Plastic Tides | A Series On SUP and the Environment | Introduction

Plastic Tides collects water samples for research on a mission to ban microbeads. Photo: Plastic Tides
Plastic Tides collects water samples for research on a mission to ban microbeads. Photo: Plastic Tides

Plastic Tides | A Series On SUP and the Environment | Introduction

Welcome to the inaugural entry of the Plastic Tides environmental column.

Plastic Tides is a nonprofit supported by a dedicated team of paddlers and adventure conservationists with a shared love for watersports and a deep concern for the natural world. The organization was conceived during our time at Cornell University studying sustainability. As we transitioned into the real world, we aimed to combine our passion for watersports, science and adventure to affect positive social change and drive environmental conservation.

Plastic pollution became our focus, and Plastic Tides as we know it came to life during our expedition around Bermuda in June 2014. This was our first self-supported SUP research expedition.  Over the course of eleven days, we circumnavigated the island to inspire our followers and ourselves to take action. Along the way we collected water samples in collaboration with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and The Plastic Ocean Project. We also filmed an educational mini-series about our journey and connected with local students about ocean plastic pollution in a novel and exciting way.

After returning home to Ithaca, New York, we knew we needed to develop a local presence and drive changed in the place we call home. The issue of plastic microbeads entering our waterways came to the forefront of our attention, and would become our primary focus for the next year and a half.
In November 2014 we set out to standup paddle 240 miles of the Erie Canal from Ithaca to the state capital, collecting samples and carrying our message about the dangers of microbeads along the way. Despite battling hypothermia brought on by intense conditions from the infamous polar vortex, we completed our research and proved the existence of microbeads in our waterways. The expedition drew statewide attention to the problem, and catalyzed Senator Gillibrand’s commitment to addressing it on a national level.

After this initial success, the microbead battle escalated for almost a year and remained the focus of multiple paddling research expeditions before our network of fellow activists achieved decisive local and national victories in November and December of last year.

In May 2015 our quarrel with microbeads brought us back to Bermuda where we worked with local environmental groups to launch the Beat the Bead Bermuda campaign. To kickoff the initiative we paddled a grueling, nonstop fifty-mile circumnavigation of the island. We pushed off at 6 pm and paddled through the night, transforming into SUP Zombies (yes, it is possible to fall asleep "standing up"), and arriving back at Aquarium where we had started 20 hours before. That trip became the inspiration for innaugural Devil's Isle SUP Challenge, a race and fundraiser for local children that proved hugely successful last May.

Now that you've become acquainted with who we are and what we do you might be wondering what to expect from our column. Over the past two years we have become self-educated experts in the fields of plastic pollution and how to use SUP to bring about change, inspire others to take action, and spread the word. In the coming months we'll share stories from our own past, current, and future expeditions, initiatives, and events, including our insight and advice for SUP expeditioning and the exploits of our ambassadors. We'll also talk of plastic pollution within the culture and industry of SUP, and bring you updates from other inspirational paddle wielding eco warriors. Stay tuned!

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