The Next 50.

The Next 50.

By Dan Dobbin and Levente Laczko.

Earlier this year we celebrated the day that inventor of professional surfing competition, fan topper hats and paper surfboards, the late and great Y, aka Mr Tom Morey added to his creation inventory by hot ironing the Honolulu Advertiser onto a slab of left over surfboard blank birthing the embryonic version of the modern bodyboard.

While the basic design shape of the boogie echoes ancient Polynesian Paipo’s and Lindsey Lord’s rum running boats from the prohibition era, Morey’s prime innovations were arguably flexibility and marketing.

From here the basic story has been well covered and recited  across social media and what remains of booging websites over the last few months with the celebration of a half century of the Boog and Tom’s sad recent passing.

We’re going to take a different tact here at Infoamed and instead of delving into the know historical narrative, we thought we’d wildly speculate on what may happen in the future 50 years in the life of the bodyboard.

Firstly we need to address the issue of the creeping increase in the age demographic of the global bodyboarding community.

There’s no denying that as a population group worldwide, bodyboarders now skew towards the middle aged. There are pockets of burgeoning grommet regrowth, Hawaii and Chile for example, but by and large we’re products of the golden 80’s and 90’s. Now if you want to extrapolate that bubble forward half a decade, I doubt there will be many 90 year old boogers still hitting the line up.Which means we need to think about how to build sustainable engagement with the sport into the future, or its going to end up a historical footnote.

Realistically from an administrative perspective we are in horrible shape as a sport. No cohesion or communication between national sporting bodies ( if they exist at all), no agreed upon pathways to higher tiered competitions, no way to crown a world champion, a professional governing body in the IBC that, while admittedly hamstrung by the global Covid situation, hasn’t made much noise in the last two years.

There is barely, if any, thought or energy put towards developing strategies to encouraging new participants into the sport. The current catchment approach to enticing kids into the sport, at least in Australia, appears to simply be “hope they have parents who bodyboard and they will follow suite”.

Next stop on our tour of future times is the oil industry, or more specifically the potential lack of an oil industry.

The world has been consuming the equivalent of over 11 billion tonnes of oil per year. Crude oil reserves are predicted to be vanishing at a rate of more than 4 billion tonnes a year. Many oil wells have already peaked and new wells are becoming more difficult to find. Another 1,000 billion barrels of proved and probable reserves remain to be recovered.

Some estimates posit that if we keep using oil at the current same rate, potentially we may run out of oil by 2052, only 31 years time.

No available oil, no petroleum based plastics like Polypropylene and Polyethylene foam, no bodyboards. At least no bodyboards made of the materials we rely on today. Throw in economic pressures associated with growing oil scarcity and the materials needed to make boogs may not be available even sooner.

With this in mind it seems pretty imperative that the bodyboarding industry start looking towards developing and using more sustainable and recyclable materials in boards.

The final, and perhaps most significant issue that needs to be factored in is that of climate change and rising sea levels. Presently, global weather patterns are shifting in ways that modern civilisation has not seen before, with atmospheric circulation and ocean currents rapidly changing as a result of human induced climate change.

This represents possibly the biggest challenge humanity will face this century, affecting not just how you interact with the ocean but how you live your day to day life.

Current evidence suggests more frequent extreme weather events as a result of anthropogenic climate change, fuelled by increased atmospheric and sea surface temperatures. From a bodyboarder’s perspective, the net result will mean more frequent and more intense cyclones, typhoons and storms that can influence your stretch of coastline.

For some places, this will mean more frequent bursts of swell from that favourable direction and for others, it will mean more frequent disasters and mass erosion events, particularly for those areas with heavily developed coastal fringes or beaches with a negative sediment movement offshore (eg. many Australian beaches). 

The UN estimates roughly 40% of the global population live within 100 km of the coast and roughly 10% of the global population live in areas less than 10 m above sea level.For Australian readers, our country has roughly 80% of its population clustered within 50 km of the coast.

This proves problematic in a world governed by climate change, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasting global sea level rise anywhere from 0.28 m to 1.01 m this century depending on global emissions. For many highly developed coastal fringes, these changes in sea level spell disaster for local infrastructure and beach culture when coupled with the likelihood of more frequent, intense storms, potentially permanently disrupting sand levels and consequently the waves that rely on them (eg. Narrabeen Beach on Australia’s East Coast).

For other places (eg. Maldives, Tonga, Solomon Islands) sea level change will result in the displacement of industry and people, meaning once thriving surf metropolises found on small tropical islands may be no more, alongside their picture-perfect wave setups.

At a more local scale, sea level rise will affect the way your local reefs will break, specifically during larger tides. Even under the incredibly optimistic “low greenhouse gas emission” setting, the IPCC forecast a maximum sea level increase of roughly 0.62 m, meaning your favourite reef may change from being surfable at all tides to only being surfable at low tide. Furthermore, the window in which you have to surf your favourite slab will likely change, particularly when the tides are at their extremes, potentially limiting many waves to being surfed only on a specific tidal movement . The ( presumably dry rock slab you ’ve been looking at for the la 10 years may now finally be surfable only) silver lining is that one !

Each obstacle has possible and potential solutions, but they’re going to require a little more action, and a little less naval gazing from us all as a bodyboarding community. Start challenging boogin’ company’s to be more sustainably aware, get yourself involved in local clubs and governing bodies, and when we act politically let’s be selfish and save our favourite waves!

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