Image Credit: © WSL/McGregor

Ocean conservation takes centre stage at this year’s Ballito Pro Festival

“We are oceans. We’ve always needed them, now they need us.”
– Lewis Pugh, Ocean Advocate


In line with this year’s theme Konke KuLuhlazaEverything is Blue, the 54th Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival has centred its events around ocean conservation, with awareness programmes running throughout the festival from 27 June to 9 July. Driving the conservation efforts at the KwaDukuza-based festival are Litter4Tokens, The Litterboom Project (TLP), WEEE are iLembe, and the Ballito Urban Improvement Precinct (BUIP).

“Without healthy oceans, there is no Ballito Pro, there is no tourism, there is no life on Earth. We all have a role to play in turning the tide on ocean health, and that’s why we’re expanding our ocean conservation awareness programme throughout the Festival events,” explained Collette Bundy, The Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival Organiser. “This year’s theme touches on both the blue of the ocean, reflective of KwaDukuza’s Blue Flag Beach programme as well as our sponsor, O’Neill’s Blue global product collection; while also emphasising the ‘green’ elements of sustainability and conservation.”

The Litter4Tokens initiative was founded on the KZN North Coast in Shaka’s Head by Clare Swithenbank-Bowman in 2015. This globally recognised, award-winning initiative has helped create a circular economy in underprivileged communities countrywide, where waste collectors exchange recyclable material for essential products. This innovative model clears waste while simultaneously allowing residents to care for themselves and their families sustainably.

Noting the high number of dangerous nurdles (also known as Mermaid Tears) – microplastic pellets which form the base material of plastic products – on KZN North Coast beaches, Litter4Tokens pioneered the Mermaid Tears project. This educates people about the incredible dangers of nurdles to marine life, and encourages the purchase of Mermaid Tear Catchers to remove nurdles from sand. Created using recyclable material, the Mermaid Tear Catcher – which doubles as a frisbee – allows users to sift through the sand, separating the harmful nurdles which can be disposed of safely.

Thanks to the funding from the President Stimulus Fund and Brownie points, Litter4Tokens has prevented more than 996 000 bags (1 097 tons) of litter from reaching the ocean, while feeding more than 179 000 people in remote communities across South Africa and Mexico! This equates to 373 tons of carbon dioxide. Litter4Tokens sister foundation in the USA was launched in 2022 allowing for global educational outreach campaigns impacting more than 32 000 people in schools, foundations, and businesses.

How can you get involved?

In 2022, the Ballito Pro campaign collected more than 2.6kgs of nurdles, saving thousands of marine lives – now it’s time to beat that record! Visitors to this year’s Ballito Pro can look out for the trademark nurdle station at Willard Beach where Mermaids Tear Catchers are on sale. All proceeds from the catchers are put back into the non-profit organisation. There are also amazing prizes worth more than R50 000 to be won for those who collect the most nurdles at the event. This is a great activity for the whole family, and a good way to educate children about safe environmental practices.

Litter4Tokens also offers BEEE and Section 18a certificates for corporates to achieve the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. By donating to Litter4Tokens business and manufacturing funding, they can expand their impactful work.

Another homegrown, award-winning conservation NPO, The Litterboom Project (TLP), was founded by Cameron Service in 2017 and uses an innovative waste collection approach in eight KZN and two Western Cape rivers to prevent waste from reaching the ocean. A thick pipe placed across the rivers can sift out huge amounts of waste – more than 500 000kgs to date – preventing it from becoming an ocean-bound problem.

TLP has also pioneered other sustainable programmes including Back a Beach and The Wastepreneur programme. They recently launched Back a Beach encourages the business community to sponsor beachfront clean-ups, making this a more regular occurrence that inspires community action.

The already successful Wastepreneur programme offers training in using machinery to convert plastic waste, collected from rivers, beaches, and other areas around Durban, into valuable products that can be sold. This venture has been so successful that some of the products are sold by South Africa’s biggest retailers.

How can you get involved?

At the Ballito Pro, visitors can support the TLP initiatives by joining the Hunt Properties 5km run through Ballito on Friday, July 7, where the company will donate R5 for every participating runner. TLP welcomes matching donations from other companies that would like to get involved. The charity run starts at 5.30am from Concha Café. After the run, TLP welcomes visitors to meet the team at 8am to find out more about the work being done.

Another KZN North Coast organisation tackling pollution is the newly launched WEEE are iLembe, an initiative that promotes the recycling of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE). WEEE, also known as e-waste, includes any electrical or electronic device that uses either electricity or batteries, that is no longer wanted or needed. This can include things like phones, laptops, TVs, appliances, lighting, batteries and more. The growing problem of e-waste sees millions of tonnes generated globally each year, which if not treated or treated incorrectly, can cause harm to the environment and human health.

On 23 August 2021, the South African government banned WEEE from entering landfills yet less than 10% of all e-waste is recycled. WEEE are iLembe aims to educate people about safe and proper disposal of e-waste and to encourage diversion of e-waste from landfill into recycling. This will allow for products to be refurbished and kept in circulation and the recovery of valuable materials that can be reused in new products.

How can you get involved?

WEEE are iLembe will be set up at the Ballito Pro retail area at Willard Beach where visitors can learn more about the initiative, how to safely dispose of e-waste, as well as check out the epic e-waste-to-art installation!

An immediate signifier of ocean health is the water quality which is why the Ballito Urban Improvement Precinct (BUIP) is monitoring the E.coli levels at all beaches and tidal pools from Salmon Bay to Tiffany’s Beach. This is not only vital for the health of marine life, but an important indicator for tourists and residents who enjoy swimming in the oceans recreationally. Showing rigorous transparency, BUIP shares the E.coli results on its social media pages and will continue to monitor the levels to ensure beach-goer safety and ensure Willard Beach retains its Blue Flag Beach status. The Ballito UIP Non-Profit Company with the support of KDM would like to install the addition of a fourth access ramp to the beach, forming part of its Beach Access For All campaign.

How you can get involved?

Keep updated with water quality levels by following @BUIP on Instagram and @BallitoUIP on Facebook. You can also visit the website and check the ‘Projects’ page to contribute towards the ramp fund so that the beach is accessible to all.

2023 Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival

This year’s festival programme will adopt the Konke KuLuhlaza – Everything is Blue theme throughout the action-packed and fun-filled lineup. Visitors to this year’s top surfing event can look forward to great festival activities and entertainment, including:

  • Retail offerings
  • The Ballito Pro Skate Jam
  • Monster Energy trail biking demonstrations by Brent Le Riche
  • Free beach Yoga and Pilates from 7am to 8am (except Sundays)
  • Daily beach sports, and recreational activities
  • Jive with Jen daily dance lessons, expression sessions, face painting and fun games for children
  • O’Neill Blue Capsule initiative and Women of the Wave activation
  • Bra Golf Day fundraiser
  • Para Surf Expression Session
  • Coastal and Cultural Tourism Experience
  • Indoor rowing demonstrations

Don’t miss any of the action at the 2023 Ballito Pro Presented by O’Neill Festival and be part of the change.  #konkekuluhlaza #everythingisblue