Featured Image

Unconventional Wisdom: Dave Rastovich

Pro Surfer | Activist | Byron Bay, Australia

Our environment shapes us all. For me, that's mostly been New Zealand, the Gold Coast, and Byron Bay. All these places have beautiful and relatively intact ecosystems. I've had the good fortune to travel to some of the world's most beautiful places through surfing, and I noticed early on that it was the industrialized areas and cities that seemed to be screwing up the natural world.

Some experiences can reshape your life in an instant. Sitting in Taiji Cove while the dolphins and pilot whales were driven in, and watching the water turning red with blood while hearing their anguished clicks and whistles, was something I'll never forget. That experience will motivate me for the rest of my life.

Localizing your point of view is such a valuable tool against getting depressed about the state of the world. I don't put blinders on about what's going on in the rest of the world, but I do focus on the things in my immediate culture and realm: surfing and the ocean. I try to concentrate on those two areas.

It's actually uplifting to realize that our negative impact on the planet is caused by a system that we've created, and that system is only in place because we've agreed to live that way. That system can be changed, and it can be changed on a personal level with the decisions we make.

It's easy to get sucked down a cynical rabbit hole, to feel overwhelmed and think, "Fuck it, I'm not going to do anything." But nothing positive comes from that point of view.

The surf industry is starting to move in the right direction toward sustainability. It might be slow, but I'm having discussions with the heads of surf companies that I never could've had 10 years ago. There's much more open mindedness out there to support eco-friendly campaigns.

In every part of life, success isn't a thing that's stationary and just sitting there forevermore. Especially when it comes to activism, it can be hard to have a tangible idea of what's been achieved.

Contest surfing has been a little responsible for stifling the growth of eco-boards because team riders don't want to ride them, so a lot of shapers don't want to make them. I've really enjoyed riding eco-friendly blanks. But when you put them under the feet of World Tour surfers, they just grumble.

Not every surfer keeps a closed mind about alternative materials. In the northern New South Wales area where I live, no one gives a shit what sort of board the contest guys are riding.

Your greatest form of activism comes from your greatest love. No matter how abstract your talents are, they can be put to use in a good way.

If a fool like myself who rides waves in a way that's interesting to people can somehow contribute and help positive movements around the world, then surely someone who has gone to college and has far more useful and tangible skills than mine can use that to create change.

It is always curiosity that drives the freesurfer to ride different shapes, but it could also be viewed as a sublime obligation to explore the outer edges of how to ride waves. After all, isn't experimentation at the center of all freesurfers' lives?
“It is always curiosity that drives the freesurfer to ride different shapes, but it could also be viewed as a sublime obligation to explore the outer edges of how to ride waves. After all, isn’t experimentation at the center of all freesurfers’ lives?” —Dave Rastovich Photo: Swilly

As told to Justin Housman