The Inertia's first-ever Evolve Summit, held in Culver City, Calif., on August 18, brought together a who's-who of thought leaders in the surf and outdoor space for an afternoon of panels, movie premieres and networking.
Among those who spoke were snowboard superstar and Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones, two-time big-wave world champion Greg Long, star athlete/model/author Gabrielle Reece, Surfrider CEO Chad Nelsen, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and many more.
"This is the physical manifestation of everything The Inertia is all about," Inertia founder Zach Weisberg said to the roughly 200 attendees to open the summit. Evolve was created to address timely topics in surfing and outdoors, further the conversations on those topics and to inspire those in attendance to act on them, Weisberg said.
The panels were half an hour each, featuring two guests and a moderator with time built-in for questions from the audience. Subjects ranged from "The Future of Surf and Outdoors Is Female" to "Innovation and Sustainability in Business."
In a panel discussion on "How Athletes Can Use Their Platform to Protect Our Planet," pro snowboarder Jones had the audience take out their phones and vow to vote in the midterms by texting "Votepow" to a mailing server. Big-wave world champion Long implicated the surf industry in sending a negative environmental message to surfers and encouraged them to start influencing change through their marketing channels.
Adding to the environmental conversation, pro surfer and Changing Tides Foundation co-founder Leah Dawson pointed to making sustainable changes to our personal routines as it relates to the future of our sports: "We can't be true to ourselves if we're being cruel to the Earth," she offered.
The conversations were candid, powerful and unscripted. Case in point: Caroline Gleich, who's been very public about cyber bullying in her career, recounted when someone online insinuated that she exploited herself sexually in order to land on the cover of several magazines.
She went on to explain how she processed that, how she was transparent with her audience online, and how she eventually got it to stop.
"Is it better to do something new and unique, or to help steward people through that process?" Sutton asked himself, in a conversation about how his creative drive has changed over the years.
Meador talked about her drive for individuality and her tendency to throw herself at her projects.
"The minute that someone tells you not to do something is probably the moment to do it," she offered up.
One of the more powerful moments of the night was when action sports personality Sal Masakela, whose father fled South Africa during apartheid, interviewed two-time world surf champ Tom Carroll about his decision to boycott the 1985 Gunston 500 surf contest at the height of his career due to apartheid laws. Carroll teared up during the recollection of how black South Africans were treated during that time.
"I was raised in a house where they didn't treat humans like that," he said.
The summit was comparable to a collection of really engaging podcasts, but with your heroes right there in front of you. The energy in Playa Studios was earnest and the question segments were filled with engaging discussion, always running long and in many cases having to be cut short to move to the next topic.
There were breaks for drinks, dinner and socializing where the general public got a chance to mingle with the panelists. The Inertia premiered two films: "Alternativa," chronicling a trip to El Salvador with Meador, Dawson and Lola Mignot; and "Boycott the Gunston 500," about the aforementioned Carroll story.
"This has been a dream," an animated Weisberg said to close the night. "These are people doing things they love and that matter."
And as the outdoor and surf communities can attest, there’s never too much of that in the world.
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