World’s top Surfers, Scientists and Environmentalists tackle the toughest ocean problems at 5th Global Wave Conference

Santa Cruz, Calif., March 22, 2018. For three days in the heart of Santa Cruz, CA, Save The Waves Coalition and the Surfrider Foundation hosted the unforgettable 5th Global Wave Conference, bringing together the best international minds from the surfing, conservation, and innovation communities in an inspiring call to tackle the world’s most challenging ocean issues.

“The Global Wave Conference was the world’s largest gathering of surf and conservation organizations,” said Surfrider CEO Dr. Chad Nelsen. “Given today’s scale of threats to our coasts and waves there could not have been a more important time to come together and protect what we love.”

The conference united experts and leaders from more than 14 different countries with over 70 speakers, arriving from over 100 different organizations to form an audience of over 300 surfers, scientists, and activists. Attendees left the conference with a stronger, more solidified connection among the surfing and environmental communities after sharing their challenges, successes and lessons learned in the field of conservation.

Motivating and enlightening, the keynotes included Conservation International CEO, M. Sanjayan; World Surfing Champion, Shaun Tomson; Social Media Guru Guy Kawasaki; Imperial Beach Mayor and Wildcoast CEO Serge Dedina; Patagonia Ambassador Liz Clark; acclaimed IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivray; NY Times bestseller Dr. Wallace J Nichols; and Big Wave Champion Greg Long. The week finished in a memorable paddle out with the entire conference, led by legendary Santa Cruz shaper Bob Pearson with replica redwood shapes of ancient Hawaiian boards and a powerful native Hawaiian tribute by surfer-scientist Cliff Kapono.

“Whether it’s people from the surf industry who are conservation-minded, or the conservation community who happen to be surfers, the ocean’s problems are bigger than any of those groups, so we have to come together to achieve any change,” said Nik Strong-Cvetich, Executive Director of Save The Waves Coalition.


The conference’s three themes of Land to Sea Connection, Surf + Protected Areas, and Climate Change and Innovation, gave birth to the following tangible outcomes:

  • Declaration by leading surf brands to reduce plastic packaging waste
  • Release of 5 Gyres BAN List 2.0
  • New collaborative paper for the IUCN launched on legal tools for protected surfing areas
  • New App mobilizing surfers to gather data on coastal issues unveiled
  • New Surfing Protected Areas established in Chile, Malibu and Point Conception, CA
  • Activist toolkit for surfers and scientists launched by Patagonia
  • New International Association of Surf Academics formed
  • Stoke sustainability certification for the conference achieved

The Global Wave Conference will be heading to the surfing mecca of Gold Coast, Australia for the 6th iteration of the conference in 2020. For more information, go to

Many thanks to our 2018 sponsors:

The Global Wave Conference is supported by: Dream Inn, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ugg, Patagonia, Resources Legacy Fund, Verve Coffee, Don Q Rum, Danny Kwock Family Foundation on behalf of SALT. Optics, Ocean Foundation, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Clif Bar Co., Klean Kanteen, Finisterre, Whova, Parley for the Oceans, Santa Cruz Waves, Avion Tequila, NOAA, and WSL PURE.


Save The Waves Coalition protect and preserve the coastal environment with a focus on the surf zone, through a unique combination of protected areas, economics, and direct action.

The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

Video by Treehouse Visual

Photos by Nikki Brooks