By turning pollution into functional fashion, this surfer is cleaning his playground


Mike Schlebach surfs in trash. When he takes to the swells, plastic bottles ride alongside him. As a big wave surfer, Schlebach is determined to conserve his playground. “It pains me to see plastic floating through the water,” he says. We can no longer turn our backs to the seemingly insurmountable levels of pollution. Schlebach’s approach is to revolutionise not just ocean clean-ups, but fashion. 

Together with designer Jasper Eales, Schlebach transforms used fabrics such as yacht sails, PVC truck tarps, and display banners into stylish bags and laptop covers. “If the materials weren’t upcycled, they would probably land up in landfills,” Schlebach says. Cleaning up the ocean isn’t effective if the trash just sits in a dump alongside other items that don’t degrade. Schlebach and his team give waste a second life. “This is probably as environmentally sustainable as you can get,” he says. 

With his dedicated team at Sealand Gear, Schlebach has created a chic answer to our plastic problem. No two items are the same, but each one is equally functional and hardy. Every piece is stamped with the name of the person who made it. “We are all capable of taking care of our planet one way or another,” Schlebach says. “When I go surfing, I always know that I’m being part of a positive change.” There’s a wave of eco-consciousness surging, and it’s time to join in.