Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANOTHER GIFT THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING: Surf-First’s Scott Wagner has a holiday present for all of us

‘Twas the week before Christmas and not a creature was stirring….except 28-year-old Scott Wagner, who’s busy sorting ages, incomes and other bits from 5600 American waveriders. But Wagner’s no brow-beaten Bob Cratchit. He’s Surf-First’s official new man, helping Surfrider’s Chad Nelsen distill all the data. As an SDSU econ grad student and lifelong San Clemente local, tackling Surf-First’s first survey is a dream job for Scott — and a giant gift for all US surfers, who’ll one day use the info to protect their homebreaks. So cheers to Scott for the holiday overtime — and here’s to even more happy new years to come. Here’s why:

SURF-FIRST: Being from San Clemente, did the role of economics in saving Trestles pique your interest in the project at all?
SCOTT WAGNER: What got me active in the Trestles campaign was just straight-up malice in my San Clemente heart. But I’ve always thought every decision was based on economics — that’s why I pursued my degrees —and I feel like using this information to make a case for conservation on surfing areas is both new and fun. And I think it has a future.

Have you scanned any of the info yet? Anything to report?
I can’t generalize off the top of my head. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll know more. But I can say there’s a wide range of ages, habits and incomes. Actually, one thing I can say is I was surprised to some very high incomes. But I always try to go into these things with no expectations — as cheesy as that sounds.

The two that stuck out to me was seeing an 80-something from — coincidentally — Old Man’s and then a 13 year-old from someplace in Minnesota. How hard will it be to turn that range of user groups into something cohesive?
Well, for now we’re looking at doing summary statistics and describing populations by nation, state, region and surf spot — and with modern statistical programs that’s pretty simple. The most tedious part will be going over everything before inputting the data to make sure we don’t have any crazy responses that don’t belong.

Do we need to worry about you swaying the results?
If I see more than a few responses from 13-year-old kids getting high under lifeguard tower, maybe I’ll erase those. Keep the most respected individuals representing the population. [laughs]

Good work. Now, assuming we get this done by spring, what will you do when you finish up?
Well, I do have another job with the Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research and Policy. I like the whole research field. It’s like those CSI-type investigative shows, but really nerdy and without all the killing and the rape. But I say we just promote the hell out of this thing, then sell the information to make shitload of money, give half of it to Surfrider, then use the rest to go on a killer surf trip.

That would work except for we promised from the very start not to sell any info.
Oh. I didn’t see that part.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Oh yeah — hell, yeah — congrats to Greg Long for winning the Eddie. And congrats to Tanner and Pat Gudauskas and Nate Yeomans for making the WCT. So sick to see San Clemente kicking ass.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

DING-DONG, THE SPILL IS DEAD…OR IS IT? Australia’s oil spill stops, but the clean-up effort’s only beginning

It only took 74 days and five attempts, but they managed to plug the “Montara/West Atlas” oil spill off Australia’s coast – only to watch the buggah catch fire. But this is just the first phase. The next step? Assessing damage. Environmentalists say 9 million gallons spilled. The Aussie government says 6 million. The oil company? One million. Somewhere between cleaning up seabirds and helping sick Indonesian fisherman, they’ll figure out how big of a mess they made. But here’s what we do know, according to

The cleanup of the pollution from the oil spill will take 7 years to complete.

PTTEP Australasia, the oil company responsible for the ten week long oil spill will begin drilling again in the same oil field in a matter of months.

A PTTEP spokesperson says that his company knows what caused the oil spill, but won’t tell anyone else what that cause was.

In the meantime, the Environment America just released a report called Oceans Under the Gun: Living Seas or Drilling Seas? that compares the financial value of ‘sustainable activities’ – think tourism, commercial and recreational fishing — along America’s coasts to “non-renewable oil and gas distraction.” No surprise that in every case, the sustainable wins, the biggest margin being the South Atlantic (SC, GA, FL) by a ratio of 20.8 to 1. (The smallest being the Gulf states.) The Mid-Atlantic? 3.7 — $10 billion dollar more every single year.

