Keep your finger on the planet’s pulse. Here are five of the coolest, most inspirational, best-informed people we know of.
1. Cliff Kapono
For Cliff Kapono, a scholar-practitioner from Hawaii’s Big Island, riding waves and studying marine ecosystems are logical counterparts. They’re also both facets of his indigenous heritage – surfing’s been in his family for 90 generations. As a surfer, he counts Vissla, Reef, and Channel Islands among his sponsors; as a scientist, he specialises in molecular bioscience, coral reefs, and ocean conservation. His research takes him from the laboratory to some of the world’s most precarious line-ups and back again, all in pursuit of essentially the same goal: a more harmonious relationship with nature. Basically he spends half his life looking out of very big tubes and the other half looking into very small ones. A good way to divide one’s time.
2. Belinda Baggs
Baggs belongs to a cluster of ultra-stylish Australians who seamlessly blend activism, virtuoso wave-riding ability, and zen-like energy into a righteous ocean-based existence. A longboarder and all-round waterwoman, she was instrumental in the Fight for the Bight campaign, which harnessed a groundswell of popular opposition to Norwegian energy giant Equinor and its plans to develop the Great Australian Bight as a deep-water oil field. These plans were consequently abandoned but the broader struggle goes on, hence Surfers for Climate, the organisation she set up a few years ago.
3. Dave Rastovich & Lauren Hill
Turning the zen energy up a notch, Dave Rastovich is another Australian style guru; his wife Lauren Hill, originally from the States, has become one too. Technically they’re two people but Rasta isn’t on Instagram, so does he really count? (Actually, his Insta-absence is probably a good lesson in itself.) Both are Patagonia ambassadors, and together they host the Water People podcast, which ranges freely across environmentalism, wave-riding in all its forms, the blue economy, permaculture, and the meaning of life. Almost everyone on this list has appeared on it, and other past guests include Easkey Britton, Fergal Smith, even John John Florence! A roll call of legends. Rastovich, who co-founded Surfers for Cetaceans, starred in the brilliant and harrowing documentary The Cove; meanwhile Hill recently directed The Physics of Noseriding, which gets its UK premiere at the London Surf Film Festival next weekend, on Saturday 26th November.
4. Jeremy Jones
He’s a snowboarding legend, a mainstay of the alpine scene for over two decades, eleven-time “Best Big Mountain Rider of the Year” (as voted by readers of Snowboarder Magazine), a National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year”…. The list of accolades and accomplishments goes on. But Jeremy Jones is arguably more radical off the slopes than on them. He noticed as early as 2007 that the winters were getting shorter and that more and more resorts he had typically counted on were closed due to lack of snow. So he founded the brilliant campaign group Protect Our Winters, POW for short, which aims to “help passionate outdoor people protect the places and lifestyles they love from climate change”. And yes, full disclosure, the UK branch is one of our partner charities. Go support them.
5. Leah Thomas
Clearly the responsibility for climate breakdown, and environmental degradation in general, isn’t shared equally by all members of the species. And the consequences aren’t suffered equally either, kind of like an inverse karma. The smaller your carbon footprint, the harder you’re likely to be hit by drought, famine, flooding, and a host of other environmental problems caused or exacerbated by polluters who are relatively sheltered from the effects of their actions. This disparity tends to divide along racial as well as economic and geographic lines. Leah Thomas, an environmentalist based in Los Angeles, is committed to shining a much-needed light on these and other critical points of intersection. She’s the founder of Intersectional Environmentalist, a climate justice collective that aims to “radically imagin[e] a more equitable and diverse future of environmentalism”.