Surfers Cover Themselves in Trash to Fight Sewage

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Surfers Against Sewage is a U.K. organization with some muscle — and some whimsy. Founded in 1990 by a group of British surfers who were, as they put it, “Literally ‘sick of getting sick’ through repeated ear, nose, throat and gastric infections after going in the sea,” they created an action plan to stop sewage releases into the ocean around their local breaks in Cornwall. The movement grew to include paddlers and fishers and beach-goers across the U.K., and has pushed local and national government to nearly eliminate the continuous release of sewage.

Along the way they’ve made news through more eye-catching, guerrilla-style efforts like this current ad campaign which is being displayed on billboards around the nation, and in magazines. The work is through entirely donated services of ad powerhouse M&C Saatchi in cooperation with Coy! Communications with Coy photographer Sean de Sparengo donating his time and talents to the effort.

Speaking of which, champion surfer Celine Gehret, who is also a model and based in Cornwall, as well as pro body-boarder Jack Johns, are both part of the campaign, though you’d scarcely identify them from their wetsuits. Gehret’s the one wearing the garbage, below; Johns was asked to wear the excrement suit, above, which is really brown plastic. Both surfers said they wanted to be a part of the campaign because each has encountered sewage or garbage in the ocean off the coast of the U.K.

And while SAS has made significant progress in halting widespread sewage releases, they claim that regional water companies will use storm overflows as an excuse to release untreated sewage into waterways in the guise of run-off (a common occurrence in the U.S. as well).

Still, SAS is making progress and has now been working in cooperation with three of Britain’s largest water treatment companies on a live tweet/text system that will create real-time alerts when there’s been a sewage release that may effect any of Britain’s top 50 beaches. The service is free, but SAS is asking for new members to help by joining the organization.

As for what they could do with more dollars, SAS says there’s far more work to be done on the marine litter front. Disturbingly there’s been a rise of ocean trashing even since they and other environmental groups have become active in raising awareness.

This environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com.

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