Enjoying Water Sports
Water sports are a popular and exhilarating way to enjoy the outdoors. Stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing, snorkelling, water-skiing, and boating are just a few of the activities that can get the heart racing while helping you cool off.
But our presence in the water can also create unwanted ripples for the ocean and marine life. These simple tips will help you enjoy all the water has to offer without making the wrong kind of waves.
Slip, Slop, Slap with Care
We know when we’re heading outdoors that we should slip on protective clothing, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat to shield our skin. However, if we don’t choose wisely, the lotions we use to protect ourselves may have the opposite effect on the environment.
Some sunscreens contain chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can be absorbed by corals and contribute to harmful bleaching of reefs. Keep an eye out for ‘reef-friendly’ sunscreen (there are a lot of options available these days) so you can splash around with a clear conscience.
If you’re surfing or paddle boarding, the wax that gets you moving may also contain chemicals that could harm marine life. Hitting the wave pool first before moving into the deep blue can help reduce your impact, and could also be a fun place to start if you’re a beginner. If you’re more experienced, look into boards and treatments that carry the least risk possible to their surrounds.
Watch Your Waste
Water sports can be tiring, and you’ll want to keep hydrated. Rather than bringing plastic bottles and containers along for the ride, opt for refillable water bottles or a thermos you can take back home to use again.
If you need to bring items in plastic or other disposable containers, make sure you carry a bag for rubbish that you can easily pop in a bin when you’re done. If rubbish is left accidentally, it can find its way into the water and create hazardous effects for fish, birds and other marine creatures.
If you’re boating, make sure your craft contents are secured. This isn’t just to keep everyone safe – if stuff finds its way into the water, it could hurt wildlife and damage the health of the water system. Avoid smoking and eating wherever possible (just in case the scraps go overboard), and store small items that could easily blow off when you catch some wind.
If you spot rubbish that isn’t yours while you’re on the beach or underwater, be a good sport and pick it up. You can get mesh bags to accompany your diving gear, which are handy to stash floating trash.
Maintain Your Equipment
One easy way you can enjoy the sun and sand responsibly is to ensure you’re heading out with equipment that’s in good shape. Older craft may be at risk of leaking oil or chemicals that can harm the environment (as well as posing potential risks to you and your party), so verify your transport and other equipment you’re relying on are in good repair before setting out. If you need to refuel, do so on land to minimise any chance of a spill.
If our boats stir up too many waves (known as ‘the wake’ of the boat), we may throw people or other craft off balance. Large wakes can also impact the environment around us, contributing to shoreline erosion and damaging animal habitats. A process called ‘trimming’ – adjusting the angle of the propeller relative to the boat – helps you adjust how many waves you’re making. Proper trimming means your engine will run more efficiently, pollute less and be quieter for neighbours (whether animal or human).
Boats can disturb watery wildlife both above and below the waves. If you’re skiing, jet-skiing or boating, be aware of what’s around you – even if you can’t see it directly. If you’re near the coast, avoid high speeds, as they can spook birds nesting around the shore and may injure slower moving undersea life.
Our engines stir up sediments, which can have an impact on water health for humans and wildlife. Don’t rev up unless you have to, and if you’re near the shore, remember to idle your engine and proceed with caution. If you have to dock in a place without proper equipment, look out for evidence of marine animals or birds who are using that area to feed or nest.
It also helps to make sure you’re using the right sort of boat for your location and activity. If you’re on a lake, a smaller craft will create less disturbance. If you’re heading out into the ocean, you can use a larger boat and engine.
Stay Hands Off
Whenever we introduce new things to a location, we may create problems for the way that location normally functions. Underwater is no different – in fact, it’s a delicately balanced ecosystem that we can easily disturb if we’re not careful.
If you’re snorkelling or scuba diving, resist the urge to feed fish or other marine life. You could accidently hurt them or leave behind unwanted waste. Only interact with them under the guidance of a professional. They’re still awe-inspiring to watch up close!
Avoid touching anything in the landscape, no matter how tempting it is. Even if you’re wearing underwater gloves to protect your hands, your touch can still disrupt or hurt coral and sea life. Instead, take photos to show off your adventures. If you’re boating around coral, avoid using an anchor, as you might accidentally hit these rare organisms.
There’s nothing quite like the water to make us feel active and alive. But the water isn’t our natural home – we’re just guests. It’s important we minimise our impact on our surroundings so it can stay preserved for generations to enjoy a well into the future.