Eco-Friendly School Treads New Water and Surfs the Web

UCSD alumna and Surf eCo founder Torrey Trust never planned to get rich quick. In fact, after graduating with a major in visual arts and media from UCSD three years ago, Trust has yet to pursue a job within in her field of study. Instead, she has dedicated her time to saving the rainforest acre by acre and serving as the go-to girl for all of UCSD’s most surf-stupid students.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily what you learn in the classroom that can make a difference in your future,” Trust said.

While studying at UCSD, Trust worked as the recreation department’s first-ever female surf instructor. During that time, when the surf program was still in its infantile stages, she helped develop both an eight-week lesson plan and the all-female “Wahine” class that still exists today.

Combining her experience at UCSD Recreation with a passion for sustainability, Trust founded Surf eCo in 2007. Based in Encinitas, the school integrates beach clean-ups and environmental lectures into its traditional surf lessons. Most of Trust’s classes outline how students can learn to be more aware of their carbon footprint while going about their daily lives.

At the end of a session, participants receive goodie bags with biodegradable wax, reusable towels made from bamboo and green-tea sunscreen.

“Starting Surf eCo was just my way of raising money and awareness about deforestation,” Trust said. “People can’t imagine that the things they do — like eating a hamburger or throwing away a plastic bag — can have such a negative effect on the environment.”

Trust has taken it upon herself to ensure that eco-friendly practices are incorporated into all aspects of her business. She uses green surfboards, made from bio-foam planks wrapped in a thin layer of squishy, boogie-board-esque foam. She said her own Earth-friendly creativity has inspired her students to be aware of their environmental impact as well.

“After the first week of lessons, everyone showed up with reusable water bottles and Trader Joe’s bags for wetsuits,” Trust said, laughing. “A year later, a mom told me that her son still bugged her to reuse plastic bags.”

Trust credits her father — a fellow surfer and environmental-science teacher for high schoolers — for instilling in her the urgent attention to sustainability. Recently, she said, he managed to raise $10,000 with his class toward preventing tropical deforestation. However, it wasn’t until her own honeymoon in Costa Rica that Trust said she saw for herself what arboreal destruction really looked like.

“Half of the trees had been cut down on over 50 acres [of the Osa Peninsula],” she said.

When she returned to California, inspired by her travels, Trust founded Surf eCo. In its first year, the company was so successful that Trust was able to pay back her startup costs and save approximately 75 acres through donations to the Nature Conservancy (a leading nonprofit organization that protects “ecologically important lands and waters”). According to Trust, most large-sum donors to the Nature Conservancy are over 65 years old — something she has been working to change.

Though it started with quite a bang in 2007, Surf eCo soon met several setbacks. According to Trust, a handful of members from the tight-knit Encinitas surf community have responded negatively to her surf lessons, believing that she intended to teach them at the popular surf break known as Swamis. In actuality, she said, the lessons ran further down the beach, where she has “never seen anyone surf — ever.”

Then, in 2008, without any say from local surf schools, the Encinitas City Council made it illegal for surf lessons to run on the weekends. Within a few weeks, the most profitable surf schools — the same ones who helped fund upkeep with beach-use fees — were the only companies allowed to continue holding weekend lessons. Surf eCo couldn’t compete.

“I believe Surf eCo could have been an example to other surf companies of an environmentally friendly business model that was very successful,” Trust said.

Trust said she still hopes to find an opportunity to teach larger surf companies how to be both profitable and eco-conscious. Even though she can no longer teach lessons in Encinitas, Trust has developed the first online surf school. For a small donation to the Nature Conservancy through her website, clients can view in-depth lesson plans and watch instructional videos.

“I make sure to cover all the little things that most surf classes leave out,” Trust said. “Like rip currents or arching your back as you paddle.”

Sitting in front of your laptop, it may seem like a strange way to learn to surf, but considering there are YouTube instructional videos on everything from hula-hoop dancing to pogo-hopping, Trust said she thinks there might just be a niche.

Readers can contact Gretchen Wegrich at [email protected].

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$0
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$0
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal