CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF SURFERS AGAINST SEWAGE
"The great thing here is that we all share the common deep blue thrill of the ocean; we’re surfers, we’re environmentalists, we’re marine fanatics, so everyone here shares that passion for our coastline."
Since Hugo Tagholm took over the reigns at Surfers Against Sewage in 2008, we’ve seen the country sit up and not only take note of the plastic pollution that is invading our coastlines, but take action. From presenting the first Global Wave Conference in Newquay last year to protests at Parliament, Hugo has channelled his passion for protecting our seas into effective and affecting campaigning that has been as informative as it has been touching. We’re excited to introduce Hugo as our inaugural Guardian of the Sea.
Tell us about your role as Chief Executive at Surfers Against Sewage
I really have to be a jack of all trades. We’re a small but influential organisation so my job is about connecting with people and empowering my team to do what they need to protect our oceans. That goes from working with my campaigns team on big campaigns issues to working on a conservation, grassroots level, helping mobilise thousands of volunteers around the coastline.
I do a lot of fundraising; people often forget that charities need that income to create the best possible job to protect our waves, to protect our beaches, to protect our wildlife. So I have to run around to create the right partnerships, create the right projects, to make sure we do the best possible job to protect our beaches for everyone.
The great thing here is that we all share the common deep blue thrill of the ocean; we’re surfers, we’re environmentalists, we’re marine fanatics, so everyone here shares that passion for our coastline. Once you’ve got passion, I think you can achieve anything.
What does your typical day look like?
Each day is A-typical! My time now involves a lot of travel. In the last two weeks I’ve been in San Sebastian in Spain, Brussels, London, Newcastle - running around seeing our partners and supporters, building and maintaining those really important relationships.
But typically my day can range from anything like being on the beach removing litter with our volunteers, right through to sitting in parliament talking to ministers and politicians, calling for the changes we want at the very highest level - on water quality, on marine plastics, on protecting sites of special surfing interest, so it keeps me on my toes!
I can’t say I just sit in front of a computer screen necessarily all day long, which is great. And hopefully since we’re based on this beautiful headland here in Cornwall, I can go surfing from time to time.
I always encourage my team to keep reminding themselves of their passion for the sea – to go surfing and make time to do it as it’s a great motivator.
So building on that, where is your favourite beach or seascape in the UK?
There is so much variety from big rugged, sweeping beaches to tiny wooded coves. We’re very lucky to have so much. For me, my favourite wave is probably nearby here actually, Droskyn (in Perranporth). I’m goofy footed and I love the wave there at a certain tide, but it would be wrong for me to say which tide...
I am by no means an amazing surfer, but you don’t have to be an amazing surfer to love the sea as much as the next person. It doesn’t matter whether you’re surfing on massive waves or just beginning, you can have equal amounts of love for the ocean – it seems to answer a wanderlust people have. It’s a great place where you can be truly disconnected from the world but totally connected with nature.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AT PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS
"No one wakes up and says "I want to pollute the ocean today". People want to be aware and mindful. We as brands, innovators, designers must give them this opportunity by making products, materials that are not harmful, last longer, and support a cleaner healthier environment."
We met Mike Long at last year’s Global Wave Conference where he captured our minds with his talk on fighting ocean plastic pollution. He has led campaigns for the likes of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and is the Director Of Operations for Parley For The Oceans, a global community which addresses major threats to our oceans. Growing up on California’s sweeping coastline, ocean activism and preservation has always been close to his heart.
How did you get involved with Parley For The Oceans?
I have been involved in ocean conservation all my life. I grew up in Southern California and from a very early age was connected to the sea. About 15 years ago I was watching a television interview with Captain Paul Watson, he spoke with a conviction and passion of the war that was being waged on the high seas. The battle was against the illegal whaling and fishing activities led by corrupt governments and was wreaking havoc on marine wildlife. I knew I had to do more, I joined Captain Watson and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on board the Ocean Warrior. It was the start of a lifelong journey and was how I found Cyrill Gutsch and Parley. Cyrill, founder and CEO of Parley, had met Paul in Germany when he was in jail under false accusations under attack by the Japanese whaling lobby. Cyrill, a brand strategist and designer turned his whole business around and created a platform or collaborative network to protect the oceans. I met Cyrill in New York when I attended a Parley Talk with Paul at the Museum of Natural History. Cyrill and I had a long discussion about the state of the oceans and his vision for Parley. Cyrill's idea to align governments, scientist, pace setting brands and the creative industries was exciting to me and I was 100 percent in.
Can you talk through what your role as Director of Operations entails?
As one can imagine, when we talk about tackling one of the biggest threats to our oceans and marine life its not that simple. Parley's focus is to end ocean plastic pollution through our strategy of A.I.R. Avoid, Intercept, Redesign. It is important we develop partnerships that support a global delivery of this program and that we have impact on all levels. I oversee these partnerships and programs under this strategy, but its really about working with our team here at Parley. The operations team works with our Global Clean Up Network partners such as Surfers Against Sewage or Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii as we work to not only clean up the beaches and coastlines but educate communities on A.I.R.. We run Parley Ocean School where we educate the next generation on how the daily decisions they make have a direct effect on the health of the ocean. I recently traveled to Rio where Parley Ocean School reached thousands of kids during the Olympic Games. Parley recently announced our partnership with the United Nations OHRLLS as we work to introduce a special call to action and implement A.I.R. to all 38 member countries of SIDS (Small Island Developing States). These island nations play an important role as a unified voice for the protection of the ocean. Parley's work and impact in the Maldives through our A.I.R. program has allowed us to showcase our Remote Island Interception program where we are eliminating hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles a day from entering the ocean. It's really about working in collaboration with our team and partners as we build capacity and programs around the world. I'm just a small drop in a large bucket.
The collaboration with Adidas seems to be one that’s been really effective in raising awareness amongst the general population. Do you think it is because Adidas is such an influential brand, or is it because there seems to be much more of an awareness of or care for environmental issues?
Adidas is a founding partner of Parley and has played a huge role in the support of A.I.R. It is really about commitment. Adidas has put the ocean first and Parley has been able to use their influence and global reach to carry the message and movement we are creating. When the first shoe was introduced made from the illegal net that was confiscated by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society there was a bit of a media frenzy. There was even some critics. At the end of the day, that shoe was not only a cool product it was a key messenger. it told the story of illegal fishing, slave trade on the high seas, eco-innovation, and ocean plastic pollution. That is impact, that is movement, that is Parley.
I think the consumer wants to make the right choice. No one wakes up and says "I want to pollute the ocean today". People want to be aware and mindful. We as brands, innovators, designers must give them this opportunity by making products, materials that are not harmful, last longer, and support a cleaner healthier environment.
You’re based out in Maine - is there more / less / the same awareness of making sure coastlines are kept plastic free and clean?
There is not a beach in the world you can walk today and not find plastic. Maine is no different. Fortunately the coastal communities of Maine have recycling and waste management and people generally know where to put their trash and most importantly want to make the right choice on what to buy and what to eat. However, this is a global issue and whether your in Maine, West Africa, Fiji, or the U.K. we all have to take notice of not just what is happening on our beaches but what is happening in our worlds oceans. 8.5 million tons of plastic flows into the ocean every year. It is not just about the beach clean up anymore. We have to shut the tap off.
Where is your favourite seascape and why?
That is tough, it seems like there are so many beautiful places around the world. My favorite is a small island just off the coast of Maine around Cape Elizabeth. It's a place that my kids and I spend a lot of time on and we have become the island stewards. Like most of the Maine islands it has a beautiful rugged rocky coast but also some extraordinary beaches with large rolling sand dunes. The light in the morning and evening makes me feel as though I am on another planet. We have a small cabin there with no electricity and running water. There are no electronic devices, just the sound of the sea. It is a very special place that creates an inner peace that we sometimes have a hard time finding in the modern world.
What do you think we can do on a daily basis to protect our seas?
We have to change our behavior, we have to teach our children and we have to love more.
Who would you say is your guardian of the sea?
Paul Watson, co founder of Greenpeace, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. No one on the planet has done more to fight for and give a voice to whales and the ocean. He is a true inspiration and a hero.