Words by Laurel Eastman
Outdoor sports as an industry faces many dangers due to climate change. The ski industry has been a vocal advocate for climate action for years, and now that we see climate change happening before our very eyes, it’s time for the watersports industry to officially get in the game. Many of us are already experiencing the effects of climate change on our kiteboarding spots and businesses. I’ll never forget waking up to the news that the pounding waves from Hurricane Maria had broken the door to the equipment room at my kiteboarding school in the Dominican Republic. Thankfully, a neighbor heroically braved the rough conditions, covered the hole in the wooden door with a heavy piece of beach furniture, and luckily, tens of thousands of dollars worth of kite gear was not washed into the sea.
When I think about kite schools in Hood River, Oregon and their short summer teaching seasons too often plagued with smoke from fires and poor air quality, I know this affects their visitor numbers and annual revenue. From domestic kiteboarding paradises like the Outer Banks in North Carolina to far-flung dream kite holiday destinations on South Pacific islands, many of the places we love to travel to are facing a very real future of literally being underwater. Another consequence of climate change that we’re not talking about in the action sports industry is the threat to public health. When people are unhealthy, they’re not showing up to participate in sports like kiteboarding. And then there’s the biggest question mark of all—will rising planetary temperatures kill our global wind patterns? Just as it has begun to impact the ski industry with warmer temperatures and lower snowfalls, will the natural basis to practice our sport be gone? The wind is generated largely by the temperature differentials between the sea and air, and when that balance changes, it’s possible that our wind patterns may no longer be reliable. Our sport connects us deeply with nature. We rely on clean water, clean air and a delicate balance of temperature to bring us wind. Personally, I prefer a future where conditions still exist for us to kite and snowkite, and that’s why it’s time to start talking about climate change, and as a kiteboarding industry, to take action.
Brands including Ozone, Airush, Cabrinha and Duotone are already thinking about ways to address climate change as companies. They have started reducing their carbon footprint by investing in solar manufacturing facilities, carbon-neutral products, postconsumer polyester kite bags and have begun implementing new and creative ways to pack and ship without plastic packaging. Similarly, small operators like Exoitkite, Sensi Swim and Adrenajen Clinics are also taking steps to address climate change. It’s great to ride our bikes to the beach, drive electric vehicles, drink out of a reusable water bottle and recycle. These are necessary actions to reduce our carbon and environmental footprints, but advocacy on behalf of the climate is far more impactful. We cannot hope to tackle a problem as global in nature as the climate crisis simply by acting on an individual basis. To catalyze change on a powerful level, we need to advocate for the systemic transformation of our energy economy. As athletes and industry leaders, we have the power to inspire our elected representatives to act. There’s a massive opportunity here to leverage our voices and apply compassion and reason to the most pressing challenge that humanity has ever faced.
Effectiveness matters now more than ever: What can we do that will have the most significant impact? How can we use our time (or money) to save human lives, reduce suffering and mitigate the risk of future death due to climate change? The most powerful thing we can do is help to build the political will for our elected representatives to enact policies that will provide businesses with effective incentives, encourage innovation and significantly lower CO2 and methane emissions.
The overwhelming consensus of leading economists and business leaders is that the most powerful action to take on climate change is to put a price on carbon. That’s why as a 20-year veteran of this industry and founding Board Member of the Women’s Kiteboarding Collective, with the support of our Board of Directors, I’ve endorsed The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and I’m asking my colleagues and contemporaries to join me. For more information, visit the link below and please don’t be surprised when I knock on your door asking to talk about climate change, what it means for our industry and what we in the kiteboarding industry can do about it.
This article was featured in our summer 2021 issue, Vol. 18, No. 2. To read more, click here.