World Oceans Day Reminds Us We’re All Plastic Addicts – The depressing irony of being a plastic-coated surfer

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The U.N. has made plastic pollution awareness the focus of World Oceans Day. With good reason. Photo: Childs

Hug your ocean extra tight today—it’s World Oceans Day! A United Nations-recognized, uh, holiday? Day of recognition? Celebration? Anyway, World Oceans Day has been around since 1992, and the environmental arm of the U.N. made it an official thing in 2008. It’s a day for reflecting on all the wonderful things the ocean does for all our lives, and the lives of non-surfers all over the planet.

It’s also a day for wringing our hands in worry over the mindbending challenges the ocean faces from ruinous environmental degradation.

This year the U.N. has chosen plastic pollution as the nefarious bit of human-caused damage to bring to the world’s attention. The tragedies of a plastic-filled ocean are more apparent with each new study. It’s not just that plastic garbage lining the beach is unsightly, nor that the occasional sea turtle gets caught in a plastic net. The real problem is that once plastic makes it into the ocean it’s in there for thousands of years, breaking down into microparticles that find their way into the systems of pretty much every single animal living in the sea.

You eat seafood? You’re eating plastic. You’re also eating the petrochemical toxins that plastic was made from, and all the toxins those oceangoing plastics have absorbed, which they do, like little plastic sponges.

What looks like a picture-perfect Icelandic point from afar is actually littered with plastic upon closer inspection. The next closest coast is Greenland, which highlights how far this garbage must have traveled to get here. Photo: Nunn

What looks like a picture-perfect Icelandic point from afar is actually littered with plastic upon closer inspection. The next closest coast is Greenland, which highlights how far this garbage must have traveled to get here. Photo: Nunn

This unpleasantness about plastic pollution makes going for a surf as a way to celebrate World Oceans Day a hypocritical act indeed — pretty much every bit of surf gear you own is made from, or with, a whole mess of plastic.

Wetsuit? Neoprene is a kind of plastic. Surfboard? Fiberglass is a plastic. Polyurethane is a plastic. Epoxy is a plastic. Most of your leash is plastic. Your leash string is plastic. Tailpads are plastic. Your fin boxes are plastic. Surf in trunks, you say? Your nylon, polyester boardshorts are plastic. Plastic, plastic, plastic, we’re all walking human/plastic hybrids.

Ah, the irony. The depressing, depressing irony, of being a plastic-coated surfer on World Oceans Day.

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