Sustainable surf

annual report


For people and brands

that love the ocean

Sustainable Surf is a California-based nonprofit that uses the power and appeal of surf culture to inspire the radical transformation needed to protect ocean health and reverse climate change.

Our globally impactful programs like SeaTrees and the ECOBOARD Project, are “on-ramps” for brands and individuals to have a direct and measurable impact on our planet.

Kevin Whilden

Co-Director | Founder

Michael Stewart

Co-Director | Founder

Wide Angle View of Underwater Kelp Forest Catalina Channel Islands California

Over 500 Million People Reached in 2021

Sustainable Surf depends on partners to create stories that spread our message to a much larger audience. This multiplies our impact significantly and allows us to effectively communicate our impact around the world.

In 2021, our message to regenerate ocean health was distributed to an estimated worldwide audience of 517+ million* people by leveraging the reach and following of strategic brand partners and influencers.


Media Coverage


Social Media


Direct Impressions

*Social reach and impressions were calculated using the analytical tools and data metrics as provided by the various media platforms. Maximum media reach was calculated based on the total circulation of publications.

2021 Program Summary

Active programs


SeaTrees is an #oceanpositive platform built for brands and individuals to take direct action toward protecting ocean health and reversing climate change.

The ECOBOARD Project

The ECOBOARD Project transforms the way high-performance surfboards are made to be more sustainable.

LEGACY programs

Waste to Waves

Created innovative recycling methods to make rad surf products out of waste plastic. #wastetowaves

Deep Blue Events

Since inception, the Deep Blue Events blueprint has created a sustainable event model for over 40 surf contests and conferences world-wide.

Active SeaTrees Projects

Kelp Restoration

Watershed Protection REDD+

Mangrove Planting

Monterey Bay, CA

Southern Cardamom, Cambodia

Mida Creek, Kenya

World Map

Atlantic Ocean

Indian Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Kelp Restoration

Palos Verdes, CA

Hawaii Map

Mangrove Planting

Biak Region, Indonesia

Pacific Ocean

Mangrove Planting

Laguna San Ignacio, Mexico

Watershed Restoration

Maui, Hawaii

Watershed Protection REDD+

Cacheu and Cantanhez, Guinea-Bissau

Coral Reef Restoration

Bali, Indoneia

Watershed Protection REDD+

Paramos and Bosques, Colombia

SeaTrees is a program of Sustainable Surf that protects and restores blue carbon coastal ecosystems around the world.

Through SeaTrees, brands and individuals take direct action to protect ocean health, reverse the effects of climate change, and create jobs and sustainable livelihoods for local people.

SeaTrees helps speed up the Earth's natural healing mechanisms to repair our planet and restore ocean health in real-time through a combination of indigenous wisdom, modern science, and inspired business.

SeaTrees partners with local nonprofit organizations at each project location to perform and manage the restoration work being done. By supporting the local communities in this regeneration, each SeaTrees project provides countless benefits to the people involved and the ecosystems impacted.

On Earth Day 2021, SeaTrees achieved the milestone of planting one million SeaTrees across six projects. Our next goal is to support 100 SeaTrees projects by the end of this decade (2030) and set various new milestones and markers along the way.

Broken out over the years since the launch of the program, we planted and protected 65,490 SeaTrees in 2019, 412,900 SeaTrees in 2020, and 1,000,380 SeaTrees in 2021. Cumulative over 1.47 million SeaTrees in total at the end of 2021.

What is Blue Carbon and Why Does SeaTrees Want to Protect It?

Blue carbon refers to carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

Blue carbon coastal ecosystems draw carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it faster than terrestrial ecosystems. Despite these benefits, they are one of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth. The regeneration of these ecosystems provides critical habitat for countless species, sustainable long-term employment for local communities, and protection from climate change impacts.



Mangroves are 5x more effective at storing carbon than tropical forests.



Kelp can sequester ~200 million tons of CO2 per year.



Coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots and support ~25% of marine life In the ocean.



Seagrass meadows

Seagrass sequesters ~10% of the carbon buried in ocean sediment annually.



Blue carbon ecosystems are most effective when they are directly connected to a healthy watershed.

