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Kathryn Keating of RenewBluSurf: Saving The Oceans For A Cleaner and Safer Surf

 

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The waves are our home… and it’s in danger. Ocean plastics and unsustainable industries threaten the world we live in, not only our oceans. In this episode, we meet Kathryn Keating, the woman behind RenewBluSurf, promoting and maintaining clean ocean waters and a healthy coastal environment one surf product at a time.

Living on Long Beach Island, Kathryn Keating formed an early and deep love for the ocean and the coastal environment. From sunrise walks to waiting for the right wave, she noticed the impacts of humankind on the beaches. Following her passion, she co-founded RenewBluSurf to offer 100% eco-friendly products to surfers, teach the community on the effects they have and give back through profit-sharing with a local ocean-based foundation.

Social Media Profiles:

Podcast Questions:

  • Tell me a little about your background.
  • What is it like not being in school?
  • How did you come up with the idea for RenewBluSurf?
  • Tell me about your products—what is it made of, how they are produced.
  • How do you find products?
  • How do people find out about your company?
  • I like the idea of the surf box, are you going to continue?
  • What is Alliance for a Living Ocean?
  • What was your first surfboard?
  • What was your best wave?
  • If you could go back and give your younger self advice, what would it be?
  • Any departing comments?

Location: Long Beach Island, NJ

Transcripts

Saltwater High! How's everyone doing out here, there, everywhere? Hello, Kathryn. How are you today?

I'm doing great. Derek. How are you?

I'm doing awesome. I'm doing really good. I just got out of the water. Beautiful day here in California.

Awesome.

You're in New Jersey. Where are you at?

Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Dude, I grew up in Long Beach, California.

Really?

Yeah, it's probably a little bit different.

Just a little bit.

Yeah. What's it like?

It's really cold right now. Snowing.

Wow.

Yeah. So a little hard to surf right now, but yeah.

Yeah. So if you did surf today, I guess you would wear a 5/4 with a hood and booties gloves. The whole deal?

The whole deal, yep.

What's the coldest water you've ever surfed? Do you know?

Probably in the 50s somewhere.

Yeah. Wow. That's awesome. Have you heard of Wim Hof? He does these cold plunges. He's really known for doing these cold plunges, so sometimes I do those in 47-degree water without a wetsuit.

My gosh! That's crazy. Oh my God!

It's good practice for surfing where you live, for sure.

Definitely.

Yeah. Well, tell me a little bit about yourself and how you had the idea for RenewBluSurf, right? Is that the name of it?

Yes. RenewBluSurf. Perfect.

Awesome.

I'm 17 years old. I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and LBI. So I've been here every summer, and a few years ago, we moved here permanently. So I've been here full time. So a few different aspects came together to start RenewBluSurf. So it's always been a tradition of my families to go on beach walks, and we'd always bring a bucket along with us and collect all the trash we could find on the beach. And it was in 3rd grade that my family moved to India. My mom was transferred there.

Oh, wow.

I saw how there was trash everywhere. Cows were eating out of piles of trash. And the lake outside of our community would catch on fire from the pollution. And it was just crazy. And that's when I realized, wow, the environment is definitely not doing well.

No.

Definitely not. When I moved to LBI, that's when I started surfing. So it was about 2 or 3 years ago, and I was out there one day, and I saw my sunscreen starting to come off in the water, and you see balloons going by in the ocean, and it was just so sad to see. And I was like, I've been seeing this my whole life, and the sunscreen coming off is probably contributing to this problem that I'm seeing. So all these things kind of came together, and that's how RenewBluSurf was inspired.

Dude, that's a rad story. What part of India? Do you remember which part?

It was Bangalore.

Bangalore. Yeah. I lived in Varanasi for 6 months, like 10 years ago.

Really?

Yeah. So I know exactly what you're talking about. Very cool. So you had this, are your parents would you call them ecologically minded? I guess if you were walking down the beach with a bucket, you definitely were.

Yeah, definitely. They definitely started teaching me young the importance of the environment and always being mindful of that.

Yeah, very cool. And then you had this idea for a surf company, which is great.

Yes.

How did you go from, okay, I'm a surfer now, and I'm concerned about the environment to I want to start a surf company? How did that all go down?

So it started when COVID hit, and I went virtual for school. So being in a traditional school, I was wasting so much valuable time. So I ended up switching to an online school, which is based in California. And I came up with the concept of RenewBluSurf and being online gave me the opportunity to kind of learn these skills, like marketing and creating a website, and different things that I wouldn't be learning in a traditional school. So that's kind of when I thought, okay, this is a really unique learning environment that I'm in, and I can kind of be able to create this company and bring all my visions to life now that I have this flexibility and time. So I kind of saw COVID as a unique opportunity and ran with my ideas and brought it to life.

