It’s a little known fact that the biggest pollutant to hit the oceans isn’t those plastic bags from your local supermarket, or oil from the Exxon Valdez or brown trout from your local sewer, it’s CIGARETTE BUTTS. If you’re a surfer who smokes, well, you should quit. But if you’re in town, and you see someone toss a cigarette our their car window, give ’em hell. Those butts get washed into the sewage, and out into the ocean. It’s nasty. Ok, rant over.
Surfers love the ocean — this seems like a fairly reasonable statement to me. No surfer would contest the beautiful simplicity of storms and wind driving ocean waters thousands of miles toward shores where they are pushed to the breaking point by unique configurations of the ocean floor. This is undeniable.
Indeed, aside from merely riding waves, surfers commune with nature in a myriad of ways. Surfers tend to also fish, dive, snorkel, or boat through Neptune’s waters, and as such, a surfer does not have a singular relationship with the ocean. And it is for this reason that surfers should read the article, “The Ocean: A sea of troubles,” in The Economist.
The article elucidates many of the pressures that are threatening the health of our seas. Whether it be overfishing, pollution, destruction of reef habitats, or the threatening of foundational organisms in the ecosystem, it is clear that many of these problems are due to human activity.
And, as President Elect Barack Obama has so aptly stated about our current economic woes, the problems in the ocean are of our own making, and are thus within our power to change. As surfers, it is our responsibility to act.
What is there to do in the face of such massive problems?
A simple letter to your congressional representative can have an impact. Getting involved in your local beaches, pushing for marine sanctuaries, and asking your local markets and restaurants if the fish they sell was caught locally and sustainably — all of this can have minute impacts, which aggregated, would begin to arrest some of the most pressing problems facing our oceans.
And if this is too much to ask, can I ask you to at least pick up that plastic bottle that you always walk by heading back from a session?
Well, it’s not quite art. But after a recent storm, here’s what Seal Beach, California looked liked, complete with shopping carts, a couch, dead fish and other horrid crap that was deposited on the shore after a recent storm there. The story, as first reported here by the OC Register, explains that “the San Gabriel River, which flows from south Los Angeles County to Seal Beach, picks up debris along its 75-mile course and dumps it into the ocean.” The next storm picks it all up off the ocean floor, and surfs it on to the beach. It’s totally, absolutely nasty. And a good reminder that people in land just don’t care what ends up in the ocean. The good news is that the folks at the Surfrider Foundation are helping out with the clean up.
We caught up with Joshua Berry, Chile Program Director for Save the Waves and director of Pulp, Poo and Perfection, a surfing documentary that speaks to some of the challenges to surfers and the environment in Chile. Josh has been living in Chile for seven years, where he moved from his native California.
DailyStoke.com: You’ve been living in Chile for seven years now. What prompted the move from California to Chile?
Berry: I befriended a lot of Chileans in California before I ever came to Chile – its language, history, people and ocean all spoke to me before I even came here, and eventually it all coalesced into an exchange program via the University of Chile in Santiago. That was the beginning of the end of my California days. A few Latina loves and environmental opportunities later, and here I am.
DailyStoke.com: Chile seems like it is great untapped surfing destination. Are there surf shops in Chile? Do you want to keep it that way? Are Chileans open to surfing and surfing culture?
Berry: Yep, now more than ever the surf industry is booming in Chile and everyone wants to surf. Chile will naturally maintain itself as a relatively untapped surfing destination: cold water, hellish currents, big waves, lots of rocks and fickle sandbars all make it a hit-or-miss destination for waves. If you can paddle your shortboard at full speed non-stop for over an hour to get into position, you’ll catch a few waves while in Chile. If you want Indonesian perfection and guaranteed barrels, go to Indo. Chileans are very friendly and proud of their coastline, but are also wary of too much publicity and tourism. But it’s a fine line because tourism is a great reason to protect the environment from mega-industry and the locals understand that.
DailyStoke.com: You’re traveling for your movie Pulp, Poop and Perfection. Where have your travels taken you? Get any surfing in while at the film fests?
Berry: I got really great surf in New York during the New York Surf Film Festival and only had to wear a 2mm!
The local surfers in NY were really friendly, also – absolutely no “surfer attitude” which was really refreshing for me being a California expat. Much respect to the NY locals, the guys charge in all water temps! In 2007 I got to surf fun waves in San Sebastian and Biarritz during the Surf Film Festival in San Sebastian. Our film has also brought me home to surf in Northern California, but everyone knows there aren’t any decent waves there. 😉 It’s been a real blessing being a surfer and a traveler and I am truly grateful for this opportunity to try and raise awareness for the ocean. My surf travels since I was 16 – not related to Pulp, Poo and Perfection – have taken me to Philippines, India, Morocco, Ireland, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, France, Spain, Mauritius… And Chile.
DailyStoke.com: What’s your next project?
Berry: Our next project with Save The Waves and Will Henry is called All Points South, or “Punto Sur” in Spanish, and it’s a surfer-activist environmental film investigating the pulp mill pollution reality in Chile from the perspective of local surfers, fishermen, and ocean lovers. It’s an in-depth look at what Pulp, Poo and Perfection started to tell, it promises to be eye-opening and very entertaining with great surfing from Keith Malloy, Timmy Turner and friends. We decided we had to delve deeper into the issue of forestry pollution in Chile because it’s a real problem that gets little press and the industry has managed to greenwash their actions into something it is not. The film’s director, Sachi Cunningham, is a video journalist with the LA Times and a graduate of UC Berkeley Journalism School, so it promises to be a hard-hitting documentary. We are now in post-production and hope to release it at certain film festivals in mid-2009, with a wider release for later in 2009. It’s a 30-40 minute surf environmental film that will stir up some serious emotions and will probably make the Chilean forestry industry hate me even more than they already do!
