Q&A with Surfer Erwan Simon

By Emily Wolfe | Photos by John Seaton Callahan

SurfEXPLORE was founded on a beach in Mauritania. 

After a day of surfing, four friends shared mint tea with their local guide under a traditional nomad Khaïma tent. There, in the middle of the Saharan Desert, French surfer Erwan Simon, Hawaïan photographer John Seaton Callahan, longboard champion Sam Bleakley and Italian surfer Emiliano Cataldi decided to formalize their adventures in search of new waves. 


Erwan Simon digs deep off the west coast of Africa. (Photo by John Seaton Callahan)

Since that day in 2007, they’ve explored surf worldwide in places including Haiti, China, Comoros and Algeria, and they’ve seen oceanic changes firsthand.

“Everybody knows environmental damage is happening, including surfers,” Erwan said. “Each of us has a responsibility and a role to play in these problems, but most people don’t know how they can help. I was wondering, ‘What can I do?’”

He joined the ASC microplastics project in January 2014, and has since collected samples near his home in France and from the beaches of West Africa.

PictureA self portrait of Erwan Simon collecting samples for ASC near his home in Brittany, France

Q&A with Erwan Simon
ASC: Where are you from?
ES: I am from Brittany, a Celtic region located in the northwest of France.

ASC: Where and when did you learn to surf?
ES: I started surfing when I was 13 years old on the beach of Le Fort Bloqué. I live by the beach at Guidel, another village near Lorient. It’s cold in wintertime, but sometimes the surf can get really good. The Laïta River goes through the Toulfoën forest and meets the Atlantic Ocean right in front of my home, a superb Breton landscape of cliffs and dunes and a good lookout on Groix Island.

ASC: What do you love about surfing?
ES: I love being in the ocean. The travel is also an important part of the surfer’s philosophy. Every wave has a special shape, a special environment and a special identity. [After learning to surf] I wanted to travel the world to find new waves in a different context. Soon, I was exploring and surfing in places like Rodrigues Island, Bangladesh, Libya and Montenegro.

ASC: Why did you want to volunteer for ASC? 
ES: We are facing unstoppable global development and every corner of the planet is now impacted by different kinds of pollution and environmental threats. Biodiversity is declining, the quality of the water and the atmosphere is altered more every day, with the earth and soil increasingly polluted by human activities.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation [offers] a great opportunity to improve the accessibility of scientific knowledge by connecting outdoor enthusiasts and scientists. It a new resource to bridge the people who are already going to difficult-to-reach areas and the professionals who can use the data for environmental research.

The surfEXPLORE group has always had a strong focus on sustainability and entered the ASC research program with a focus on microplastic pollution. It’s the first step in having a clear and tangible positive impact on new shores and new surfing areas. I am now stoked to collect datas.


The surfEXPLORE team researches new surfable waves in southern Gabon, near the Congo border. From left: Erwan Simon, Emiliano Cataldi, Randy Rarick and Sam Bleakley.

ASC: What was it like collecting the samples? 
As a surfer, I try to collect the samples near a surf spot. It’s not so difficult, but it is a strict methodology. 

ASC: Any exciting surf trips coming up? Will ASC be part of them?
Right now we’re doing some research for an expedition to southeast Asia in the next few months. I will volunteer and collect samples during our next surfEXPLORE expeditions, and also at home in France.

Learn more about ASC’s microplastics project on our website, the Field Notes blogFacebookTwitter and Instagram. Find more about SurfEXPLORE at www.surfexplore.org.