24 November, 2016 24 November, 2016

JBay Open Trash Turned To Green Gold

Every year the excitement of the JBay Open pulls a massive crowd to the usually pristine and sleepy shores of Jeffrey’s Bay, like ants to a maple syrup spill in the kitchen. An increase in waste inevitably follows these surf fans. They are, after all, there to sit in the grandstands and watch the world-class surfing whilst consuming burgers and sipping on an excessive amount of warm drinks from those takeaway cups that keep your hands nice and toasty in the winter chill. The beaches are packed with spectators who are sprawled out on the beach, meal in hand wrapped up in plastic or in a styrofoam boxes.


A packed beach at the Jbay Open. © Ian Thurtell

The thought alone is a nightmare for environmentalists envisioning the heaps of waste left behind with the footprints. But 70% of the trash from this years Jbay Open has already turned to dark, rich soil and is being used on the indigenous gardens around the town. Tina Nguyen (Californian, MPhil Candidate Environmental Sustainability and surf addict) tells us more about her relationship with the ocean and her passion to conserve it as well as her relationship with the Supertubes Surfing Foundation and the sweet green news from the JBay Open…


An iconic Jeffrey’s Bay line up. © Greg Ewing

Words by Tina Nguyen

From the moment I caught my first wave, I have forever viewed the world through the eyes of an environmental advocate. Just like a surfer understands that one must maintain a fine balance between the opposing forces of gravity and the energy of an unbroken wave, an environmentalist understands the need for society to find balance between what it needs and its resources. Surfing has served as the lens through which I observe just one niche in humankind’s relationship with the environment. Yet it is surfing that has allowed me so many unique experiences. It is what brought me to South Africa and to JBay.


Tina at work in JBay with the Supertubes Foundations. © Image supplied

My first visit to JBay left me in complete bliss. I scored a fun size swell, had no (major) conflicts in the water and made friends with many locals. When I got accepted to the University of Cape Town, I knew I had to combine sustainability and surfing as my research topic and why not use it to benefit the town of JBay during the process? Working with the SSF (Supertubes Surfing Foundation) has been a way to give something back to this small, but special community cherished by so many surfers around the world.


Takeaway boxes, cutlery, plates and cups decomposing into dark rich soil. © Tina Nguyen

In light of cleaning our beaches, trash is becoming a larger problem for us and for the environment. As we continue to waste more, we use more natural resources and increase pollution in our world. To provide some inspiration for the Tuffy Clean Your Beach Campaign, the SSF does a lekker job making sure that all the trash gets recycled to reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills. Well over 10 tonnes a year! Not to mention, this year’s JBay Open reduced landfill waste even further by implementing composting the event’s compostable waste. This resulted in 70% of compostable waste that would have otherwise been allocated to the landfill. Certified compostable food containers, coffee cups and cutlery as well as some food waste were all turned into rich, dark soil in a matter of three months. That compost soil is now being used in the nursery and indigenous gardens around town.


Jeffrey’s Bay is a fast growing town putting pressure on the dunes. With waves like like this it’s easy to understand why. © Greg Ewing

For many surfers, JBay is on the list of top ten destinations. Surfline’s Sean Collins described JBay as the epitome of a world-class surf break by which all others are compared. With this prestige and the fact that over three-quarters of the world population are living along the coast, it’s no wonder that JBay is one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa. However, longstanding environmental concerns such as nearshore developments and degradation of the sand dunes have driven locals to take action since 1999. The Supertubes Surfing Foundation (SSF) is run by a small crew of community members who are dedicated to preserving the sand dunes, keeping the beaches clean and much more.


Succulents thriving under the care of the Supertubes Surfing Foundation. © Tina Nguyen

In addition to rescuing indigenous plants from development sites and propagating them in their nursery, providing recycling facilities for the town and an ongoing research of the mussels’ population on the rocks along the beach, the Supertubes Surfing Foundation also plays a key role in making the JBay Open contest as green as possible. This is the focus of my research. Having traveled to the North Shore of Oahu to witness firsthand best practices of how surfing events can be run in terms of environmental and social responsibility, it’s awesome to say that JBay is not too far behind.


Keep it clean, keep it green. © Greg Ewing

The dedication and passion behind JBay’s Supertubes Surfing Foundation has driven over 16 years of hard work to maintain healthy ecosystems and a sensible space for all people to enjoy nature without leaving a negative impact. Surfers make great stewards of the environment. Just take a look at the SSF – formed by local surfers caring for the nature that surrounds them and taking the extra step to keep the beaches clean. This maintains the cultural and aesthetic value for local community. As a surfer-scientist hailing from California, I thank the Foundation for giving me the opportunity to experience what dedication and passion for your local community looks like.

Find out more about the Supertubes Surfing Foundation HERE

Contact Tina Nguyen on ngtina88@gmail.com.


  1. Luke
    24 November, 2016 at 8:50 pm · Reply

    Waste not, want not. Keep up the good work Tina.

  2. Kassie
    26 November, 2016 at 8:53 pm · Reply

    Right on sis! Keep it up! Love you!

  3. Cynthia Mann
    26 November, 2016 at 9:42 pm · Reply

    Great article! And great work Tina and all involved in making our world healthier. Thank you! Forever grateful….

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