Interview by Krzl Light Nunes
Having lived by the coast all her life, 27-year-old Chilean longboard champion Constanza Fernandez's love for the sea stretches beyond simply surfing. When she's not training in the water, she is either out keeping the beach clean or teaching kids how to take care of it.
Aside from being a true-blue ocean child, she is also the part-owner and founder of The Waves Company, a start-up that aims to recycle plastic collected from beaches into surf accessories such as wax combs and keyrings.
A lot of the plastic residues gathered and segregated comes from the beach cleanup drives they have organized in various beaches, usually with kids. "I don't want to see the sea dirty," she points out.
But more than being an initiative, making the beach litter-free has always been a habit of hers. She grew up in Concón, one of the cities in the central region of Chile lined with many touristic and surfable beaches facing the Pacific. She has done beach cleanups with her family since she was young, and continues to do so with her partner, Carlos. "It's like cleaning your own backyard."
It all started five years ago when she initiated a social surf program for local underprivileged kids.
"As surf classes are generally expensive, we wanted the children here to have access to this sport. Besides, surfing is something optimistic and life-changing. We wanted to share that with other people."
It later led her to incorporating the beach cleanup drive with the classes. "We had to do another kind of positive activity aside from surfing."
Currently, the Waves Company recycles three types of plastics. One of these, type 2, is the kind mostly used in shampoo bottles, yogurt packaging, and milk containers. They also conduct workshops in local schools to teach not only the recycling process using machines but also environmental awareness.
As she lives minutes away from the local breaks, she usually organizes the clean-up drives at the beaches she frequents. With this, she has been able to juggle her company activities with longboarding practices very well.
Her surfing stint began 14 years ago in her home spot, La Boca beach. Having transitioned from shortboard to longboard, she has been successful in both categories, winning in local and international competitions. Her latest feat was in the Pan American Games in Peru this year, where she finished as a silver medalist.
And competing again is definitely something she is going for. "I would love to continue touring the world for a year," she shares.
Meanwhile, as an entrepreneur, she hopes to be able to tap into more industries and recycle more types of plastics. "I would like my business to further grow so it can impact more people, especially those who live along the coast of Chile because they are the ones who are the most affected by the plastic problem." More than a business venture, this is her contribution to the environment that she intends to expand not only to her hometown’s beaches but also, hopefully, to many more in the future.
Follow Cotstanza @_conifernadez