This region’s most compelling because the wind potential there so dwarfs the petroleum resources. Not just financially — NC alone stands to get 9100 jobs and $22.5 billion in 20 years compared to petroleum 6700 and $24 billion after 30 years – but in terms of clean, renewable energy:

“At recent prices and usage, the oil and natural gas economically available for recovery from the Mid-Atlantic could supply the nation with less than two months of oil use and three months of natural gas use at a value of $92 billion. [But] The Mid-Atlantic has the best marine offshore wind resource in shallow waters in the country. Wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic planning area could provide 15% of the current total national generating capacity or more than the entire electrical generating capacity of the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic states. There is so much wind energy available in the shallow waters offshore that this area could generate enough to run everything that uses electricity in the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic states, an area from Maine to North Carolina with approximately 60 million people in 2008.”

So, we can bolster our energy independence and our economy, or stick with petroleum – and quite possibly watch it all go up in flames. Literally.

Keep tabs on the spill crisis at

Monday, October 5, 2009

DICK DRAGGERS UNITE! (And ‘sea sweepers’, ‘goat-boaters,’ ‘wiggle sticks’…)

5500. That’s the number of surveys Surf-First managed to muster in just 11 months, covering every age, gender, location and discipline. So pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. We’ll update you as we move forward, but let me say thanks to all who helped from individuals to media outlets to fellow activist groups. You all are responsible for what will surely be an education on who we are and how we behave as a user group. In fact, I’m already learning things about myself: namely, that I’m an insensitive prick.

Okay, so I knew that already. But thanks to Robbie “G-Nutz” Gennet for the reminder. RG’s a keyboard-player, music writer, Huff Po blogger and rabid sponger who expressed some disappointment with the tone of our questions, which seemed to assume everyone who rides waves does so standing up on foam and fiberglass. I understand the feeling. I used to be the only dad in the local “Mommy and Me” group where I frequently received pre-fab written invites to “bring my hubby” to parties and questionnaires asking me to describe “what responsibilities the father handled” and whether “breast feeding left my nipples sore.“ It was almost enough to make me tear off my apron and cancel my Rachel Ray subscription. But I persevered because it was good for my son.

Likewise, Robbie still completed his survey because it was good for bodyboarders. He recognized that wave-riders can only win these fights by working together as single ‘user group.’ That the enemy isn’t a “sea sweeper” or “goat boater" — or even a “butt wiggler" or "wigglestick.’ (That's what spongers call surfers, according to my speed bump buddy Ryan Rhodes — pictured above thanks to Mickey "2M" McCarthy). It’s companies and people who sees the ocean as a financial resource to exploit or covet at the expense of others. In other words, he understands what I was talking about almost a year go when I wrote the piece that first spawned Surf-First. Probably better than I do.

See below for our full back-and-forth. And thanks, Robbie, for both the reality check and encouraging fellow spongers to finally stand up — at least when it comes to defending all of our rights.

-----Original Message-----
From: RG
Subject: re: Surf survey

Hey there~ I took your survey and as a waverider and ocean lover, I was happy to contribute to your study. However, as a bodyboarder, I was incensed at your slant toward standup surfing & surfboards, which is a pervasive slant on most wave report websites.

Bodyboarding is a global sport with contests, stars of its own, magazines and tons of devotees. We go surf our favorite breaks, support their local economies and buy all the merchandise in the mags, from wetsuits to surfwear, sunglasses to shoes, and still there is this kind of social apartheid that we are separate and unequal.

This has to stop; the ocean we love needs us to band together and help her be healthy and survive. From global warming we'll get rising seas and every wave we know will be altered beyond recognition; an imaginary hierarchy where stand-up surfing rules all does nothing but stroke egos and marginalize your brothers of the ocean. Include bodysurfers, skimboarders, kitesurfers and yes, even stand-up paddleboarders and we can all be a powerful force to protect the resource we all depend on for the activity we love.