Total SeaTrees Planted Through 2021


Mangrove trees planted at Biak Island, West Papua,



Mangrove trees planted at Mida Creek, Watamu, Kenya



Sq-ft of kelp restoration at Palos Verdes, California,


Coral fragments restored in Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia


Mangrove trees planted at Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, Mexico


Tons of CO2 sequestered in

Southern Cardamom,


Two Surfers in the Middle of the Ocean

Supporting Sustainable Development

A core outcome of each SeaTrees project is the sustainable development of local communities around the world. The success of these projects relies on creating jobs and livelihoods for the local people involved in maintaining healthy ecosystems for the future.

Each SeaTrees project is monitored and evaluated consistently throughout the year. Reports are also created on its impact according to all the SDG metrics.

SeaTrees supports the 17 United Nations / Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to transform our world for good by 2030.

These projects reduce climate change impacts, increase terrestrial and marine biodiversity, protect endangered species, create sustainable jobs, alleviate poverty and hunger, support education and gender equality, and more.

Please see the SDG breakdown for each SeaTrees project in our 2021 SeaTrees Impact Report.

The Seatrees Project Development Process

SeaTrees team members use a rigorous process to develop new SeaTrees projects.

Our process is based on methods used by carbon offset project development, which sets the bar for quality, transparency, and scientific accuracy.

Our process has built-in flexibility to work around the world in varying social and economic conditions. It also covers five different blue carbon ecosystem types, each with unique restoration methods.

Through this process, we will achieve our ambitious goal to develop 100 projects by 2030.

SeaTrees looks around the world for coastal ecosystem restoration and protection projects operated by local NGOs.

1. Identify Projects

Extensive due diligence is performed. This involves evaluating the potential project based on technical merits, monitoring capability, local community involvement, and environmental and social impacts achieved.

2. Due Dilligence

When we are confident the project will have long term success, we create a contract with the local NGO to conduct conservation, restoration, and monitoring of their blue carbon ecosystem.

3. Contract with Projects

Each project has a carefully crafted monitoring plan to quantify the number of SeaTrees planted or restored while ensuring the project’s long-term survival. We also measure the CO2 sequestered and other environmental and social benefits created.

4. Measure Impact

5. Create Stories

SeaTrees creates stories, content, and media to provide to donors in order to bring in more donations that go directly toward the projects.

5. Create Stories

Click here to view our 2021 SeaTrees Impact Report

The ECOBOARD Project transforms production methods for high-performance surfboards to be more sustainable, and has a global impact.

The “Verified ECOBOARD” label is used by the world's best surfboard brands and the world's best surfers and includes SUPs, kiteboards, and wind boards. 280 board builders in 25+ countries have used the ECOBOARD label.

The Ecoboard Project also educates individuals about the environmental impacts of their lifestyle, through the lens of their surfboard.

“The simple act of choosing a more sustainable board can be an on-ramp into a dramatically more sustainable, ocean-friendly life.” - Michael Stewart, Co-founder of Sustainable Surf.

The ECOBOARD Project makes it simple for board builders to make a more sustainable board. Sustainable Surf verifies materials (resin and foam) and processes that reduce the carbon footprint, waste, and toxicity of boards during manufacturing. Our list of over 20 Qualified Materials makes it easy for board builders to find better materials to make their boards.

When a board displays the ECOBOARD Level One or Gold Level label, Sustainable Surf has verified that it has one or more of the following attributes:

  • A measurably reduced carbon footprint
  • Renewable, recycled and/or up-cycled material inputs
  • Uses materials and processes that reduce toxicity during manufacturing
  • Reduces waste during manufacturing

The global surfing community now recognizes the ECOBOARD Project label as indicating a board that protects ocean health without sacrificing high performance. This is a radical shift from when the program first launched in 2011.

Approximately 76,000 verified ECOBOARDS were made in 2021.

The ECOBOARD Project is the first and only independent consumer-facing “eco-label” for boards.

To learn more about the process of certifying ECOBOARDs and our mission to build a more sustainable future for surfing, please visitthe website.

Number of boards

















Number of ECOBOARDS Produced by year

2021 FINANCIAL Summary

2021 was a year of significant growth for Sustainable Surf.

In 2021 our income was $1,390,000 and our total expenses were $997,400, compared to $1,019,804 and $521,767 in 2020.

This growth was driven by the SeaTrees Program, which has become a compelling fundraising platform and accounts for 71% of our income. SeaTrees income sources include foundation grants, corporate donations, brand partnerships, and individual donations through our SeaTrees website.

