Next week, the Global Wave Conference will bring leaders from surfing, conservation and innovation to Santa Cruz, California, to address how the surf community both affects and is affected by the environmental challenges the world's oceans face.

The conference, which will take place March 4-7 at The Dream Inn and is open to the general public (tickets are available for purchase), takes place every two years and was last held in Cornwall, England.

Keynote speakers include big-wave surfer Greg Long, marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle, Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan and filmmaker Chris Malloy; and panels include influential minds from science and surfing, such as marine researcher and surfer Cliff Kapono, Firewire CEO Mark Price and Patagonia ambassador Liz Clark.

Brad Gerlach, Ramon Navarro and Greg Long at the last Global Wave Conference in Cornwall, England. Photo: Global Wave Conference

Save the Waves Coalition Executive Director and conference organizer Nik Strong-Cvetich says the conference aims to address three aspects at the intersection of surfing and environment: the land to sea connection, protected areas and surf, and climate change and innovation. Each day of the conference will focus on one of the topics, with a mix of keynote speakers, panels and workshops.

The topics were determined based off of some of the central questions weighing on the minds of environmentally-conscious surfers. "We asked ourselves, 'What are the environmental changes that affect surfers and surf zones the most?' And that's how we decided on the land to sea connection, where we'll examine how things from the land - like plastics and water-quality pollutants - affect the water," says Cvetich.

"Then we asked, 'What happens when waves and coastlines are lost?' So we wanted to examine the issue of protected areas. And finally, ‘How will climate change impact the coastlines? How do we respond to that?’"

Finding answers to such ambitious questions will require a stacked roster of leaders from many different fields, which is why conference organizers from Save the Waves and Surfrider Foundation invited leaders from surfing, science, nonprofits and technology.

"It will be a pretty cool intersection of the surf community, conservation and technology/innovation communities," says Cvetich. "Whether it's people from the surf industry who are conservation-minded, or the conservation community who happen to be surfers, the ocean's problems are bigger than any of those groups, so we have to come together to achieve any change."

Oceanfront Santa Cruz, not a bad location for a surf conference. Photo: The Dream Inn

But, as is the surfer's way, the conference won’t be all hard work. The Save the Waves Film Festival will run one of the evenings at the Patagonia Santa Cruz store, WSL Pure will host a happy hour at the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center, a surf-history walking tour of Santa Cruz will be led by the Santa Cruz Surfing Club, and no doubt some board meetings will take place in the water.

Tickets are still available, and a full agenda can be found at the Global Wave Conference website.

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