Panamuna - Sustainable And Ethical Surf Gear

Panamuna is a clothes brand which aims to create surf gear in a sustainable way. With a strong commitment to nature preservation, they are trying to change the way we produce in order to improve the way we consume. We talk to Rodrigo Ximenes, the co-founder of the brand. 

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Rodrigo Ximenes, co-founder of Panamuna. I was born and bred by the ocean and now I am the father of two young, energetic boys who also love the water. I am lucky enough to live with my wife and boys on the pristine Tweed Surf Coast in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia. We originally established Panamuna in 2011 whilst living in Victoria, but took a break from the business when we decided to relocate our family. After ensuring everyone was settled, we relaunched Panamuna in May last year with a whole new vision - of raising awareness of our impact on the planet, particularly on our oceans, and producing sustainably and ethically produced surf wear.

What is your education?

After high school, I studied a Bachelor of Business. Heading into the workforce I searched relentlessly to find a job that would maintain my interests and keep me passionate and enthusiastic about going to work everyday. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that fulfilled this need, and so the idea for Panamuna was born.

What is that you love about the ocean?

Just the smell, the salt air, the sight and sound of the waves crashing. The beautiful shapes and configurations that the water makes. It is never the same twice. The peace and serenity that comes upon you when you are by the sea. There's nothing like it.

Although everyone has a different connection to the ocean, the only thing that everyone must know is if the ocean dies, we all die! Due to this we need to ensure we are doing what we know it’s right for it, as well as inspiring others to also fall in love with the ocean so that they feel like taking action to protect it.

What is your current job and how did you get there?

As we are in our beginning stages at Panamuna, it is currently something I do on a part time basis. I spend approximately 20 hours a week doing work for the brand, including working on the marketing campaign, product research, product planning and graphic design. Then to pay the bills I work part time as a restaurant manager for a local club. I have been in the customer service industry for over 20 years, from surf shops to the most prestigious cocktail bars and restaurants in Melbourne. I'm looking forward to developing Panamuna further so as to be able to work full time on the business soon.

In what way does Panamuna help improve the health of the beaches and oceans?

At Panamuna, we have spent many long hours researching the most sustainable and ethical way to produce our gear. We use organic materials that are free from insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which helps to reduce water pollution. Our printing methods are also eco-friendly, using only water-based inks. All our packaging is also biodegradable and plastic free.

In addition to the way we produce our gear, we also help to improve the health of our local beaches and the ocean by running community events such as beach cleanups and awareness campaigns through our social media following. We hope to inspire individuals to lead an ocean friendly lifestyle by becoming more conscious consumers. We regularly post ideas to encourage people to think about the way they interact with the environment around them and we highlight the need for more action, action that can easily be achieved by a single individual.

How do you think the Surf Industry can contribute to a healthier world?

When we think about pollution we envisage coal power plants, exhaust fumes and copious amounts of debris in our waterways. We don’t think twice about the clean t-shirt that is on our back. However, as it stands, the manufacturing industry is one of the worst polluters, coming a close second to the petroleum industry. We believe it doesn't have to be like this. We believe the surf industry could support brands that engage in ethical and sustainable methods to produce their gear and to encourage fans to become advocates for the ocean. We also believe that they should try to run events in a more sustainable manner so that the environmental impact to those pristine surf locations is minimised.

How can we reduce our carbon footprint on a daily basis?

There are many things that individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint on a daily basis with relatively little effort. Obviously purchasing products that have been produced sustainably goes a long way to doing that, but here are some easy ways to reduce your use of disposable plastics and to help keep plastics out of our oceans:

  1. Say no to plastic shopping bags. Take your own reusable cloth bags. You can make your own or purchase them locally at great prices. Boomerang Bags have a selection available on their website.

  2. Avoid buying bottled water. Not only is it bad for the environment, it is also a costly exercise. Water from a bottle is 500% more expensive than water from the tap. Metal or glass reusable bottles are a great alternative that will save you a small fortune in the long run.

  3. Refuse straws, single serve packaging or other disposable plastics when eating out. Carry reusable utensils and straws in your handbag, backpack or car to use at BBQs and take-away restaurants.

  4. If you’re a lover of coffee, invest in a to-go mug and take that everywhere with you. The same applies if you are a lover of milkshakes or smoothies. Using your own cup is a great way to reduce the overuse of plastic lids, plastics cups and plastic-lined cups.

  5. If packing your lunch for work or school, don’t rely on sandwich bags, plastic wrap and box juices. Replace these items with reusable lunch boxes and drink bottles.

What does your daily schedule look like working for Panamuna?

Everyday is different when working for Panamuna. A day can consist of researching products, discussing samples, creating t-shirt designs, developing a social media following, setting up at local markets, coordinating and participating in beach clean-ups and ideally will include a surf. Because we are a small business, we can structure the day to ensure we are doing what is best for the business.

Panamuna donates 4% of its benefits to like minded environmental groups. What orgs and projects have you been able to support so far?

We are still in our very early stages, but we have built partnerships with Youth 4 Beaches, an organisation run by teens to engage young people in the protection and conservation of our beaches, as well as supporting the 2016 Juraki Indigenous Surf Titles. We look forward to strengthening these partnerships in the future, whilst also being able to support a lot of different organisations and projects.

Do you think people are changing the way they interact with the oceans?

For sure! People are definitely more concerned about the health of the oceans, however a lot of people are still reluctant to pay for clothing that has a positive environmental impact. They see that this is not as important as recycling and reducing plastic use, when in fact through their choices they could send a message to the manufacturing industry and change the way that clothing is produced. I believe people should not separate these issues - they all have huge environmental impacts that we could greatly reduced by becoming conscious consumers.

What are the biggest challenges Panamuna has come across?

The biggest challenge has definitely been getting our name  and philosophy of clothing production out there in the marketplace. There are so many big players in this industry that people are more comfortable going with what they know, rather than trying a different brand.

Any big plans for Panamuna coming up?

We are very excited to be a supporter of the 2016 Juraki Indigenous Surf Titles that will be held at Fingal Head in September. We are really looking forward to this 3 day event and are keen to build connections with a variety of different organisations involved in the competition. We also have goals to expand our range in time for Summer, and we have had some sample recycled surfboard covers made up that use discarded fabrics and old wetsuits. These have been designed in conjunction with a like minded organisation called Boomerang Bags, that use donated fabrics to make reusable shopping bags.

Where can we find you online?


Posted by: Marta Gallardo, on July 19, 2016
Categories: Interviews