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Ignite Berry 'Riding the wave of Sustainability'

Updated: Jun 1

A massive thanks to all who attended Ignite Berry. For those that couldn't come on the night, here is a written version of the talk. Thanks again for everyone's support

Ignite Berry
Ignite Berry

With an estimated 24 million new surfboards made globally each year, one cannot help but wonder where all these boards end up after they serve their purpose.

Are they collecting dust in the garage? Have they been replaced by a newer model? Have the boards just been thrown away to clear up space?

I have been surfing for about ten years now. And trust me, I use the term surfing loosely as I am a massive Kook.

I had never thought about how the sport I love affected the environment until recently.

Let me tell you how I got here.

To say my work career was set in stone is an understatement. As a 5th generational coal miner, I spent ten years working down a deep dark hole. As we know, COVID-19 made the world go crazy Amidst all that, my wife and I had our first child, and I was made redundant from my job.

What a great time to take it slow, be a father, and of course, surf. 

It wasn’t until I took a casual job in a surf shop that I saw how many new surfboards came wrapped in plastic and ready for the consumer, or even worse, new models that didn't sell just sit on the shelf. It was a real eye-opener.

One rainy day, I was clutching at straws about how to entertain my then 2-year-old daughter. Out of sheer desperation, I pulled out one of my old Surfboards, and together, we painted it, bringing new life to a board that I had stopped surfing.

I couldn’t believe how much her eyes lit up at the idea of painting on a surface she wasn’t supposed to. The bond that we shared that day sparked an idea. Why not bring this to the local community, and why not use old surfboards?

So we decided to clean up some old boards, purchase a stack of paint pens and see how they were received at some local events.

And when I say clean them up, Trust me, the boards I get don’t look like this. They are usually covered in a thick  layer of dust and dirty wax, with some needing to be patched back together.

We found that we gave the children an opportunity to work alongside each other to create beautiful, unique pieces of Art.

The number of times that parents would come up to us and say they didn't even know that their child could draw, let alone sit still and not check their phones for a period of time was incredible.

We found that providing participants with a different kind of blank canvas, something that was relevant to what they are into, made it not as intimidating; this allowed them to drop their guard and be creative.

Soon, people were reaching out, offering to donate their old boards and enquiring about workshops. We are stoked to be able to provide a platform for the community to donate their unwanted surfboards and we have also established relationships with local tips to utilise surfboards that would otherwise be thrown away.

As the momentum grew, we decided to develop a land-based learn-to-surf, which we implement at Early learning centres and primary schools. This involves basic yoga and balance board work. As we are fully aware that not all children paint as long as others.

Since starting, we have been lucky to collaborate with large organisations like Bunnings, Stockland, Peak, and Big Fat Smiles.

We have also run workshops at various music festivals like Byron Bay Blues Fest and Splendour in the Grass and local festivals such as Berrys own, Lazy Mountain Music Festival,  and Kiama’s Changing Tides, and Clearly Music Festival, proving that even adults will stop what they are doing and join in with the creativity after a couple of beers of cause.

At music festivals, we put an additional surfboard backstage for Artists to sign, with the idea of turning landfill into music memorabilia.

These artist-signed boards are then given to the local organisation Waminda, where they add some beautiful artwork around the musician’s signatures. We then raffled off these boards off for Wamnida to raise money for their fantastic initiative.

Now, our most asked question is, what do you do with the painted Boards once you are done? 

For the larger free-flowing events such as Bunnings and music festivals, we raffle the items off for free via a QR code on the day. There is no better feeling than having a young grom frothing that they have won a Surfboard with an epic piece of Art on it, knowing that the board was originally on its way to the tip.

When we run workshops at schools and Early learning centres, we donate the boards to them so they can display the artwork done on the day. This way, the children can show their parents or caregivers the artwork they have created.

After running a handful of events, we decided to try to save 100 surfboards from landfills. Which we did in just over ten months.

So naturally, we wanted to up the ante and aim for 300. Today, we are at 135, with plenty of workshops booked in for the future. We plan to hit 300 sometime next year.

In summary, I am not an eco-warrior. I am a surfer who wanted to give back to the sport that I love, hoping that if each do a small part, we will make a significant change.

Ignite Berry
Ignite Berry

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