Surfer Greg Long on the Big Picture

For champion big wave surfer Greg Long, personal and environmental health go hand-in-hand.

Greg Long is a champion professional big wave surfer, which means he knows what it means to take risks. One place he’s not willing to take risks, however, is with his diet.

A longtime vegetarian, Greg is thoughtful about choosing foods that support his own health as well as the health of the planet. For Greg, that means foods that come from plants and are grown organically, whenever possible. “It’s only fair that while I’m here, I tread lightly, and do my part to make sure that I’m not impacting this beautiful planet in a negative way,” he says.

That "tread lightly" ethos extends to everything Greg does. When we talked with him, he was on his way to the Maldives to help with a project transforming ocean waste into recycled plastics, and to catch a few waves, of course — if the opportunity arises.

What effect does diet and nutrition have on your performance?

As an athlete, I’m very in tune with how my body feels on a day-to-day basis. It’s apparent almost instantly after I eat a meal if it was something that truly provided me sustenance to keep me operating at the highest level, or if it was something that isn’t going to really benefit me. What goes in comes out in my training and my energy levels. It’s really a no-brainer choice for me. When I’m going to be purchasing a product — produce, anything, even a premade food—I’m looking for the highest quality ingredients because I’ll get a higher level of performance at the end.

What do you eat, and why?

I’m a vegetarian. That has been my diet for almost 12 years now, and it was really kind of a multifaceted choice. I simply had a difficult time digesting meat, and felt slow and sluggish after eating it. I did research and found that I could easily get all the protein and nutrients I needed from a plant based-diet. And then looking beyond that, into the factory farming industry, which is where most meats are coming from, was something that really struck a chord with me in my heart. If I didn’t need to be consuming animal products, then I wouldn’t.

How did organic agriculture become important to you?

I was introduced to the idea by my older brother and, funny enough, I used to make fun of him about it. We’d be traveling and I’d see him walking down the aisles, reading the labels on everything he pulled off the shelf. It would take forever, and I’d get frustrated. But once I started to educate myself and read, I figured out, wow, he’s really onto something here. And it became a habit of my own.

Any tips for adding more organic foods to our diets?

One thing I’m a huge advocate of is sourcing locally. A lot of the countries I travel to, sometimes it’s difficult to find quality products. So I start looking for whatever local farms or markets I can track down. The majority of these have a smaller carbon footprint because there’s less distance to travel from where they’re grown to where they’re consumed. And a lot of those farms are certified organic.

Going to the Sunday market at home in San Clemente, California I see the same people every week. We have wonderful conversations, I learn a lot about what’s happening on their farms from season to season, I see a lot of other members of the community, and I’ve established some really great friendships because of that. It’s much different than going to the store, where everybody’s hustling to get out as quickly as possible. But most grocery stores have an organic section now, even generic stores. Walmart is actually one of the biggest distributors of organic produce in the world.