DailyStoke.com: Many activists are just that – activist. You’re activist with a camera – bringing it to the screen. Por que?
Berry: So many activists out there are preaching to the choir. Bringing it to the general public on the widescreen is really important not only for our environmental cause but also to educate and inspire the public out there who would appreciate what we do if they only had access to it. So, being an activist with a camera gives the masses access to a message that would otherwise be lost. And it has saved my ass in a few instances where the presence of a camera has stopped violence.
DailyStoke.com: Do you have backers that you’d like to mention?
Berry: My director, cameraman and friend Angel Marin; Save The Waves Coalition; Will Henry; Reef Redemption; Yvon Chouinard; Patagonia.
DailyStoke.com: How can regular surfers help with ocean/environmental protection? What’s an easy way for them to get involved?
Berry: Bring it into your personal life and change your mind and your own habits on a daily level. That’s the easiest and cheapest way to protect the ocean and to save the waves – stop buying throw-away plastic and stop throwing away plastic. Choose consumer products that don’t pollute. Consume less paper and buy less… the rest will follow. It all boils down to our individual actions coming together in a shift of awareness to change our world. And that is something you can do right now without excuses. Our daily actions affect everything – it’s all connected and you CAN make a difference right now just by changing your mind.
A few posts ago, I wrote about how the river in my town dumped waste into the ocean. I informed everyone that I decided to go surfing a little while after they fixed everything and that I’d report back letting you know if I caught Hepatitis or a serious rash. Luckily, the water was safe enough that I didn’t catch anything, not even a rash. The waves were perfect: 6 feet, long rides, offshore winds, and to make it even better, there was barely anyone in the water. October is a great month here because the tourists don’t really come until beginning of November (the heat and prevalence of mosquitoes makes October not that inviting to tourists) and usually there are some swells that we catch from the hurricanes. Unfortunately, you never know when the swell will actually hit us–we gave up on the weather report a long time ago. One day we have great waves and the next it is completely flat. I especially love it when the tourists comment to me that there are no waves whatsoever, and I have to be the bearer of bad news and tell them that 3 days ago the waves were pumping. Anyway, the waves are pretty mellow right now after that gorgeous swell and we are patiently awaiting the next one. Hopefully it comes soon!
After taking a little vacation back to the States to visit the family and friends, I was stoked to get back to my warm water and good surf in Mexico. Much to my dismay, a sewage pipe broke and flowed into the river (it is only a river in the summer rainy season), rushing turds and white toilet paper pieces into the beautiful ocean. Of course it had to happen now, when there is a gorgeous swell hitting the right and left break, instead of June/July/August when there are no waves. What a downer! At the time of the sewage leak, the risk of hepatitis, staph infection or gnarly rash made me not go near the water. Now, it’s been about two weeks and I see surfers out in the water, some may know about the problem, some may not. The water has definitely cleared up, so I think I might join the others tomorrow morning and take my chances. I’ll keep you all posted on my health status!
Pulp Poo and Perfection, directed by Chilean Angel Marin and written by Californian turned Chileno, Joshua Berry, is great investigative filmmaking. The short-length film documents – as the title suggests – a proposed sewage plant in a coastal Chilean town that would dump sewage one half mile off shore at Pichilemu, and a currently operating pulp and paper pant dumping bleach into a river leading out to the sea. Berry, in addition to being a filmmaker, is the Chile Program Director for the Save the Waves Coalition. Featuring interviews wth local opposition (and Shane Dorian for good measure) as well as the fishermen equally impacted, Pulp Poo and Perfection documents what can happen to amazing surf breaks when the stakeholders care, and rise up against the steamroller of corporate construction/destruction. Says Berry: “One of the highlights was being present for a protest where the protesters formed a human pipeline along the path of the proposed pipeline.” Berry explains that the pipeline project was halted and a proper water treatment in the works, but the pulp mill remains a problem. We’ll certainly be following Berry and his team in Chile as they turn their lens towards other perfect breaks on the brink of being destroyed.
Some industrious young wave scientists have finally found a natural alternative to the controversial use of environmentally disturbing Personal Water Craft (PWC) as tow-in vehicles. After years of research, this new energy-harnessing method has been perfected, quite brilliantly proving that water, air, and noise polluting PWC’s are an archaic tow-in tool of the past.
Sat down tonight to watch Out There – a much discussed surfing flick made in partnership with Surfrider. (In fact, if you buy the movie from Teton Gravity Research, here, you can get a one year membership in Surfrider included in the purchase. That’s a fantastic deal.)
The movie has got some sick shots – particularly of the big wave riders at Maverick’s and Teahupoo. Anyway – what is particularly sad is the footage from El Salvador, where on of the surfers (Think it was Shane Dorian) explains that all of the rivers are leading to the ocean, and so some of the nicest waves in El Salvador are marred by a beachscape covered in plastic bags, bottles and hypodermic needles. It just shouldn’t be that way.
The movie has got some strong points – it’s pretty cool to see surfing pioneer Herbie Fletcher shred on his log.