50p from app we sell goes towards helping Surfers Agaisnt Sewage protect our oceans.
I guess I started surfing seriously in the late nineties, when I got my first car. I grew up in Truro about 10 miles from the coast, so had always relied on unreliable buses and a friend's parents in Perranporth who let me and a bunch of other groms store all our stuff in their garage.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a pretty blessed time to start surfing. Crowds still weren’t too bad – I remember plenty of days turning up at Perran Sands to perfect, empty peaks.
What I also didn’t know at the time was that a small group of activists had been working hard for years to make my experience of the ocean a better one. Having formed in 1990, Surfers Against Sewage had already made a significant difference to the water quality at my local beaches by the time I started skipping classes to hit the surf.
Back then I knew them pretty much exclusively for holding the best party of the year every September on St Agnes Beacon. But they'd also single-handedly made the water at the majority of Cornish beaches safe for bathing and surfing through their regular campaigns and petitions to local water authorities.
I've got lots of memories of days like this from my younger days in Cornwall. Thanks to SAS, not so many of marine pollution or stomach bugs.
The charity’s effect hasn’t just been felt in Cornwall either. I now live in Wales, a stone’s throw from Langland Bay. Speak to the older group of locals here and most have stories about resurfacing from duck dives with all manner of unsavoury items tangled up in their mullets. In the 80's it was pretty much accepted that if you wanted to surf in a storm swell, you’d pay the price with a stomach bug for the next couple of days.
The fact that I’ve been lucky enough to surf the last 20 years without any of these complaints is testament to the great work SAS have done.
I’ve heard some people saying that they don’t see the need for SAS any longer – surely if all Cornwall’s beaches are now blue flagged then their work is done?
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The levels of marine litter (especially plastic) in our oceans are staggering. Floating in every square mile of ocean there are an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic, which kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million sea birds every year.
Thousands of toxic chemicals used in household products flood from our sinks into the ocean every day – some with serious effects to marine life and our own health. Shipping companies continue to put the environment at risk by registering in countries where penalties for oil spills are minimal. Tycoons like Donald Trump still think it’s acceptable to build sea walls that destroy marine environments. (Luckily plans for this wall at least have now been scrapped)
As far as I can see, SAS are the best placed organisation to make a difference and orchestrate change in the way we care for our oceans. Their campaigns are powerful and effective – from the current #messageinabottle campaign that encourages us to write a letter to our local MP, to their regular beach cleans which involve over 20,000 volunteers a year. The improvements SAS have helped make to the quality of our water are staggering for such an underfunded organisation. We need them more than ever.
SAS Campaigns like #breakfreefromplastic are helping create a future where sights like this are a thing of the past
Imagine how great it would be if the idea of oils spills or beaches littered with plastic were as alien to future generations of surfers as the stories of condoms in the line-up or regular stomach bugs are to me.
I believe SAS are the organisation to make this happen.
I’ve talked before about why we have to charge for our app, but once we made that decision, I knew I wanted to donate some of our profits to a charity we believed in. So from every app we sell we’re donating 50p to SAS. I think it’s the wisest investment we can make. Our business revolves around the ocean, and we need to do what we can to make sure we still have an ocean to play in.
Donate to SAS
There are loads of ways you can donate to SAS:
Become a member. Loads of different options, ranging from £4 a month. If you're a business owner and a surfer, becoming part of the £250 club could be the best investment you make all year. More info here.
Buy their stuff. All profits from sales of SAS merchandise go into supporting their cause. More info here.
Get involved. Organise a beach clean, volunteer your time at someone else's. Sign their petitions. Write a letter to your local MP. There are loads of ways you can help SAS by taking action. More info here.
Johnny on the Spot is the Surfer's personal, private diary. You can download it from the App Store here, or from the Google Play Store here.