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December 17, 2019 3 min read

Plastic Free Wave Oahu Education Tour 2019

Last year the first ever Plastic Free Wave washed ashore at the WSL Pipeline Masters. Artist Ethan Estess created the Plastic Free Pipeline, a twenty-eight foot long wave sculpture built from plastic waste. He used fishing nets, buoys and other waste collected on Oahu’s eastern shoreline by local nonprofits Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation. Contest goers were encouraged to “catch the plastic free wave to wipe out plastic pollution” by interacting with the Plastic Free Pipeline sculpture and reflect on their own plastic consumption. Alongside the activation Ethan, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation embarked on an education tour through a handful of local schools to inspire students to take action on plastic pollution. We were proud to support from afar.


This year Ethan and the Plastic Free Wave education tour nonprofit team (Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation) are back on Oahu’s North Shore. After moving the wave to Oahu’s Bishop Museum for their newly opened History of Surfing exhibit, Ethan got busy creating a new piece to continue the conversation on plastic pollution. He teamed up with artist and everyone’s favorite body surfer Mark Cunnigham to create a photo wall. The front side covered by a fishing net mural made by Ethan, the backside by one made by Mark and his favorite hand collected pieces of beach pollution. Contest goers took photos in front of the art piece while talking to volunteers from the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii on the issues around plastic pollution. 

The accompanying education tour made it to six schools on Oahu’s North Shore. And this time around a stoked Bureo team member got to travel home to support in person --yew! The goal of the tour was to educate and inspire students to take action towards protecting our oceans. Each organization shared their love for the ocean and conviction that together we can save it. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii brought their experience collecting over 500,000 pounds of waste off Hawaii’s shorelines as evidence we need to work to cut plastic consumption at the source. Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation encouraged personal solutions that everyone can do to reduce their use of plastic. We got to share our own experience of working towards solutions to the most harmful type of plastic pollution, fishing nets and had conversations on why recycling is the last R of the 3R’s. Ethan spoke to Countercurrent’s goal of fostering ocean stewardship through interactive art pieces and urged students to follow their passions regardless of what they may be and what boxes society puts them into. His presence as a scientist and artist alone proving it’s possible with the right support and a bit of luck. 

All presentations were interactive with activities ranging from writing love letters to the sea to identify the resin codes on different plastic products. The student’s favorite activity- ours too- was the printmaking station that Ethan Estess ran. Students received a reusable cotton bag and got to pick an ocean print made out of fishing nets collected off the beach. It gave Ethan the opportunity to talk about his background in tracking tuna every summer in Japan where he learned the Japanese art form of gyotaku- fish printing.  

Looking back on the past 8 days over here in Hawaii has left us inspired to continue scaling solutions to ocean pollution into 2020 and beyond. Knowing 1,000 students are now empowered oceans stewards is one of the best gifts we will receive this year. A big mahalo to the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Counter Current Art for all the time and energy they put into fighting plastic pollution year round. And another big thank you to the sponsors who made the wave and education tour possible: WSL Pure, Johnson Ohana Foundation, Hydroflask, Re-use Hawaii, and the Turtle Bay Foundation. Last year the first ever plastic free wave washed ashore at the WSL pipeline masters, this year we leave Hawaii encouraged by how many ripples it continues to have. ALOHA!