That's beautiful. And the site looks amazing. I was looking at it yesterday. So congratulations on not only learning how to do that but having a really good eye. I was looking at your product photos. They tell a story within themselves, right? Which is what we're all trying to do with our businesses, is tell a story and show a lifestyle. So, yeah, they look really good. I encourage everyone listening to this, go check it out. Yeah.

Thank you.

Yeah. And I saw you started to do a Surf Box last year, I think it was. So tell me about that idea, which I think is a great idea.

Thank you. So that was our first concept, and it's kind of like a monthly subscription type of thing. And we're putting our own products, but we're also bringing in other eco-friendly businesses to kind of pair with us, different businesses, every month, which I think is really cool to show a consumer like we all have the same vision of where we want to go with the environment and helping the environment. So it's really cool that I get to work with other eco-friendly businesses and supply our customers with all these alternatives to more plastic products.

Absolutely. Well, don't forget to send me an email. I'd love to be part of the eco box for surfers, for sure.

Absolutely. I'll send you an email.

Yeah. Cool. So, being in this industry for a long time now, there aren't a ton of products out there, right? There are a lot of organic foods and organic drinks, but surf products, there aren't a ton. So have you thought about to incorporate other products from other walks of life or other industries, or do you think there are enough surf products now to add to your lineup?

Definitely continuing to add because a lot of the products out there that say they're eco-friendly, they're often only 30% eco-friendly. They're not fully. And that's one thing I really try to focus on is to look at the fine details and the aspects that people often overlook. So, for instance, we're working on a traction pad right now, and adhesives are a big thing, a big part of it. So we're working to make that detail of it also eco-friendly so it can be 100%.

Wow. Yeah, that's going to be hard because basically, we're talking about the glue, right? The glue that is on the back of the traction. If that isn't strong, it's not going to stay on the board. And if it doesn't stay on the board, then it's not eco because it just falls off, right? Go ahead.

Yeah. There's definitely has to be a lot of research and development that goes into it. But what were you going to say?

I was going to say there's a balance between having sustainable products. I'm going to call them sustainable or eco. I like to say eco-minded. Eco-friendly is great, too, but I like eco-minded, which usually means they're a step in the right direction. They're not the perfect eco product, but they're a step in the right direction. That's kind of a term I came up with not too long ago. But what I was going to say, what I realized in the early days of Wave Tribe is because I tried to go really hard on as much eco as possible, but it was difficult to kind of marry the technical aspects of products and the ecological aspects of them. So the deck pad is a great example because if it doesn't stick to the surfboard, it's going to fall off, it'll go into the ocean and create more trash, right? So you could have a deck pad that is 100% eco, but if it falls off and goes in the ocean, it actually goes against the whole ethos of why we're doing it in the first place. So I think finding that balance is really hard sometimes.

It's definitely hard. We've thought about surf leashes, but some products, you just can't figure out a way to make them 100%. You have to make sure they're safe, they're not falling apart, and all that. So there definitely are products that are increasingly just extremely impossible to make 100% eco-friendly. You're right, definitely.

And then, of course, the thing we all ride, surfboards is probably one of the biggest culprits of toxicity. When you think about the foam, the fiberglass, the resin, right? Just to encourage anyone out there that wants to try a wooden board, which I actually was surfing a wooden board today. So even though it has a little bit of glass on it, just a little bit to keep it sealed, actually a wood board is the closest you can get to a fully ecological board, right? Especially if you're using the wood comes from certified renewable forest. And you're not gluing the wood together, but you're using some kind of locking system, right? So when you think about it, there's so many elements of the construction of a surfboard that are gnarly, right? They're just bad. So wood is a great sustainable way to have a board that is, what I've found, the closest thing to sustainability as possible.

Yeah.

I don't know if you've looked at surfboards at all.

We're not really looking into surfboards, at least not currently. But that does seem like a great alternative for someone looking for environmentally friendly board.

Nice. And what other products are you kind of brainstorming and looking at?

So we have our Surf Wax Comb, which is our biggest seller. It's made of 100% bamboo. We have our towels and surf wax, which is made of beeswax, so there's no paraffins or the petroleum chemicals. And then we have the fun stuff, like shirts and stickers, which we're working with a new design team to come out with some really cool, detailed pieces for the spring and summer. But we're constantly improving our products that we currently have and adding. But that's what we have so far.

That's great. And have you thought about doing any kind of organic clothing or hats and beanies and stuff like that?

Yeah, our shirts right now are 100% cotton, but yeah, definitely in the future, continuing to get organic clothing and adding to that.

Yeah, that's awesome. One of the biggest parts or the hardest parts of having a business is getting it found in today's world, which is very noisy. So how are you doing that? Besides this podcast, which is a great way to be found. But what other things are you doing to help market the business?

So a lot on social media. We're on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, mainly on Instagram. And that's a great way that we can connect with people all over the world. And then what's really important to me is the in-person, personal, face-to-face kind of interactions I can have with people. So we do a lot of local events at the Marine Field Station or Science Foundation. And then we're looking into more beach cleanups in the spring. So that's kind of how we get out there. And another thing that is really important to me is these in-person events allow me to connect with young kids and children, which, they have to be just as mindful and taught about the environment as well, so we can protect it for generations to come.

