British environmental organisation, The Blue Project, speak with the godfather of windsurfing Robby Naish about his relationship with the ocean and why it’s so important to preserve it.
The Blue Project uses sport, adventure and digital media to connect more people to our blue environment. Jacques Cousteau once said that “People protect what they love” so our mission is to develop innovative ways to encourage greater care of our blue environment.
Our journey started with a small group of people who derive a large part of their inspiration from competing and working in the natural environment. We decided to share their stories, images and content with a wider audience and set up the Blue Project as a communications outreach programme.
In 2009, we launched the Blue Mile as a mass-participation event designed to connect more people and raise funds to support WWF’s marine and freshwater programme – www.theblueproject.org.
Name: Robby Naish
Occupation: Windsurfer, Kitesurfer and Standup Paddle Boarder
How and when did you first decide to make water sports your passion?
There was actually never a “decision.” It just kind of happened over time when I was pretty young.
Growing up in Kailua and being at the beach all the time made it fairly inevitable. My father Rick was a surfer and hobie sailor… Hobie 14 and 16 Hawaii State Champion many times over and 1972 National Hobie 16 champion. My brother Randy and I got into Hobie sailing when we were really young, and when windsurfing came along for me in 1974 I never looked back. This is a fantastic place to grow up in general, but even better when you make the ocean a big part of your life.
How does your sport connect both you and your business to the natural environment and how does the environment motivate you to achieve goals – sporting, business and other life goals?
For me again there was never any conscious decision to get into watersports (or boardsports). I simply loved doing it. I love to ride, and I thrived on individual sports over organised team sports. They just suit my personality. I do not like to be told what to do, to have too much structure or rules or limits. I also love the ocean, the wind, and the waves. They are always changing and evolving and challenging you. There is always the unknown and variables that you simply cannot control. It is a very healthy environment to surround yourself with. As business began to grow and my consciousness of how lucky I am to have the lifestyle that I have, I began to put more and more profound value on the natural ocean playground and how good it is for the mind, body and spirit. I am super stoked to be promoting a lifestyle and lifestyle products that I know are really going to improve peoples quality of life. It’s pretty cool.
What has your sport and your experience through it taught you about the natural environment?
I have been living in it my whole life. I grew up on a little island 2000 miles+ from the nearest continent. Nature is fragile, but it is also pretty good at adapting and healing itself. Things change and evolve in nature. A lot of people are worried about the environment, which is a good thing. There is much more awareness now of the environment and mans impact on it now than ever before. What man really needs to worry about though is man, and what kind of planet we are leaving for the next generations. The planet will do fine, cleanse itself and be here long after mankind is a distant memory.
During your sporting and business career, have your observations of the natural environment changed and if so, in what way?
You realise pretty quickly how much plastic we throw out into the ocean or that eventually finds its way into the ocean. If you go to Japan, for example, or China, it is mind boggling how much plastic washes up on the beaches. The same goes for the med… plastic bags so thick that racing slalom was difficult because so often you would pick up trash on your fin. The good thing is that over the past thirty years or so that I have been traveling and riding, things seem to be heading in the right direction and getting better, not worse. We have a long way to go though in educating people. There are billions of people in the world, many of whom are very poor. When you are poor and struggling to survive and your world is working and eating and feeding your family etc… recycling and worrying about where to put your trash etc is not necessarily a priority. It will take time. On the other side the western world produces so much trash that it is absolutely crazy. Packaging on packaging, bottled water etc. We are getting better at dealing with our plastic and waste, but there is still too much “stuff” period.
If you were to motivate people (on a local, national and international level) on one particular environment issue, what would it be?
In terms of getting people aware of their environment nothing beats getting out there on the water and feeling it, tasting it, smelling it. Boardriding engages you with nature. That awareness in itself is a good thing. It makes people look at the world, their backyard, the beach, their lake, etc in a different way once they begin to play in it. I am no activist for sure, but I am stoked to be promoting sport that is so very positive for people in general.
What inspired Naish-UK to become the official SUP partner to the Ecover Blue Mile?
I have not discussed this with them, but it sounds like a great initiative that goes hand in hand with SUP. Getting people out on the water is an amazing way to educate them on the environment and our impact on it, and nothing is better to see it than on an sup. It is slow and methodical. You can get around in water and in places that you would never go on any other craft… canals, lakes, tiny streams. You really see EVERYTHING and notice when the water is clean or dirty, the sunken trash on the bottom, the cans and bottles in the vegetation along the shoreline etc. It is a great educational tool to connect people to the aquatic environment from the coast to full on urban waterways.
What advice would you give to people who want to change their day to day behaviour to help protect our natural environment?
Start small and work your way up. Everything helps. Simply having that awareness of the environment and how what you buy and what you eat effects it goes a long way in itself…
What advice would you give to people aspiring to get into stand up paddling and or watersports, either competitively or as a hobby?
Stand up paddling has added a lot to my life and to the lives of many many people around the world. It is really an awesome form of boardriding, and is the most accessible of all forms of boardriding. Anyone can do it…. Anywhere. That accessibility guarantees that the sport will be huge in the future. There are also so many different aspects to the sport. There is the waveriding side, where just about any little wave can be made enjoyable to ride. There is the performance waveriding side, where guys are charging some of the biggest and best waves in the world. Then there is the racing and touring aspect, which will be the biggest. Just paddling around a lake in flat water with some friends is really a lot of fun…. Even for me! Not to mention a fantastic workout. I really believe that this sport is changing peoples lives for the better. I am seeing it everywhere I go. It is healthy, fun, social, can be done anywhere but anyone of any age. That is pretty cool for a boardsport! It brings “surfing” to the masses like never before, and with it comes the lifestyle and feeling of being connected to the water.