Some big steps have been taken this year to make the Armada more plastic-free. Can you outline them?
Well thankfully, as most people will have seen, there has been a much greater focus on the problems of plastics in our oceans over recent months and as a result there is already much more awareness of the issue which is a great start. Clearly as kitesurfers we love the sea so this is an issue that affects us in a huge way and we all need to do our bit. We wanted to up our game at the Armada and look at every aspect where plastic is used across the festival and try to greatly reduce or eradicate these.
We didn’t quite know how much of a challenge it would be at the outset, or truly understand the costs involved – but we were committed to giving it a go!
We have learnt a lot, and I think we are making progress. This year we will have reusable branded cups for all drinks so there will be no single use plastic pint or half pint cups anywhere. We will have no plastic water bottles on site at all, as we are working with a producer who sells water in aluminium cans, there will be no plastic straws or cutlery anywhere and only recyclable packaging for all food served. We are ensuring no plastic bags will be used by us and we will have paper bags for all the goody bags we give out. Also, following a new partnership with Trio Sports, we are now going to be able make our event rash vest out of 100% recycled plastic which is a really exciting development for us! There will be a system to recycle the wristbands we use to register everyone and manage safety, and we are organising a beach clean with Surfers Against Sewage and Southern Water to ensure we leave the beach spotless.
Then there are also more general environmental steps being taken around better recycling on site, clearer smoking areas, working with Natural England to protect various bird species nesting at the back of the beach, ensuring people don’t need to print out any tickets but can have everything on their phones and a big focus on educating the young on these issues by investing in the schools afternoon on the Friday, where we have 300 kids coming down to learn about the environment, sustainability, wind energy, plastic issues and see some amazing kitesurfing!
The 2018 Armada Rashie – made from 100% recycled plastic and ocean waste!
What was the key driver behind the decision to try and reduce the amount of plastic used at the event?
As we mentioned above, the dangers for sea life of plastic production remaining unchecked has become very clear. We are the biggest kitesurfing festival in UK so I think we have responsibility to make a proper effort. On a more personal note, I know how much I love kiting on crystal clear waters, and diving on beautiful coral reefs and I want my kids, and their kids, to be able to do this too – without carving through a heap of floating plastic that is killing the sea life around them.
What are the key challenges in terms of cost?
In short, it costs more on every single front to be more environmental. Every single change outlined above has increased cost for us, and this leads to considerable challenges running the festival and managing the budget. It increases your risk – but our view is you just have to commit to it, believe it’s the right thing to do and trust that in the end people will respect what you are doing and support you. But when it’s so cheap to buy thousands of plastic cups from any Cash and Carry, or when you can still buy hundreds of plastic bottles of water for a few pence each, you can see why a lot of events are struggling to make the transition.
Have you seen any other sports festivals taking measures like you have?
I know Boardmasters do a lot in this area, and I think over time others will have to do more if they are not yet, because the number of people who won’t accept single use plastic or other non-environmental practice is growing – so even if you aren’t motivated personally to change, if your customers are demanding it in the end you will have to, and that is a good thing.
How do you hope the festival goers will respond?
I think they will respond positively. The kitesurfing community are a very supportive bunch. They have got behind us with everything else we have done with the Armada, so I’m hoping they will get behind this initiative too. And every one of them loves the sea, so this stuff should be close to everyone’s hearts.
Interview: Matt Pearce, Kiteworld. Words: Dan Charlish, Armada Events
The Kitesurfing Armada Festival takes place on Hayling Island from the 22-24th June. Register for free festival tickets, or buy your kitesurfing or camping tickets, at www.kitesurfingarmada.com