Very cool. And what about TikTok? Are you not looking at TikTok?

We just started on TikTok. It's a very tricky game, I guess you could say.

Yeah.

You got to be on it 24/7, it seems.

I know. So there's so many different platforms these days, and I think one of the things that I have found that is useful is instead of trying to do all of them, pick 1 or 2 that you feel resonant with and you feel you can really do well and just go deep on those because it's endless, right? You could spend your whole day on social media trying to communicate with everyone.

Yeah, definitely. We definitely focus on Instagram because that's where we can connect and interact with the most people. And Pinterest as well. But yeah, social media in itself is definitely a full-time job. It definitely is important to focus on 1 or 2 and be really good at that.

And if you would, you have kind of a friend base because I'm noticing different generations leaving Facebook and leaving Instagram. So what are your friends using? Obviously, they must be on TikTok.

TikTok and Instagram are the big 2 for teens, it seems to be.

Yeah.

Yeah.

And what happened to Snapchat? Did that just kind of go away? Nobody's using that anymore?

Not as much as they used to now.

Oh, man. It's crazy. It just takes so much energy to stay relevant on all these platforms. So my hat goes off to you. I looked at your Instagram page, too. It looks really beautiful.

Thank you.

So tell me about what is Alliance for a Living Ocean?

So they're a foundation based in Long Beach Island, and they work to educate the community and maintain a healthy coastal environment. So they do plenty of events. And a big thing is their beach cleanups. So they work to clean up the beach and bay areas, and they keep track of what people are finding and how much, which is great for statistics and, of course, educating the community. And we found that our mission is really lined with theirs well. So that's why we decided to donate 10% of our profits to them.

That's awesome, that's awesome. I just love that. You're doing all the right things, girl.

Thank you.

That's for sure. Yeah. Are you excited about this business? You seem super stoked on it.

I'm so excited. I'm excited to continue learning how to grow it and all the aspects that go into it. So definitely excited for what's to come and continually improving.

Yeah. Once you become an entrepreneur, there's no going back. So it's such an amazing journey. It's hard at times, but I can see you have the eye of the tiger in you, so you're going to do great.

Thank you, thank you.

Yeah, of course. So tell me about your first surfboard.

So I learned on a friend's foam board, but my brother has been surfing for about 15 years, so my first board was one of his shortboards, and it definitely was not perfect for a beginner. Definitely high performance. I was definitely challenged. I eventually got a Pod Mod, which was definitely a lot better and a great board. But my first actual board was not perfect for a beginner.

Wow. So it was a shortboard, which is super hard.

Super hard, yes.

And what do you ride now? What's your go-to board now?

So I still love the Pod Mod. It's great because in all different conditions, it's still a fun board. So I love that board. Definitely my go-to.

I don't know what a Pod Mod. Can you explain? What kind of shape is it?

So it's a fish and it's 5'10, I believe. It has a little bit more volume, so it's a little bit easier to paddle into a wave.

Yeah, fish are great. Have you ever tried a Mini Simmons?

I've not.

Yeah. You got to check those out. It's kind of like a fish, but it has a planing hull, so super fast in flat waves. Instead of riding a longboard in most longboard waves, you can ride a shortboard. They're usually really small, like 5'2, 5'4.

I'll definitely look into that. Definitely.

Tell me about your best wave you've ever ridden.

So that's a hard question to pick one. But this past fall, my best friend and I, we went up surfing, and it was a beautiful sunrise and a west wind and just a glassy ocean. And the conditions were great for hours, and it wasn't a huge break, but just beautiful rolling waves. And we caught so many long rides. So I would say that was a day of my best waves.

Awesome. I love that. That's great. Yeah, sometimes your best days will kind of sneak up on you, right? It's not like the best swell or quite often I surf kind of mediocre days end up being some of my favorite.

Yeah, definitely.

Awesome. So if you could go back to your younger self and I know you're young, but if you could still go back, what advice would you give your present self?

If I could go back, I would tell myself to start surfing right away at a young age.

Nice.

Now it's like the highlight of my day any time I go. And it's really such a great feeling being out on the water. So definitely just starting surfing at a younger age.

Absolutely. Great advice. I totally agree. All right. And we'll tell everyone where they can find you, the Instagram and the websites, and anything you want to tell the audience? Yeah, go for it.

So you can find us on Instagram, renewblusurf, and then our website's renewblusurf.com. And I would just tell everybody to keep in mind the products that you're purchasing and using and always have an environmentally conscious mind and decisions that you're making.

I totally agree. Well said. Well, it's awesome to have you on the podcast, and I wish you all tons of luck. I'm sure you're going to be successful and let me know how I can help up in any way.

Thank you so much for this opportunity and taking the time to speak with me. It was a great conversation.

Awesome. Bye.

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