The sun was shining, live music was playing and the sea was littered with people on SUPs, surfboards and kayaks… it could only be Paddle Round the Pier.
Yesterday was our third year at the beach festival and it was definitely the hottest yet! Last year, the festival raised over £30,000 which was donated to The Wave Project (Brighton hub), the RNLI and the Brighton Surf Life Saving Club. If numbers yesterday were anything to go by, it looks like they’ll have raised another staggering amount this year.
We didn’t get to see any talks in the lecture tents this time but we did enjoy perusing round the stalls and talking to people from various businesses and organisations.
I was pleased to see Ocean Bohéme back again – with a beachy jewellery stall filled with delights!! I’ve got my sights set on a shell necklace as my next purchase… Her set up was pretty awesome with products displayed on two upside down wooden surfboards. If you haven’t stumbled across this talented lady yet, check out her website here.
But then across the way, I discovered what I think might become another jewellery obsession. Selkie Jewellery had enough to tempt not just me, but my boyfriend too. We were admiring a paid of cufflinks with what looked like shells engraved in them when we were told that they’d been made using cuttlefish. Amazingly, carves out the design in the cuttlefish, then uses it like a mound which explains why some of the pieces we were looking at had soft ripples behind the designs. It’s amazing and incredibly effective.
Plus, with some of their pieces (like the hammerhead shark necklaces) they donate a portion of the profit to various marine conservation causes including the Marine Conservation Society, the Shark Trust, the Seahorse Trust and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. There’s no doubt that Tia Rolfe, founder of Selkie jewellery, is another talented lady. I’m going to have to save up for some of these pieces but for anyone interested, you can find out more here.
Right next door to Selkie Jewellery was Gnarly Tree clothing; and this is where my money began to disappear. I love their designs and the fact that they’re a surf clothing brand originating from the south coast, with places labelled on their clothing that we frequent as locals. Even the pictures around the stall we recognised, although one of the photos we thought was taken in Famara, Lanzarote. Turned out it was Scotland on what sounded like an epic, if unexpected surf session. I couldn’t resist; after deliberating for a few minutes, I gave in and bought a summer vest.
But I didn’t stop there. Across the way from Gnarly Tree was a stand for Mizu bottles. I’ve been eyeing these up online for ages and they had a ridiculously cheap sale price especially for Paddle Round the Pier so it seemed silly not to invest.
For anyone unaware of them, Mizu water bottles are made from stainless steel which means they’re 100% BPA free and 100% recyclable. The company was founded by a pro snowboarder and his friends in 2008 after they were embarrassed by how many plastic bottles they’d gathered after just one week of filming in Alaska. My bottle came with a little label about the brand but what I found interesting was the part which asked why they use stainless steel over aluminium.
‘All aluminium bottles must be lined, usually with a plastic resin – so let me get this straight: make a drinking bottle out of a toxic material and then cover it up with another toxic material? Sounds pretty stupid when you could just make it out of stainless steel, the safest material for food known to mankind.’
Now while we’re on the subject of plastic, Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society and Incredible Oceans were all focusing their stalls on the importance of reducing plastic pollution once more. With whale sculptures made out of discarded plastic bags, bottle tops and packaging, it really hit home (once more) just how dire the situation is.
Another stall, Ocean Sole, was selling little model animals and key rings made up from plastic flip flops which wash up on the shores of Kenya. They estimate that they pick up 400,000 flip flops from Kenya’s beaches each year but that’s not all. With a focus on trade not aid, the company also creates jobs in these areas, employing 50 artists in Nairobi full-time. Their focus is on conservation entrepreneurship and it seems to be working. Kids were going crazy for these things and since launching, they’ve even had orders from groups like WWF Switzerland.
And yet, with all this talk about plastic, I was shocked to see that the stall selling pina coladas was handing out plastic straws.
I’d purchased one of these drinks the first year I went to the festival, unaware of the environmental risks posed by plastic straws, and by just how many wash up on our beaches each year. But after so much pressure and media focus about plastic, this year, I was expecting straws to be a non-existent thing at Paddle Round the Pier.
So at a beach festival where the majority of charities exhibiting are talking about plastic pollution, isn’t it rather bad taste to have a vendor actively contributing to it?
What was frustrating, was that these drinks were arguably the most popular so I hate to think how many straws they gave out over the weekend. It’s a shame because the mocktail and the cocktail versions are incredible – they come served in a pineapple which looks awesome but means you do need a straw to be able to drink it. That doesn’t mean it has to be plastic though.
I read later that Paddle Round the Pier and Surfers Against Sewage were in talks to reduce plastic at the festival and encourage more vendors to choose paper alternatives but in my opinion, there shouldn’t be a choice at an event like this.
If you want to sell food or drink at a beach festival where a lot of focus is on looking after and protecting our coastlines, you should have paper straws, reusable cups, wooden forks or compostable packaging (we were chuffed to discover the paellla we bought was served in vegware). If a vendor won’t commit to this, don’t let them exhibit. It’s as simple as that.
Despite my little gripe about the plastic, once again Paddle Round the Pier was a brilliant day out with some fantastic stalls for anyone who cares about the ocean or loves the beach lifestyle.
In the next few years, we actually want to take part in the paddle but I need a board first. Luckily, I fell in love with one this weekend. How amazing is this Fanatic board?
Just checked out the price tag though and I’d better start saving….