It Starts With Us

(This is an old piece from my minor in writing and rhetoric at Chapman University. Since most of my writing is pretty loose on here, I figured it would be cool to post something that had more structure. I wish I could find the prompt, alas I cannot. I also could not find the grade.)

Here are a couple cold hard facts just to preface this conversation:

  1. Everyone that surfs more than a couple times a week really enjoys the sport, whether it’s the act of surfing or being surrounded by mother nature
  2. Everyone thinks the ocean is beautiful and loves even just gazing at her horizon.

So, we can see the ocean is something not to take for granted and is really a precious jewel in the beautiful place we call earth. Speaking of earth, the ocean makes up <75% of the earths surface, so obviously it demands our attention.

Over the years, we see plenty of surf companies taking a proactive, initiative step in reducing waste. Recycled board shorts and surfboard blanks (reusing the foam so we don’t have to dispose of it) are just two forms we see surf companies realizing the bigger picture and trying to keep their practices as environmentally friendly as they can. While this is a great step towards helping the environment, it definitely does not suffice.

Let’s step back and take a look at the two facts at the top of this passage. Adding 1 and 2 together tells me that the ocean is something we need to hold onto. The sad fact is, pollution of the ocean is ever prevalent and getting worse and worse thorough the years. Let’s first take a look at it through a local standpoint. Situated literally as the dividing line of Newport beach and Huntington beach lies the Santa Ana river jetties. A local standout surf break, this spot can produce barrels some surfers could maybe claim as the wave of their season. Known for being shallow and hollow, it produces one of the best A-frames in the area on a good swell. The only bummer? Surf it after a rain and you are guaranteed a nice sinus infection at least, going all the way to extreme illness. Even when I’m driving over the bridge to go to Huntington because I know not to surf there after a rain, I can smell the urban runoff even with my windows up. Gnarly. Only 2 times have I been stupid enough to ignore the danger and surf. Both times I woke up with a violent illness I’d rather not get into detail about.

Urban runoff is especially brutal around the OC and LA area, since it is so densely populated. Check this video out detailing what goes into runoff entering the ocean from rain.

Last time I Googled this stat, it was recorded that there are 23 million surfers worldwide. I mean, the earth has a massive population, but this just shows the sheer interest in the sport. That’s a huge collective of people that can really make a difference. Sure, every now and then a beach cleanup is performed and everyone feels like they have done their part. The surfers come out, show their support for their community, and return to day to day life. There are two problems with this formula. One, beach cleanups need to be done more than monthly. Try weekly. Literally day by day I see new pieces of trash on the shoreline or floating in the lineup. Lately when I’ve been doing a run around between paddling out (due to a big current the last couple of swells) I see trash and I got out of my way to run it to the dumpster. I try to pick up the biggest piece I can see or apiece I know an animal in the ocean could mistake for food. If I stopped to pick up every piece, I wouldn’t surf; I would just be picking up trash. Yes there is that much on the shoreline alone, not to mention the trash in the water and up on the actual beach.

Even if everybody picked up all the trash they saw, this still would not solve the problem. The problem traces all the way back to the house of the surfer or even the workplace of the surfer. Recycling the right things and staying away form certain items can really make a difference. The only thing is that some of this is easier said than done. Here are two examples.

  1. Using body wash with exfoliating beads feels great and gives you a new dimension of clean, however most of these beads don’t dissolve and go straight down the drain into the ocean.
  2. Singles use non-biodegradable utensil likes forks and straws have tricky recycling practices, and when not disposed of properly can end up like this (viewer discretion advised).

Solving the problem of beach and ocean pollution is going to require some work. I think it all boils down to one thing: education. People need to know what practices lead to cleaner oceans and less urban runoff, and this is how I will be using my voice and platform for. A call to action to inform and encourage people to take care of something that when it goes away will change the way we live our lives. Surfing will be the last thing we are thinking about.

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