Chartered Surveyor Turned Surfer and Conservationist
Ben Battell is one of those guys that’ll put a smile on your face. I’m always inspired by people that are straying from conventions of the 9-5 and chasing their passions. Ben lived that life but something drove him to a small corner of the South West. We spoke about what that was and what drives him now. He’s a man of many talents and besides being a great photographer, yoga teacher and surfer he has kick started his business Bahasa of the Sea to help combat plastic and waste pollution.
“I used to be a Chartered Surveyor in London, I just didn’t have a passion for it, it was fine being in London but I really wanted to be by the sea and doing something that I had a passion for. I left London and went to do a Yoga teaching course in India and then lived in Melbourne for about a year. On either side of going to Australia I went to Bali during the wet season and especially the second time the amount of plastic and crap in the water was really grim. I was there trying to surf but paddling through plastic bags and duck diving through loads of rubbish. I was seeing turtles and fish in the same session and it just felt so wrong. It was around the same time as David Attenborough was bringing plastics to the forefront of popular media with Blue Planet. Off the back of being in Australia I just felt like they were way ahead of us, I could’ve gone back to life in London but I wanted to start something that I was passionate about and would help that situation.”
“Being in the UK the problems are often hidden away, when you go on the beach you might see some washed up fishing rope but you don’t generally see the scale of waste you do in a place like Asia, it definitely had a big impact on me. As surfers we’re generally more intune with the ocean and what's going on but places like Bali and the Maldives left a massive mark on me. It’s been great to see some of the recent pushes like Bali banning plastic bags and so on.”
“I started Bahasa with bamboo toothbrushes at the beginning of 2018. I was designing in January and launched the toothbrushes in March followed by the bottles and cups in June. Toothbrushes were an obvious first, everyone on average uses about 3-4 brushes a year which can seem small but when you scale that to a global population the problem is much more apparent. Everyone understands them and everyone needs them so it was a natural place to start. I’m encouraging people to send back the brushes so that we can recycle the bristles at the end of their lifecycle as well.
“The name Bahasa means language in Indonesian, it was the name of the coffee shop i was staying next to in Canggu in Bali. I got on really well with the guy there and Bahasa always brings back good memories so we went from there.”
“Newquay just seemed like a natural place to set up as it’s by the sea and has a great plastic free community that has a connection to the ocean. It’s a really nice pace of life and a lot of people also seem to have similar stories and have given up the 9-5 to be by the sea and have a different way of life.”
“The goal for Bahasa is just to produce really high quality, sustainable, ethical goods and hardware for everyday people. We’ve only just finished the first year of Bahasa and it’s been great to get in some shops and start selling online whilst going to festivals and marketplaces meeting all sorts of people. The best part is how excited and happy people get when they see and use the stuff from Bahasa and realise that you can get sustainable high quality goods and how making that choice has significant impact on the environment. I just want it to grow into something that people want to choose to have something that's bahasa because they like the concept and desires behind the brand to help the world and environment”
“The ‘1% for the sea’ pledge is about giving back to charities and organisations and actively helping to prevent the issues that made me start Bahasa. Although at this stage it’s a small amount it’s about showing that Bahasa isn’t just about making a profit and sales but striving to make a difference when it comes to the disposable goods and the waste problem we are facing.”