Kyle Theirmann is a 21 year old pro surfer with a passion to systemically affect change. Combining surfing great waves around the world with making a series of short films about current issues, Thiermann focuses on the power we have to create a better world through everyday actions that we take. By utilizing video to focus on issues such as banking, plastics, shopping local and other topics that he feels people should become more aware about, Kyle has expanded ability to affect change by taking full advantage of today’s technology.
What was the eye opener for you to start your organization, Surfing for a Change? And what has led you to choosing the issues that you have tackled thus far (banking, shopping local, and plastics)?
I think the initial eye-opener for me was just waking up to how many problems can be solved by people changing simple daily habits. Whatever issue I cover in my webisode series, I make sure that it’s something that you can help solve by shifting a simple daily decision in your own life. When the show is over, you’ll know exactly what you can do to help. Also, a theme with Surfing For Change is that I go on a surf trip to uncover each issue. I think by going to fun destinations to cover an issue it’s opened the series up to a way bigger audience because it ties an adventure aspect to the show.
Have you found it difficult to uncover these issues? Or has the access to the information and such been easy to obtain? In other words, if someone is looking to make a difference on a certain topic, how difficult is it to actually access the information that they would need to properly explore their issue?
Well, it’s way easier to get educated on an issue now that we have tools like Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. In episode 3 of the Surfing For Change series I went to Sri Lanka and visited a sweatshop to show our influence at home as shoppers. The way I got into this Sri Lankan factory was through connecting with the manager of the factory through Facebook! We live in an exciting time where you can connect with just about anyone for free because of the Internet. You can check Episode 3 at http://surfingforchange.com/
Sometimes it’s been more complicated and I had to learn how to read the small print on corporate financial statements to see where they got their funding, but once you know what you’re looking for, you can pretty much find it.
How did you get into filmmaking? And how has filmmaking enhanced your ability to spread your message?
I’ve had such a fun time learning to make movies. My whole family is in the movie biz so I’ve had the privilege of being around movie making since I was a little kid. More than anything though, I just love a good story. I see movies as a great medium for storytelling. Movies are also exciting to me because they are a way to get an important message out to (literally) the world, in a short amount of time. All of my webisodes are packed with tons of content and are all under 5 minutes.
I also have a huge amount of respect for my sponsors and I really appreciate them for blasting my movies out to their networks. Patagonia, Sector 9, FCS, and Pacific Wave believed in my decision to an unconventional surfing route and have stuck by me as the whole thing has grown into what it is today.
What do you feel are the key ingredients to create a power message and actually make a difference?
From my own experience I’ve found that when I make a movie that’s fun and focuses on the solution, not the problem, more people get involved. I’m the host in the series so I try to let it show on camera how much fun these projects are and that I’m having an epic time.
Another important thing is that when I convey a message, I’m not asking people to make unrealistic changes in their lives. A theme in my series it that you don’t need to identify as an activist to become part of the solution. And becoming part of the solution is as simple as making shifts in your life like banking locally, or bringing your own reusable bag to the grocery store. Those seemingly small shifts have a systemic and powerful benefit to your neighborhood and people all over the world.
What does it mean to you to be an activist?
To me, an activist isn’t limited to the dreadlocked dude holding a picket sign with a clever slogan at the town clock. Nothing against hippies, hippies are rad, but in the past, the word ‘activism’ has been pigeonholed into that category. But things are changing! I see an activist as Anyone who stands up for a cause that they believe in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Cowboy, Native American, Gay, Straight, Surfer, or Non-surfer. If you’re standing up for a cause that you’re passionate about, that is what an activist is to me.
Being as young as you are, do you feel that people may perceive you and your message differently then if you were, say, 35 or 40 years old? Or do you feel that regardless of age, as long as what you stand for is strong then that is enough?
Haha, if anything, being young has been an advantage. I’ve been able to film in places that I probably wouldn’t have if I were older. People just think that I’m doing it for a school project and let me film whatever I want.
If people could take away just one thing from one of your videos/website, what do you hope it would be?
I hope Surfing For Change sparks you to see the power you hold on a daily basis. Your daily decisions have a huge impact on your neighborhood and people all over the world and there are simple shifts you can make to become part of the solution. It’s as simple as that.
How can people participate or help to make a difference with Surfing for a Change?
Next time you’re on Facebook, type in Surfing For Change and check out the 4min movies and share ‘em with your friends. Or go to SurfingForChange.com
As far as surfing, what has been getting you the most stoked in the water these days?
I’ve been working on going left more. Growing up in Santa Cruz I go right so much that my backhand surfing has needed some attention. I surf with Nat (Young) a lot and he’s given me some good tips about backside airs. He told me that when he does a backside air, he turns his head so he’s looking at the tail of his board and that allows his body to rotate. That tip helped me a lot!
For more on Kyle and Surfing For a Change check out: