What do Dr. Bronner’s Cosmic Principles have to do with surfing?

The surfing community has always been a part of the Dr. Bronner’s family, from our early days in California, protecting the ocean and now being embedded into surfing life across the coastal towns of Australia. It’s one of the reasons we partner with the iconic Byron Bay Surf Festival every year – and why we commissioned local artist, activist and Byron Bay Surf Festival Founder, James McMillan to paint a surfboard using the Dr. Bronner’s Cosmic Principles that most spoke to him and the surfing community. 


We sat down with James to find out more about his inspiration for the artwork on this magnificent board and what’s next for him as an artist and creator. You can also check out some behind the scenes footage of the board art here

How does Dr. Bronner’s fit with what you’ve tried to achieve at the Byron Bay Surf Festival (BBSF)?

My first notes for BBSF in 2010 were ‘Surfing, no comps, art, environment’. Dr. Bronner’s are radically committed to the Planet and I also dig their All-One philosophy…they’re against the grain in so many ways, yet they make it work so well. David Bronner, the CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer), likes to surf so after hearing this from his partner Mia, I sent him an educational movie - the Morning of the Earth film.  Since then Dr. Bronner’s has supported BBSF and provided a platform to share our messaging of protecting the coast by limiting your footprint and using products which don’t do any damage to the ocean or planet.


Tell us about the inspiration for the board artwork.

Dr. Bronner’s has a set of cosmic principles about caring for the planet, looking after people in the supply chain (like Fair Trade), giving back and fighting for what’s right.  This really resonated with me, so I created the board to reflect the synergy of all things and how we need to be fair and loving to Spaceship Earth. 

What can students glean or learn from putting their art on a board?

Original art on a surfboard individualizes it and gives it soul. If you do it enough, you’ll likely evolve your art, connect with your board more, and probably want to keep the board for longer too. Painting a board is akin to shaping it…you get to know the curves of the board more intimately as you add your ideas to its surface. Creating this board based around Dr. Bronner’s principles of All-One tapped into my own style and belief that everything is interconnected.  

 You've developed your own niche in surf culture - when were you 100% conscious of wanting to do this?

In 2001 a lengthy piece I’d written for an Australian Surf Mag didn’t get a run because it was ‘too long’! I said stuff this I’m gonna create a book. Five years later after I’d had some success with the second print run of Blue Yonder I gained the understanding that to contribute to a culture you had to physically make the thing you believed in so people could see it, feel it, understand it. My thing was alternative surf culture. I knew it was out there because I was living it, but the people of that underground culture had yet to be documented as a group, so I did that…I put it in a book, and people became interested.


What’s next for you?

I’m working on a few major things including a solo art show, a mural for Dr. Bronner’s in Byron and a Limited Edition of Blue Yonder with new words, photos, and art. Also, I want to keep surfing a lot and making things, and love people and the world more, because doing that keeps me higher and in that place, I’m a better human.


Words by Derek Hynd & Tanya Simpson



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