Vegan surfers, it seems, are taking over the world. Well, the World Tour... kinda.
Brigitte Bardot, for all her efforts, could only take it so far. Peak vegan chic required ubiquitous on demand digital programming, and more specifically, Netflix to have the agency for tapping into, or perhaps in part setting, the zeitgeist.
We are of course, talking about Cowspiracy and What The Health, two recent documentaries that have perhaps launched more aversions to eating animals and drinking their milk than anything in history.
"While freesurfing and herbivorous diets have long seemed like ideological bedfellows, for competitive Tour, ahem, animals - not so much"
What does all this have to do with surfing? Plenty. Surfers of note and (insert your own adjective here: healthy/fad/counter culture/etc) diets are nothing new, of course. Woody Brown, legendary surfer, inventor of the Hobie Cat and lifelong vegetarian proclaimed “I’d rather eat life” and surfed well into his 90’s.
1969 World Champ Nat Young championed the Country Soul movement, while a generation of lithe, long haired leaders of the single fin era munched macrobiotic. Aussie tube guru Jim Banks shunned carcass in a quest for tube time and enlightenment, finding both in abundance.
Whether or not you’re buying into all, some or none of the claims made by recent studies into the nutritional benefits of shunning flesh, the eco-credentials of a plant based diet are much closer to achieving scientific consensus, if such a thing exists.
A wholly plant-based diet reduces our ecological footprint, and then some. In fact, enough carbon offset to, say, pursue a career flying around the world chasing swells and Tour points. And so while freesurfing and herbivorous diets have long seemed, ideologically, like bedfellows, for competitive Tour, ahem, animals - not so much.
Well let’s hear from a few of them.
Remember the cereal scene from ‘Kelly Slater In Black & White’? Well that was a long, long time ago. “I haven’t had milk for 20 years now” said Kelly recently in a video Q&A. The GoAT continued: “I’m actually working my way in that direction (going vegan)… I was brought up lots of meat and dairy, and the more I research it... I was aware of the pollution it causes and environmental problems, but health-wise, just for your own health, it’s much better just to eat live foods, whole foods, plant based foods. I hope to be vegan one day.”
“I hope to be vegan one day...” - Kelly Slater
John John Florence
Cestari / WSL
“I’ve become increasingly aware of food and its effects on the human body. All signs point to the idea that a plant-based diet is far superior to that of high animal-product intake” said the now two time World Champion in 2017. According to his post-heat interview at Trestles during that successful World Title defence season last year, John had gone vegan as part of his preparation. Whether or not he continued isn’t currently a matter of public record, but like Kelly, the two-time world champ is certainly showing the intent.
"It would appear few topics are as incendiary in terms of provoking a barrage of comments as public figures declaring an aversion to eating body parts"
Jack Freestone & Alana Blanchard
2017’s Men’s world number 30 and former women’s CT surfer Alana Blanchard, recent parents to Banks Harvey Freestone have both gone on record advocating flesh-less feasting. And sure, it might be more practical and almost certainly more yummy to be plant based on the tropic idyll of Kauai, than somewhere considerably colder, gray-er and more like to induce mid winter comfort-food yearnings, Alana cites compassion as one of her motivations. “One of the reasons I am vegan is because I love animals so much and could never even imagine hurting one” she said via social media, which is almost retro in terms of reasons for not eating animals in today’s nutrition fixated food scene.
Blanco. current no.75 on the Women’s QS is perhaps the highest profile vegan on any of the WSL Tours, and advocates a plant based diet through social channels and even her own YouTube cooking show. Being regularly and tirelessly outspoken on the topic itself is no mean feat, something that requires, if you’ll pardon the expression, a reasonably thick hide. It would appear few topics incendiary in terms of provoking a barrage of comments as public figures declaring an aversion to eating body parts. Blanco appears blissfully unphased, is surfing better than ever and progressing towards her goal of CT qualification. She told Teen Vogue last year, “I feel really great eating a plant based diet and love the way it makes me feel physically and mentally… The most impactful thing you can do for the environment is to eat less meat and more veggies.”
"The reef at Cloudbreak probably isn’t in the crosshairs of the meat, egg and dairy lobby as a known agitator for veganism, but in 2014 it, indirectly, became a cause"
Nikki van Dijk
Poullenot / WSL
The reef at Cloudbreak probably isn’t in the crosshairs of the meat, egg and dairy lobby as a known agitator for veganism, but in 2014 it, indirectly at least, became a cause. After hitting the bottom during her heat with Bianca Buitendag in the Fiji Pro that year and receiving 16 stitches in her face, the Aussie regularfoot adopted a vegan diet cleanse to kickstart the healing process. She told the Weekly Review “After that I thought, ‘Hang on, I do not need anything in my body that doesn’t need to be there… Since that day I’ve never looked back. I have never felt better.'"