Surfers protest GMOs and chemical testing on Hawaii


Pro surfer and MMA fighter Dustin Barca leads an anti-GMO rally as Surfing For Change founder Kyle Thiermann looks on. Frame grab courtesy of Surfing For Change

"I'm not scared to die for the future of my kids and my home."—pro surfer/MMA fighter and anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca, as quoted in Kyle Thiermann’s “Pro Surfers vs. GMOs.”

In December, immediately following the Pipeline Masters, some of the world's best surfers, including Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, John John Florence, Sebastian Zietz, and dozens more, joined local activists and community leaders in a march through the rainy streets of Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu. The march was to protest the presence of companies like Monsanto and Syngenta, which, thanks to Hawaii’s loose regulatory environment, grow GMO crops and test pesticides that are banned in dozens of countries on Hawaiian fields.

And while this issue has been in the news and courtrooms for a while now, it's really picking up steam in Hawaii thanks to people like Dustin Barca and other community leaders. Further highlighting the issue was a goal of Santa Cruz, California, surfer and “Surfing For Change” founder Kyle Thiermann, whose most recent work, “Pro Surfers vs. GMOs,” can be viewed below. We caught up with Kyle to get a bit more insight into his anti-GMO and anti-chemical campaign …

What was it that drew you to this issue?
I travel to Hawaii a lot to surf, and when I learned that the major biotech companies do their testing on the Hawaiian Islands I thought it would be an interesting story to cover for my YouTube Series, “Surfing For Change.” Then I learned that there was a big movement already growing with Dustin Barca and a lot of the boys already working to get companies like Monsanto and Syngenta off Hawaii. I was like, “Wow, this kind of controversy would make for a sick documentary!” David and Goliath stories are always good.


11-time world champion Kelly Slater talks with Surfing For Change about the uncertainties surrounding GMOs. Frame grab courtesy of Surfing For Change

If you could get a face-to-face meeting with the chief executive of Monsanto, what one question would you ask him/her?
His name is Hugh Grant (different from the actor). I would ask him if he’d be willing to put his kids in one of the schools directly adjacent to the biotech companies' testing grounds in Hawaii, where they test restricted-use pesticides like atrazine. [Indeed, Syngenta’s testing of atrazine near schools was recently linked to seizures, nose bleeds, and burning eyes among the school children.]


Big-wave surfer Shane Dorian marches against GMOs in this frame grab taken from “Pro Surfers vs. GMOs.”

What can the average citizen do to combat GMOs in our food?
In the documentary we chose to focus on ground zero of GMOs, but this issue is a lot bigger than just what we covered in the doc. It goes around the world and back to the grocery store if you follow the rabbit hole. In 2012 companies that labeled their products non-GMO saw a 26 percent increase in sales. More than 60 countries around the world have banned GMOs. This is a solvable issue. It’s just up to us to make it reach that tipping point by refusing to buy GMO products and supporting organizations directly opposing GMOs. We have a super clear layout of things you can do on our site at

What’s next for Surfing For Change?
We’re having a big party at my house in Santa Cruz tonight! Getting a keg of non-GMO beer and we’re gonna celebrate the release of the film.


Three dudes you want on your side: Sunny Garcia, Kai “Borg” Garcia, and Chava Greenlee; frame grab courtesy of Surfing For Change

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