Partnering Paddling & the Environment: The Green Surf Festival in Noli, Italy

Green Surf Festival Noli Italy Starboard banner
Green Surf Festival Noli Italy Starboard banner
Global Partner

The standup paddling industry, environmental groups and entertainment world came together last week for a stellar event in Noli, Italy:  The Green Surf Festival.

The Green Surf Festival: Not just a race anymore

What started as a standup paddle race last year, the beautiful and iconic Noli Sup Race, has developed into a global meeting of surfers, paddlers and environmentalists from all over the world.  What happened in Italy last week was nothing short of spectacular.

Plenty of fun & games amid a great leadership talk on sustainability and ocean conservationism at this year’s Green Surf Festival. Photo by: David Altabev

Green Surf Festival:  paddling, advocacy & ocean conservationism

Within the context of great sportsmanship, similar interests and meaningful conversation, the Green Surf Festival in Noli, Italy brought together a host of diverse individuals from different backgrounds from all over the globe.  For the first time, environmental activism became an integral part of a standup paddle racing event.

In the water, the main event was the sup race while the groms indulged in a Surfskate contest and the surfers hit the water for tow-out Surf Winch.  Still others had the opportunity to play and practice Sup Yoga and Sup Pilates as a part of the event.

Green Surf Festival Noli Italy
The Noli Sup race gathered an international team of paddlers to celebrate the environment. Photo by: David Altabev

Green Talks led by Industry Leaders

But, the main attraction – the true highlight of the event – were the Green Talks held on land.  These talks, led by top researchers, industry leaders, young entrepreneurs seeking a new way to practice business and innovators of all kinds, brought together this diverse community to talk in depth about ocean conservationism and sustainability within the standup paddling industry.

Green Surf Festival Italy Chris Bertish
Ultra endurance athlete, big wave charger and eco-conscious entrepreneur, Chris Bertish shared his experience of crossing the Atlantic ocean, one stroke at a time. Photo by: David Altabev

Chris Bertish, Svein Rasmussen, Michael Stewart head environmental discussions on changes within the sup industry

A very special guest to the event was cross-Atlantic standup paddler Chris Bertish, who recently completed the 4050 mile paddle from the coast of Africa to Antigua by himself in a standup paddle craft of his own making.  Chris came directly from South Africa to Noli to tell his story of his adventure to an enraptured audience.  He also received a special citizenship from Noli’s municipality for his extraordinary endeavor.

Among the acclaimed presenters was Starboard CEO and Chief Innovator, Svein Rasmussen.  Rasmussen unveiled to the group Starboard’s new initiative, Project Blue.  This project is aimed at drastically reducing Starboard’s carbon footprint and revolutionizing the way standup paddle boards are made by introducing plant-based, recycled and non-toxic materials throughout the entire Starboard range.  That’s quite an achievement!

Green Surf Festival Michael Stewart Sustainable Surf
Michael Stewart of Sustainable Surf has partnered up with Starboard Sup to create innovative new materials for the standup paddling industry. Photo by: Michael Altabev

Other presenters, revealed their efforts at developing a more sustainable way of living and surfing including Michael Stewart from Sustainable Surf who introduced their Deep Blue Life concept.  The 5 Gyres were also present and demonstrated their work on ocean plastics.  Alan Laubach from Lykke was also there who showed the gathering their project for tree-based currency and trading as a way of creating a carbon offset incentive for real world economy.

While the talks dominated everyone’s thought processes throughout the event, there was also engagement on the water with the Noli standup paddle race.  The Green Surf Festival developed from the Noli Sup Race which attracted international attention in 2016.

Green Surf Festival standup paddle race
Noli, Italy is one spectacular race course. Photo by: David Altabev

Noli, Italy’s International Standup Paddle Race

This year, again, the Noli Sup Race did not disappoint.  With its dramatic backdrop of Italy’s beautiful cliffs and bays to its challenging downwinder conditions, the Noli Sup Race raised the bar for an Elite standup paddle race in Europe.  Many international paddlers joined the Italian racing community for an exciting competition which included Tramontana winds.

Green Surf Festival Leonard Nika Starboard
Italian racing champ, Leonard Nika takes home the win for Starboard. Photo by: David Altabev

Leonard Nika/Angela Fernandez take Top Honors

Italian racing star, Leonard Nika of Starboard, took 1st place in the men’s Elite for the second year running.  He was followed by Paolo Marconi of RRD, who had a great downwind leg but lost ground on the upwind section, and the dark horse, Felippe Meira – also of RRD – from Portugal.

For the women, a strong Portuguese athlete, Angela Fernandez of Starboard took top honors, followed by Chiara Nordio of Riviera in 2nd and Liana Lakafosi of Starboard from Greece.

Written by:  Franz Orsi


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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.