20th Jan 2017 - Environment
My Environment: Jason Bergin, Urban Recovery
Living in a major city needn’t mean that there is a disconnection between a person and the natural world. Jason Bergin promotes physical and mental wellness through watersports, through the British summer from his base at Wakeup Docklands on London’s Royal Victoria Dock, and over the winter on his Urban Recovery tours and adventure holidays. In his work at both home and away, Jason witnesses the full range of marine environments from stand-up paddling the urban waterways of London to kiteboarding across the warm waters and tropical reefs of the Caribbean, Zanzibar and Brazil.
How did your love of the ocean develop?
I’ve always enjoyed the water but growing up I lived over an hour and a half from the ocean so I didn’t get really exposed to the coast and watersports until I went to University in Cardiff in the late 90’s. My housemate in my 2nd year was a semi-professional bodyboarder and we used to head to Porthcawl or the Gower when a good swell appeared on the radar. Beyond that, after graduating I spent a year travelling around the southern hemisphere. My first stop was Bali where I witnessed some incredible surfing and got fully submerged in surf culture and exotic travel. Subsequent stops in Australia and New Zealand only cemented my desire to expand my surf knowledge and experience when I got back to the UK.
In 2005 I relocated from Bath to Swansea so I could focus on becoming a kiteboarder. When the wind wasn’t blowing we would surf, paddleboard, kayak, go fishing and basically live the life of a waterman. Apart from the bad weather, it was bliss!
Once qualified, I’d spend the spring and summer months in the UK teaching watersports and then travel and teach abroad over the winter months. I picked up further qualifications so I could teach surfing and paddleboarding which meant that I always had something to teach regardless of the weather. As a result, over a 10 year period I taught watersports in Bonaire, St.Lucia, South Africa, Greece, Zanzibar, Brazil, Costa Rica, Portugal, The BVI’s, Morocco & Panama.
You manage to divide your life between natural and urban environments around the World. What are the different pressures upon the marine environment that you witness? How do they interconnect?
Yes I do and I find it keeps things interesting. Last year I spent 3 months surfing & living on a beach in a remote part of Panama before returning to live in Stratford! When you’re abroad it seems like the locals are often oblivious to the damage that they are doing to the environment. I put this down to a lack of education, I hope. In contrast in the UK we all know what we need to do because it’s highly publicised but due to ignorance we choose to continue polluting our environments.
For example, I live in a modern block of flats and I often pull recycling out of the general waste bins provided. The recycling bins are well labeled and in the same room but some of the young, educated people who live in the building continue to ignore or abuse the system. It’s really sad and frustrating!
The canals of London and the Thames are full of plastic and other litter. The PLA and other organisations do what they can to clean them up but until the general public take responsibility for their own waste then sadly it’s always going to be a challenge to keep them clean and healthy enough for marine life to survive.
How much time do you spend on the water in any given day? Doing what?
During the UK season I can be on the water for 4/5 hours each day but I can spend up to 10 hours a day around water in some working capacity. In London my main focus is paddleboarding and wakeboarding. The Royal Victoria Dock in east London, which is my main base, offers flat, clean water that is ideal for both sports. We deliver lessons and tours and organise charity fundraising events as well as other fun stuff. It’s a really cool place to work and the urban cityscape is pretty incredible!
Urban Recovery is all about taking time out from urban lifestyles to de-stress and re-energise. Have you noticed an increasing need for this since you founded Urban Recovery, and do you think that more urbanites are now seeking a reconnection with nature?
Yes I have. Life for a lot of people is getting busier and more stressful. When clients come to the centre and get on the water they are often amazed by the calming affect it has on them and they then come back time and time again to find their ‘quiet space’ or get their adrenaline fix, both of which are powerful ways to de-stress and re-energise! Personally I much prefer natural environments, which is why I try to get out of the city as much as possible and connect with the wild. My retreats and coaching holidays combine watersports with healthy food and plenty of time in nature. This combination has proven to be very successful in the last few years which must mean that people are starting to recognise the importance of taking time out and are trying to reconnect with nature which is great to see. Hopefully this trend will continue and our fragile environments can be protected for future generations to enjoy.
How do you attempt to highlight the plight of the oceans to your clients?
We don't want to be over serious and boring about environmental education, but we always try to gently raise awareness with our clients during their coaching sessions or activity holidays and we encourage them to adopt an eco-friendly approach to everyday life. At the centre we have information posters and leaflets from the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewerage & 2minutebeachclean. We only work with other businesses with the same commitment to environmental sustainability.
We know you to be a considered consumer. How do you reduce your impact on a daily basis?
Unfortunately I don’t have a garden so I can’t grow my own food. However the food I eat at home is seasonal and comes from local, organic producers. The restaurants I go to eat out at buy their produce locally and from sustainable sources. The clothes I wear are from ethical brands who have a social and environmental commitment. I recycle and buy food that isn’t wrapped in plastic. When I’m out & about I drink charcoal filtered tap water from a stainless steel container. My skincare products are made from non-toxic, natural ingredients and are purchased from independent health food stores.
What do you think we can do, as individuals, to alleviate these pressures?
Generally, most people just need to display greater awareness and stop being lazy. Stop making excuses and start making simple lifestyle changes that have a big effect on the environment.
When you go to work take a reusable coffee cup rather than using one that goes into landfill.
Buy a canteen so you don’t have to buy bottled water.
I enjoy meat but in 2017 I have decided to become largely vegetarian. I might treat myself to an organic, free-range steak from a local farm once in a while, but the rest of the time I will be eating a plant based diet. The devastating impact that the meat production industry has on the planet is well documented so I don’t want to support it anymore.
Don’t buy cheap, sweat shop, high street clothing. Support brands who pay their staff a fair wage and don’t pollute the environment.
Walk or cycle to work or use public transport if you can. Leave the car at home unless you really need it.
Donate money to organisations who plant trees. This is how I offset my carbon footprint from travel.
Join groups and organisations which campaign for a better environment. Urban-Recovery has just applied to become a member of 1% for the planet which means we have made a commitment to give back 1% of sales annually to environmentally focused organisations.
Consider joining a local conversation group http://www.tcv.org.uk/.