Industry News

Waterman’s Celebrates Landmark 30th Anniversary of Protecting Our Oceans and Surf Breaks with Breakthrough Honorees

SIMA to Honor Kai Lenny, Mark Richards and Dianna Cohen at The Ranch on August 3, 2019.

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (May 15, 2019) — On August 3, 2019, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) will honor a trio of breakthrough honorees at the 2019 Waterman’s event. Honorees include big wave surfer and progressive waterman Kai Lenny as Watermen of the Year; Plastic Pollution Coalition co-founder Dianna Cohen as Environmentalist of the Year; and former four-time world champion and surf icon Mark Richards with the Lifetime Achievement Award. They will join an esteemed list of past Waterman’s honorees that include Kelly Slater, Eddie Vedder, Lisa Anderson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mick Fanning, Greg Noll, Jackson Browne, Al Merrick, Perry Farrell, Ted Danson, Bethany Hamilton and many more.

Celebrating its 30 years of environmental contribution, Waterman’s will return to the idyllic setting of The Ranch at Laguna Beach in Laguna Beach, Calif. The night serves as a gathering for leading the surf industry executives, local business leaders and surf enthusiasts. They will gather under the stars for a fun night of competing for unique silent and live auction items, enjoying great wine and gourmet food, and paying tribute to this year’s amazing honorees. All of this is in the name of raising money for some of the most impactful environmental organizations working hard to protect our oceans, beaches and waves. Since 1989, Waterman’s has raised more than $8 million to support beneficiaries that are dedicated to keeping plastics out of the ocean, overseeing beach clean-ups, protecting surf breaks from destruction and more on behalf of surfers.

Sponsored before he turned 10, Kai Lenny has not just become a break-through surfer in the exclusive ranks of big wave surfers, but as a true waterman. Lenny is leaving an indelible mark in nearly all forms of ocean watersports – stand-up paddle surfing and racing, kite surfing, wind surfing and paddle boarding. Raised on the island of Maui, Lenny’s parents introduced him to the ocean at a young age – surfing by age four, windsurfing at six, stand up paddle at seven, and kite surfing at 9.

Lenny is not only the youngest person to be honored as Waterman of the Year, but he is one of the most accomplished watermen at the age of 26. His list of ocean accolades includes being runner up of the Kite Surf Pro World Championships; eight-time winner SUP world champion; 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championship winner and world record holder; finishing second overall in the 2018 Big Wave Tour; and Overall Performance winner and XXL Biggest Wave Award winner at the 2019 WSL Big Wave Awards. Kai Lenny was an easy choice for SIMA for the 2019 Waterman of the Year honor.

“If there ever was someone who epitomizes what it is be a Waterman of the Year, it’s Kai Lenny,” said SIMA President and Billabong Global Brand President Shannan North. “Kai has achieved more in the ocean at the age of 26 then most surfers will achieve in a lifetime. He attacks Jaws with no fear, has helped pioneer foil surfing, he bodysurfs, paddleboards – and often fueled by Taco Bell burritos. The sport needs a guy like Kai to remind us of our roots while representing the next generation.”

SIMA’s 2019 Environmentalist of the Year is an artist who was inspired to begin work in the ocean environmental field by her chosen medium for her artwork – the plastic bag. Cohen co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition in 2009 after years of using plastic bags in her artwork, and is now working to raise awareness of ocean waste – the majority of which is nondegradable plastic – and everyday strategies to cut down the amount of plastic we use and throw away. The Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution in the ocean and its toxic impacts on the environment.

After years of being a purveyor of plastic, Cohen has become a crusader for reusing plastics. Some of her biggest achievements on that front have been with music festivals and artists who are also striving to put an end to single use plastics while on tour. Festivals such as Bonnaroo have benefited from some of her reusable brainstorms (Refill Revolution) which in turn has opened up opportunities to work with notable musicians who share a love for surfing and the ocean, such as Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Jackson Browne and more.

“Dianna is such an inspiration in the ocean environmental world,” said Paul Naude, SIMA Environmental Fund President and CEO of Vissla. “She is a true crusader who saw a threat to the health of our oceans and decided to do something about it. Dianna and Plastic Pollution Coalition are a force to be reckoned with, and we can all learn something from her approach to taking a stand against single use plastic and effecting change.”

Hailing from Newcastle, Mark Richards emerged in the 1970s as one of the best junior surfers in Australia, while also building a burgeoning surfboard shaping business. MR burst onto the international pro surfing scene in the winter of 1975 and that winter, along with Shaun Tomson, Rabbit Bartholomew, Ian Cairns, and Peter Townend “busted down the doors” of surfing on Hawaii’s North Shore. In 1978, he debuted one of his own surfboard designs that featured a new take on the twin-fin design that was perfect for his style. That new design would not only become the key to MR becoming a four-time world champion, but also cement Richards as a world class shaper.

Richards was thought of as unstoppable during his world title years. In 1979 he skipped four of the scheduled 13 events (two in South Africa, two in Florida), and was ranked fourth going into the World Cup in Hawaii, the final event of the year. In what would turn out to be the decade’s most thrilling title finish, the three front-runners faltered one after the other, and the 22-year-old Richards won both the World Cup and the championship. He won four of 10 events in 1980 to easily defend the title. Richards also came to be loved in the surfing world for being confident (wearing a silver wetsuit and decorating his boards with a giant Superman logo), but also humble and self-effacing.

“MR is such a unique character in the surf world and surfing wouldn’t be the same without him,” said Naude. “He was the first professional surfer to win four world titles. He not only shaped his own boards, but he’s as good a shaper as he is a surfer. And he was unmistakable out in the water, with his height and wounded gull style. There will always only be one MR!”

Waterman’s benefits the SIMA Environmental Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation that awards grants to various environmental groups based on their dedication to preserving and protecting the world’s oceans, beaches and waves. Waterman’s attracts more than 500 people annually and is expected to raise more than $250,000 for 15 ocean conservation groups this year. A list of the 2019 Waterman’s environmental beneficiaries can be found at

Sponsorship packages for the 2019 Waterman’s are on sale now at Individual tickets for Waterman’s are scheduled to go on sale in early June. For more information, please contact Shannon Park Zseleczky, SIMA Managing Director, by e-mailing

About SIMA
The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) is the official working trade association of more than 300 surf industry suppliers. Founded in 1989, SIMA is a non-profit organization that serves to promote awareness of the surf industry and participation in the sport of surfing through public relations efforts and a variety of services, educational programs and research. In addition, SIMA actively supports oceanic environmental efforts through its 501(c)(3) charitable environmental foundation, the SIMA Environmental Fund. In the past 29 years, SIMA’s Environmental Fund has raised more than $8 million for environmental groups seeking to protect the world’s oceans, beaches and waves. The SIMA Humanitarian Fund, also a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, was established to award grants to various surf or boardsport related social and humanitarian non-profit organizations whose efforts are focused on improving the quality of life, health and/or welfare of people. Since 2004 the SIMA Humanitarian Fund has raised and donated more than $1.7 million to surf-related non-profit humanitarian organizations. For more information regarding SIMA, please visit