Surfrider Volunteers John Morris and Kelby Holmes joined Long Beach Surf Shop manager Jason Ussher, and Surfrider Chair Michelle Hall on Saturday to pack roughly 270 wetsuits into supersacs that were shipped to California where the wetsuits will be transformed into yoga mats. (Photo - Alan Hall)

Tofino turns old wetsuits into new yoga mats

“As a big surf town, a lot of wetsuits were ending up in landfill.”

The West Coast has breathed new life into old rubber.

Surfrider Pacific Rim volunteers spent their Saturday afternoon packing 270 used-up wetsuits and shipping them off to California to be recycled into yoga mats.

The roughly 450 kilograms worth of wetsuits were collected through a collaboration between the local Surfrider chapter and West Coast surf shops: Surf Sister, Long Beach, Pacific Surf, Storm and Relic, according to Surfrider Pacific Rim chair Michelle Hall.

Hall said the initiative began when she was alerted to SUGA, a recycling company that turns old wetsuits into new yoga mats, through social media and reached out to the company to see if Tofino could get onboard.

“The CEO Brian Shields is a huge Tofino fan, with friends in the town already willing to help sell his mats, and so I saw an opportunity for Surfrider to help facilitate a wetsuit reincarnation program for Tofino and Ucluelet, the CEO loved the idea,” Hall said.

“This batch will be all shipped out, but, for future batches, the CEO also makes regular trips to Tofino and will collect them personally throughout the year too.”

More information about SUGA can be found at www.sugamats.com.

Hall said Surfrider has been collecting old wetsuits since November and she encourages any local about to toss one out to, instead, drop it off at Surf Sisters, Pacific Surf or Relic.

“You can drop your dry, old wetsuits at the drop boxes at anytime and Dede [Monette] will coordinate packing them off to California for recycling,” she said adding locals can buy SUGA yoga mats at Surf Sisters in Tofino and the Emporium of Awesome in Ucluelet.

“I can personally say they are amazing…Dede Monette from Tofino Yoga will be using the SUGA mats and offering beach yoga at Surfrider beach events, as well as running the wetsuit reincarnation program as an ambassador for SUGA and Surfrider.”

Hall said the local collection and packing effort was fuelled by plenty of “blood, sweat and rubber,” and an “awesome” group of volunteers.

“Surfrider Pacific Rim continues to look for proactive ways in which we can prolong the life in products, to eliminate waste reaching the ocean. We always think about the afterlife of products” she said.

“As a big surf town, a lot of wetsuits were ending up in landfill; after being through the Trading Post multiple times of course. As West Coasters, this is a shuddering prospect. As Surfriders, it’s so ironic…That’s why locals love this initiative to reincarnate wetsuits, as we care about the impact we have on the environment, and the ocean. We live by it, we play be it, we work by it. It’s our job to live sustainably by it.”

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