The eco ‘sweeper’ – Dave Ludgate’s environmentally charged stand up paddle boarding mission.

Words & pics: Dave ‘Subowti’ Ludgate

NCW team rider Dave Ludgate, aka Subowti, gives us some insight to his environmentally led stand up paddle boarding life. Over to Dave.

By now, everyone has heard Albert Einstein’s statement that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. So why do numerous individuals and groups nationwide keep pulling litter out of the water and off our beaches when there’s more there waiting for the next time they head out? I can’t answer for everyone, but I can say why I do it.

I love stand up paddle boarding. I love nature and the unique perspective and relationship with nature that stand up paddle boarding affords us. I am privileged that I can combine both loves, and try to help keep nature as it should be, by doing a #paddleandpickup on my SUP.

Dave on the prowl in Ireland.

According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), only 15 % of marine debris floats on the sea surface; another 15 % remains in the water column, and 70 % rests on the seabed. In my time, I have found the usual suspects of plastic bottles, coffee cups and wrappers floating on the water. I have also pulled bikes, gas tanks, trollies and even a wheelie bin up on to my SUP. I have found so many lifebuoys that I have the personal phone number of my local council’s lifebuoy attendant in my phone.

I find sanitary products – all types. These are flushed down the toilet and make their way though wastewater treatment facilities and into our waterways. According to Clean Coast’s “Think Before You Flush” campaign – only the three P’s should be flushed down the toilet. One of those P’s stands for paper – I’ll let you figure out the other two!

So why do I do it? Here are a few reasons:

To make a difference, even though it may seem futile and there’s an element of ”fingers in the dyke” to it. Every piece of litter removed is one less piece that may cause environmental damage to the space we enjoy so much as paddle boarders. Until we can stem the sources of this litter through lobbying governments and producers and, educate people about their personal consumption and alternatives, it’s a start.

Dave getting some surf SUP time in the bag.

Another reason would be the “broken window theory.” This theory states that visible signs of decay in a neighbourhood – litter for example – signals public disinterest and encourages similar behaviour. So littered areas get littered more and people tend not to litter in tidy areas. I think I can speak for most people when I say we all strive for the latter.

To raise awareness. One of the best things about stand up paddling around the city where I live (Cork) is the reactions from the people on the quays and bridges who see me. It’s usually of surprise and, if they see that I am pulling litter out of the river, I like to think that it raises the issue in their minds. I like to think that those who may think “sure, it’s only one bottle,” may think again about throwing it away. Or that those who would never do such a thing, might look into it and discover that about 80 % of the debris found in the marine environment comes from land-based activities.

People don’t like change and a tool in the resistance to change is to let perfect get in the way of good. Statements like; “what’s the point? It’s going to get littered again,” and, “isn’t that someone else’s job to pick that up?” allow people to avoid change and carry on as usual. The more conspicuous the numerous clean up groups and individuals can be, the more people may start to change.

Being environmentally minded can bring on feelings of despair and hopelessness. Joining your local clean up group is a great way of meeting like minded people and discovering that you’re not on your own and that there are more people than you thought trying to achieve the same goals. Not to mention the mental health benefits of stand up paddle boarding.

For future generations. Years from now, when we’re talking to our grandchildren, we’re going to have to explain why we are handing them a planet in worse condition than when we got it. I don’t know what your religious beliefs are but I would find this far more daunting than any judgement in the afterlife.

Ultimately, rather than being kept awake at night worrying about the state of the planet, I go to sleep a little easier knowing I’m trying.

I would like to give a big thanks to FatStick Boards and North Coast Wetsuits. Two companies who are equally as passionate about the environment as I am. Without their generous support, I could not do what I do.

For more stand up paddle boarding knowledge head across to NCW’s dedicated SUP page –

You can see Dave’s NCW team rider profile here –