SeaTrees income is used for program delivery, which includes developing and funding ecosystem projects, creating educational content and films, and evaluating program impact with project site visits and other data collection methods. SeaTrees income is also used to launch new SeaTrees projects in order to meet our goal of 100 SeaTrees projects by 2030.

The Ecoboard Project provides significant value to the organization, due to its global impact and recognition. We refreshing the ECOBOARD Project website and educational campaign in the summer of 2022.

Our indirect cost rate for 2021 is 12%. The pandemic reduced overhead as employees worked from home and travel was reduced.

10 years of Income and Expenses


















$ 1,390,000

2021 TOTAL


$ 997,400

2021 TOTAL




2021 Income: $1,390,000

Program Service Fees




Foundation Grants


Individual Donations



Corporate Donations



Corporate Donations (SeaTrees)


2021 Expenses: $997,400

The ECOBOARD Project






SeaTrees Program


Case Study:

Pedal Electric

Carbon Footprint

Pedal Electric goes Ocean+Positive with SeaTrees.

SeaTrees has partnered with Pedal Electric, a new California-based e-bike brand founded by surfers who share our love for the ocean and commitment to reversing climate change.

SeaTrees completed a lifecycle analysis of Pedal Electric’s carbon footprint and has officially verified them as Ocean+Positive, making them the first e-bike company to receive this certification. Receiving the Ocean+Positive certification from SeaTrees means that brands calculate their carbon footprint and wipe it out with SeaTrees Tokens.

SeaTrees has a long-standing history of evaluating and certifying the sustainability performance of brands, products, and events. This assessment provides our partners with an easy way to wipe out their carbon footprint and leave behind a positive climate legacy.

There are three steps to becoming Ocean+Positive:

Step 1+

CALCULATE your carbon footprint. We can help you do this or you can provide your own lifecycle assessment from a credible 3rd party.

Step 2+

WIPE OUT (aka neutralize+) your carbon footprint by purchasing SeaTrees Tokens.

Step 3+

ACT NOW to improve the way you operate, reducing your carbon footprint + having a positive impact on people + planet.

Pedal Electric Bicycle - Lifecycle CO2 Emissions


8 kgCO2eq


15 kgCO2eq


213 kgCO2eq

378 kg CO2eq


15 kgCO2eq


45 kgCO2eq

Rest of Bike

44 kgCO2eq


30 kgCO2eq


21 kgCO2eq

Pedal Electric e-bikes get the equivalent of 2,000 miles per gallon of gasoline and cost about fifteen cents per charge. Riding an e-bike instead of driving significantly reduces carbon emissions, provides countless environmental benefits, and is one big step toward turning the tide on climate change.

To learn more about Pedal Electric and their commitment to becoming Ocean+Positive, please visit their website.

Blue Body of Water


We would like to thank all the individuals and brands that help make our work possible. Without you, our work to reverse climate change by planting and protecting SeaTrees would not be possible. We're all about partnerships that deliver tangible impact and create engaging content/stories for a global community of people who care about the ocean. We look forward to diving deeper into our partnerships in 2022 and beyond.

Board of Directors

Brian Thurston

Kevin Tighe

Mark Marovich

Scott Coleman

Steve Shipsey

Abigail Whilden

Michael Stewart

Kevin Whilden

Advisory Board

Charles Adler

Chris Malloy

Dan Fitzgerald

David Hertz

David Yuan

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz

Dr. Jess Ponting

Dr. Margaret Leinen

Dr. Octavio Aburto

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols

Dy. Gregory Borne

Eric Chin

Gary Groff

Jeff Mendelsohn

Jim Moriarty

Pamela Wilhelms

Robin Graham

Steve Reiss

Yves Béhar


Alex Gray

Alison Teal

Ashley Lloyd

Bianca Valenti

Bo Bridges

Charlie Callaghan

Chris Bertish

Connor Baxter

Danni Washington

Greg Long

Josie Prendergast

Kassia Meador

Kevin Mirsky

Pacha Light

Pedro Bala

Ron Machado

Ruben Lenten

Ryan Harris

Sarah Lee

Zane Kekoa Schweitzer

Zoe Strapp

2021 Corporate Partners*



Bumble Bee Foods


12 Tides


Anabela Chan

Another Tee


Bank of the West