-----Original Message-----

From: Walker, Matt
Subject: RE: Surf survey

first rg: thank you for taking the survey; your input is crucial to its accuracy and success
second: allow me to apologize for the 'institutional prejudice'. we do put 'bodyboarders' on the first page, but i'm sure the survey still suffers from slanted phrasing (stuff i may not even notice)

if we get another chance at doing it, i'll got through and try to make it more balanced. and at the risk at sounding even more 'insensitive': some of my best friends are spongers

thanks again for your help
much, much appreciated

-----Original Message-----
From: RG
Subject: Re: Surf survey

Hey there Matt~ awesome to hear from you, thanks for the reply; I am interested to see how the results of the survey turn out. I actually had written a slightly longer piece which I encapsulated in my letter to you. I buy your mag often on newsstands, usually when going on a plane somewhere, and dig your coverage of all things surfing, though I realize there is still an anti-bodyboarding pulse among surfers out there, which is a shame. Wish there was a cool article where some bodyboarders and surfers got together, rode waves, maybe did some humanitarian goodness out there too~ Mike Stewart and Kelly Slater head to head on a sick Tahitian slab? A boosting contest with Jeff Hubbard and Dane Reynolds? Something to show people having fun regardless of the board they ride.

We need less enemies, and all the friends we can get. I respect Surfing mag and knowing some of your best friends are spongers is a heartening fact (though I think we are called "dick-draggers" nowadays, which is only unfortunate for the ladies of bodyboarding). I'm sure you can understand that as a bodyboarder, checking Surfline (or Wetsand or Swellwatch etc) and seeing our sport practically ignored is rough. All our US pro riders could use the industry support and sponsorship that stand up surfers get but they all struggle here; in Australia, Brazil and the rest of the world, they are well regarded and taken care of. It's a shame to see but it doesn't have to be that way. Aside from different boards, every company that advertises in Surfing mag appeals to bodyboarders. And yet, Bodyboarding Magazine struggles for support and advertising sponsors. It doesn't have to be that way. Some feel that the Surfing Industry doesn't want bodyboarding to gain market share amongst new wave riders, perhaps after seeing what Snowboarding did to Skiing. Bodyboarding is easier to "get" at first but is in no way a "stepping stone" to standing up, as it's made out to be by stand up surfers. Both sports can and do coexist well.

I know that erasing the social boundaries between surfers and bodyboarders can only benefit our common causes. Joining further with other ocean-related organizations (scuba, etc) can only make us a stronger and more effective force. We all love the ocean and for her sake, I hope we all can not just get along but really unite.

Anyhow, whatever the cause, whatever the history, all divides among waveriders need to be put aside for the Ocean, who needs us all united and out in force.

Off to surf waist high waves with a smile...

Robbie "G-Nutz" Gennet

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SPEAK NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE: DOI public comment on offshore energy ends Sept. 21

Four days.That’s all you got to let the feds now how you feel about offshore energy. Do you want oil or wind? Solar or hydrokinetics? It’s all up for grabs along with a shitload of leases. One thing we can say as surfers: with a "blowout” in the Timor Sea off of Australia gushing oil for the past three weeks –and expected to gush for two more to the tune of an estimated 5800 square miles (the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined ) and 150,000 gallons (that’s more than half the amount of the Valdez spill) — from “state of the art” technology built and installed in 2007 and 2008, the cries that we can drill ”cleaner and safer” are starting to sound like more slick promises. (And that’s without a hurricane or major storm.) And with every coastal state earning more from clean beaches than they ever will from Big Oil – and green industry producing three time the jobs per dollar as petroleum — there’s not much economic motivation unless you’re paycheck says Exxon/Mobil. But we won’t tell you how to think. Do the research yourself. But do it quick. Just remember, once you climb into bed with “big oil”, you’re married forever.

Submit your public comment by September 21.

For an aerial image of the Aussie spill, click here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Just kidding. But can you imagine any politician making such an illogical promise? Well, they will if it meets our oil addiction. One of the main arguments toward allowing offshore drilling is states can use the proceeds to encourage environmental education and preserve habitats.

According to the Tampa Tribune Florida state legislator Dean Cannon “wants to channel revenue from drilling into renewable energy initiatives and environmental programs such as the Florida Forever land conservation program. Beach restoration and even public education could also benefit.”

So, this guy’s suggesting we risk a two-month spill like the one in Australia — with 2008 rigs, by the way (so much for newer, cleaner technology) — and actively pump toxic, cadmium- and mercury-laden "drilling muds" into the water while encouraging global warming, all to help save the planet?

