablesurf.org.