Creating Sea Change

kyleFRESH DIRT > Local surfer and activist Kyle Thiermann is not only catching waves but making them, too. The 21-year-old has been making a noticeable difference in the surfing community and industry—enough, at least, to get people to move their money out of big banks and into local banks and credit unions.

Thiermann’s activism goes beyond the waves and into the digital world with short, self-made documentaries that he posts on his website, surfingforchange.com, and on Youtube. Recently, Thiermann had the opportunity to do a TED talk at TEDxSantaCruz, an independently organized TED event.

Thiermann’s TED talk presentation was inspired by his video, “Surfing for Change,” which explores the reasons why people should move their money out of multi-national banks and into local banks. People who think they are not empowered to make a difference need to realize that they “are in the drivers seat,” Thiermann said in the talk. He also talked about his surfing trip to Constitucion, Chile, a popular surfing destination. It was there that he learned of a proposed coal power plant that would be built on the beach.

“It was a really heavy experience for me because I was able to see first-hand the unfair destruction [by] a corporation… coming into a community against the citizens’ will,” says Thiermann.

This led Thiermann to research the proposed coal plant. He learned that Bank of America was funding the coal company.  “If it’s our money that’s making this possible, then we have the power to stop it,” Thiermann says. His solution was to bring more awareness to the proposed coal plant and to the fact that Bank of America was funding it. The result was the brief “Surfing for Change” video that has inspired everyday people, including other surfers and surfing companies, to put their money into local banks.

“At a time when our national economy is in trouble, we have the power to keep our money within local banks and have strong resilient local economies,” says Thiermann, adding, “I’ve documented over $340 million of lending power being moved out of Bank of America [and into local institutions].”

Another of his videos, “Where is Away? Solving Plastic Pollution in Four Minutes,” which features interviews with musician Jack Johnson, among others, has garnered almost 20,000 views on Youtube.

Thiermann has not stopped there, however, as he is currently working on another surfing trip and documentary. “I’m going to Jeffreys Bay South Africa next month to do a project on nuclear power,” Thiermann says. Jeffreys Bay is currently being considered for construction of a nuclear power plant. This time he will be going as a journalist to make his next movie, which will try and answer his questions: “Does the world need nuclear energy? How is nuclear energy going to affect this town… and the people in it and the surfers?”

Thiermann recently completed another project, “Get Rad,” with three friends. “Get Rad,” as it is titled, is a short and funny video that was made to enter Nike’s “Chosen” video contest, which is being sponsored by Surfing Magazine.


Thiermann’s TED talk and documentaries can all be seen on his website, surfingforchange.com. “Get Rad” can be seen at surfingmagazine.com/video/the-chosen-few/comment-page-1/#comment-34529.

To Top