He must be high, right? Nope just greedy. The story continues: “Florida Energy Associates, which is bankrolling much of the push for drilling in state waters . . . has contributed $20,000 to the state Democratic Party and $35,000 to the state GOP.”

Just goes to show whether it’s oil, cash or power, our entire political system’s full of junkies who'll do anything for a fix.

Stage your own intervention by submitting public comment to the DOI by Sept. 21 And for the best quote yet on this doped-up idea, check the following TC Palm column, which notes: "Florida Energy Associates touts polls claiming that most Floridians support drilling 'if it doesn't harm the environment.' In the same way, I suppose, most of us would support cigarettes that don't make people sick, pies than don't make us fat and texting-while-driving that doesn't cause wrecks."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

DON’T GET WORKED: Take the Surf-First survey by Labor Day – or leave your homebreak unprotected

Work is good. But some work is better than others. And we can think of no better way to honor Labor Day than spending 20 minutes describing your wave-riding habits to help all surfers defend their breaks in years to come.

But you better do it fast. Next Monday’s holiday not only signifies the end of summer — it’s the official cut-off for the Surf-First survey. (Actually, in the spirit of surfing slackness we’ll give you to midnight Tuesday.) At that point we’ll stop gathering info and start crunching the data. Our goal? To better depict how the average American surfer spends their lives — and cash — on a spot-by-spot basis in hopes of keeping every US break clean and accessible forever. We’re even going to put that info live online, state-by-state, so anyone, anywhere, can arm themselves to meet any fight head on. And in case you think such fights are rare — or the info unnecessary — just check out New Smyrna where there’s an effort to extend Ponce Inlet, potentially wrecking one of Florida’s most popular breaks where surfers generate more than $6 million each year.

Every single one of us could one day face a similar issue. Whether we have the hard data and dollar signs to convince decision-makers to seriously surfers’ interests and impact depends on whether you take the survey (assuming you haven’t already). And with two tropical swells back east, and two weeks of surf out west right now’s the best time to do your part. Because as of midnight on Tuesday, the next stage of our job begins. And you’ll have one less opportunity to stand up for your homebreak.

Thanks to Matt Lusk for the Danny shot from S-Turns, another spot surfers could find themselves pushed off without proper representation.

EXTRA CREDIT FOR WILLING WORKERS! Are you an economics major with a passion for surfing? Or a surfing major with a passion for studying economics? Read the info below to find out how to spend this fall working on the Surf-First Economics project and apply by Oct. 2. As a paid intern, you’ll earn college credit, make some cash yourself — and most importantly — help produce the first comprehensive surfing survey of its kind. One that stands to help fellow surfers from years to come.

Surfrider Foundation/ Surf First
Surf Economics Internship
Fall 2009

The Surfrider Foundation and Surfing Magazine seek an undergraduate or graduate student for an internship to work at the Surfrider Foundation on the Surf First surf economics project. The project will include analyzing recreational and economic survey data from surfing areas around the United States to develop state-level profiles of recreational uses and economic impacts of surfing.

Surf Economics:
Surfing is a major recreational and economic activity at diverse coastal environments throughout the United States. The rising popularity of surfing in the United States and significant growth in participation has increased the economic contribution of surfing to local communities. Despite the popularity of surfing, it is often challenging for the sport to be taken seriously in coastal management decisions. Surfing and surfers are very sensitive to environmental conditions and changes in these conditions can negatively impact surfing. At present there is little research on the value of recreational surfing. It is estimated that over three million people surf on a regular basis in the US and surfers are in the ocean more than any other ocean user group. To make informed decisions, coastal professionals require information about surfers and how they will be affected by coastal policies and activities. In recent years, there has been an increase in research on the economics and management of surfing.

In a collaborative effort, the Surf First surf survey – the first national survey of its kind -- was developed to capture socioeconomic and recreational use information about surfers. The survey ran for approximately one year. This internship will help analyze the survey data to develop demographic and economic profiles for surfers from around the US.

You can learn more about this project and surf economics at:

Preferred education & experience:
Must currently be in enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate school program.
Proven ability to use Microsoft Excel to manipulate large data sets
Knowledge of natural resource economics
Stata experience a plus
Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing

Start Time: Flexible, Fall 2009
Duration: 12 week minimum / full time
Pay: $3500
Location: San Clemente, CA

Please send/email a short cover letter and resume to:

Chad Nelsen
Surfrider Foundation
P.O. Box 6010
San Clemente, CA 92674
Ph: (800) 743-SURF
Email preferred. Please title resume and cover letter documents using this convention: lastname_resume.doc & lastname_cover.doc

Applications due October 2nd, 2009

The Surfrider Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through conservation, activism, research and education. For more info on Surfrider visit:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH: White House seeks your input on new ‘Ocean Task Force”

One of the effects of constantly shooting your mouth off to “the powers that be” is they immediately start firing crap back in hopes of plugging your hole.

Back in April, when they were scheduling the public rallies on offshore energy, frequent whining weasled me on to the Department of Interior’s mail list, meaning now I get frequent press releases, usually pumping up “big steps forward” and “united visions” — the government equivalent of “acting busy” before the boss can yell at you.

This latest one discusses Obama’s “Interagency Task Force on Ocean Policy,” to better “meet our Nation’s stewardship responsibilities for the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes” but -- instead of stopping there -- it actually asks for “input from interested communities, governments, tribes, businesses, associations, non-governmental organizations and from the general public.” We’re pretty sure that “tribes” means “surfers” – possibly even spongers and kayakers, too. Don’t worry: they’re not asking you to enlist in secret paramilitary operations to defend the Pacific and Atlantic; just give them some public outcry ammo to justify protecting our coasts.

So, read the full release below. And once you stop feeling all flattered and empowered over being asked to construct domestic policy with the POTUS, make sure to hit the link and fire off any and all concerns from water quality to the coastal zoning. And, if writing in complete sentences sounds like too much work, just go to and fill the survey after your next session. (We’re pretty sure that’s where Barack got this whole ‘ocean task force’ idea to begin with.)

In order to better meet our Nation’s stewardship responsibilities for the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, President Obama created an Interagency Task Force on Ocean Policy on June 12, 2009.

The Task Force is led by the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the other members are composed of senior-level officials from the agencies, departments and offices on the existing Committee on Ocean Policy. (See attached). The Task Force has been instructed to provide its recommendations in 90 days for the first three issue areas and 120 days for the last.

The Task Force seeks input on its work from interested communities, governments, tribes, businesses, associations, non-governmental organizations and from the general public. If you would like to provide comments, please click here.

We ask that you focus your comments on the issues set forth in the President’s Memorandum:

· National policy for oceans and for coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems;
· Ocean governance framework;
· Implementation Strategy to meet the objectives of the national policy; and
· Coastal and marine spatial planning.

In addition, please feel free to include information about the impact of significant emerging issues on your area of expertise or concern, like climate change or offshore renewable energy development; on jobs and the economics of your business or activity; and any experience you have with current policies and programs—with an emphasis on specific suggestions for improvement where possible.

Please note, that to meet the ambitious timeframe outlined in the President’s Memorandum, the Task Force will build upon the work of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission. These reports, appendices and the extensive public engagement and records will serve as important foundations for the work of the Ocean Policy Task Force.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

PUT LAST WEEK’S SESSIONS TO WORK FOR TOMORROW: You surfed your favorite spots for days on end – make sure you surf them the rest of your life

Arms finally rested-up? Good. You’re gonna need ‘em to to fill out our survey.

Last week was big for US surfers. Four days of fun waves from Miami to Montauk. Twice that in size and duration for most of the West Coast. Do the math and you get tens of thousands of surfers scoring even more sessions across tons of surf spots. Now the time’s come to convert those numbers into hard data to make sure every break stays safe in terms of access and water quality down the road.

If you don’t think those are important issues -- if you think your spot’s automatically protected -- consider the fact that miles of beach still remain closed around Hatteras due to questionable environmental science. That Santa Barbara is in danger of juggling more tar balls. Or look at the latest water quality report which shows just how dirty some of our favorite beaches are. The only way to protect surfers’ interests in such issues is to show them who we are and how we impact these various spots and their surrounding beach towns and economies. It’s also the first step in a battle against existing injustices like board charges and beach badges.

So, while your arms and memories are fresh, please fill out the Surf-First Survey. (Assuming you haven’t already.) We only have until the end of summer before we’ll crunch numbers – and we can only crunch the numbers we have. So if you want to make sure your break’s protected, you better stand-up for it yourself.

Thanks To Mickey McCarthy for this Outer Banks lineup, where last week's crowd alone should add at least a few hundred surveys.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NOT STOKED: Cartoon Network kills surfing– those bastards!

My dad never let me watch Laverne & Shirley. Not once.

Wonder Woman? Of course. But strictly for educational purposes. (So star-spangled, so fully figured —she was like Sex-Ed meets Civics class.)

Davey & Goliath? Sure. What harm could come from spending each Sunday with a talking dog and a sexually repressed religious fanatic? (To his credit, it had been at least two years since former cult member David Berkowitz -- aka Son of Sam -- killed six New Yorkers because his neighbor’s Labrador retriever, Harvey, told him to.)

But for some reason the prospect that his seven-year-old son might grow-up to imitate two bumbling beer factory workers, or their partially retarded neighbors, was too risky. And though it worked — sort of, I still pledged a fraternity — I’ve never recovered. And I’ve avoided that same impulse to kill my first-grader’s television over something like hardcore silliness.

‘Til now.

Enter Stoked. The Cartoon Network’s new series (airing Thursday night), which follows six wacky ‘groms’ — their emphasis, not mine, and boy do they emphasize — with summer jobs at an idyllic, surfing paradise called — wait for it —Surfer’s Paradise.

It don’t take Nostradamus to forecast this one, but think North Shore meets Scooby Doo. Except the mystery is how to surf all summer long. And the forces of evil ain’t a mask-wearing amusement park operator, Lance Burkhardt or Vince from Da Hui — it’s the writers and producers. Not only do these thugs pound the sport of kings, they riddle it with bulletholes, making swiss cheese of our sub-culture in mere seconds with a staccato assault of stolen lingo, cliche dialogue and, of course, heaps of bad stereotypes.

There’s a black guy called Johnny who not only can’t surf, he doesn’t even get a cool name. (Sorry, Buttons). A mix of Machado and Spicoli named ‘’Broseph.’ (Et tu, Transworld?) And of course, the mandatory soulful, goateed old dude who claims “I’m the Kahuna.” No, you’re the douchebag. (Or at best, a kook)

And let’s not forget the pair of matching his-and-her shredders named ‘Reef’ and ‘Rip” ala Kelly and Lisa — except they say the girl might surf better. (A thought guaranteed to keep both genders giggling — but for different reasons.) One Keala-be. One baby Rell. Plus a 16-year-old, pro-ho-in-making, Emma, who, according to her bio: “totally loses it around guys she crushes on” and “can’t surf, but is determined to rip [her clothes off, maybe?] by the end of summer.”

And, as if TV ain’t brain-melting enough, they also manage to undo a whole year’s worth of schoolwork, from math — “Gromfest starts in 12 weeks and three days!” Don’t you mean 3.1 months? Reduce, dammit! — to my personal pet peeve: pronunciation.

For the record — in case some Malibu SUPper’s butchering a script as we speak — the emphasis in ‘double overhead” is on HEAD – not ‘over.’ (Blue Crush made the same offense repeatedly.) Seems trite, but it‘s annoying — and telling. Like hearing some Ivy Leaguer say “TEE-vee” instead of “tee-VEE” — your degree may boast “Brown” but your diction screams “Rube.”

Even geography and physics take a hit, as Surfer’s Paradise promises “dozens of point breaks.” That’s right: DOZENS. As in at least 24. All in a single resort. (Take that, Typhoon Lagoon.)

Actually, it’s too bad Disney wasn’t involved — as in Walt Disney. Back before they froze the animation genius somewhere inside Mickey Mouse’s colon, it took three years to finish a cartoon. At that rate, we’d only have to suffer through these shenanigans a couple times each decade. (The modern difference between most mainstream two-dimensional surf tales – say Blue Juice and In Gods Hands. ) Unfortunately, these days, a factory full of ink-pen wielding South Koreans can unleash Point Break-like damage every single week. All summer long.

Think of the kids! Now, scores of teens, tweens and ne’er-beens — I can already see pregnant Roxy chicks pressing their wombs to the screen in 30 minute increments — are gonna come away with an unattainable image of surfing. Dreaming of impossible moves like “Air 3600s’ and one-armed hand stands. Of double-over-HEAD waves “almost every day.” Not to mention “miles and miles of uncrowded beaches.” (Not if this show takes off.)

And perhaps that’s the real root of my disdain — not fear for our children but hatred of them. The same anti-outsider, anti-crowd, localist mentality that penetrated my psyche milliseconds after I first stood up. At an age not too far after dad dictated my viewing habits. An age, not too far from where my son is now.

Or maybe, I worry — again, selfishly — that his impressionable young brain will process this tripe and stick to his boogie board. Or worse, he’ll get turned off riding waves completely and continue on his current path of Star Wars, Bakugan and Ben 10, a slippery path that’ll have him rolling 20-sided dice and hoarding hit points into his thirties.

More likely the problem is even more narcissistic. That surfing might not just change in theory and image, but in reality. My reality. A phobia that only gets worse with each year, as fresh new blood enters the water, while I get grayer, slower, balder and hairier.

Truth is, if the cast of Stoked is steering ‘The Mystery Machine”, I’m Old Man Mr. Withers getting left in the dust. They’re the fun-loving bunch racing off in the future; I’m the cranky bastard shaking my fist, and screaming ”meddling kids!” — while secretly hoping they drive off a cliff. Except maybe one.

On that note, I better run: it’s time for the boy’s mandatory double-feature of Surf’s Up — and Fast Times.

Wanna keep surfing real? Fill out the survey to help us dispel stereotypes and – most importantly – protect US surf spots for years to come.

Monday, July 6, 2009

COMFORT ZONES: Seeking middle ground between accessing Cape Hatteras and stopping oil rigs offshore

“I’ve started calling this place Hate-eras.”

So longtime local, underwater lensman, and former Lighthouse strongman Russell Blackwood told me this spring. He’s right. Over the past couple years, the rift between the native population and the environmental groups pushing to restrict beach access on Hatteras has bubbled from angry undercurrent into a lava flow of boiling bile and flaming outrage, highlighting an internal fissure that seems fixin’ to blow before summer ends.

There’s plenty of reasons: the economy’s already bad enough without giving tourists a reason to stay home; the closures seem to only be growing in size and scope, applying to non-threatened species and swallowing more key ramps beloved by fishermen and surfers alike; the continued false positioning of the issue as ‘beach driving’ when pedestrian access can be equally limited. And then there’s specific examples of pretzel logic, like when a kiteboarder accidentally got stranded in a no-access zone, earning a $150 ticket from a passing ranger -- but not a free ride. (Instead, they left the offender to stomp his way out of the sensitive area.) Or when a waterline broke to Hatteras Village and there was a push to not to repair it, as if a plover can tell a plumber from a PhD. Or just the sheer brute force of the consent decree, as the consequences for a sign vandalized by a lone individual is to club the whole population with harsher restrictions — the policy equivalent of that corny t-shirt slogan, “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves.”

You can read the ups and downs of each closure and issue at and But mostly, I think it all comes back to an inherent cultural disdain -- not just a rural south disdain but an American disdain -- for outside forces telling an indigenous population how to behave. I feel similarly about this offshore drilling agenda, which allows interior states to say “go get ‘em fellas” without feeling or even considering the negative impacts, when I guarantee they’d be the first to cry foul if a potential polluter was moving into their neighborhoods and threatening their way of life.

Now, recently -- especially since I took a role as co-chair of Outer Banks Surfrider – I’ve been called out for being hypocritical. Folks questioning how can I be against offshore drilling and for beach driving when both end up putting more petroleum on the beach. I’ll leave a recent email response below to answer that question, but I think you’ll find it’s more nuanced than a black-and-white, “preserve or pollute” approach. (Ditto for the rigs: if the goal is really to make America ‘energy independent’, then Big Oil should stop fighting renewable energies and legislation that will cut our consumption, and work toward putting us within striking distance of that goal — then maybe we’ll talk about ‘bridging the gap’ with greater exploration.) In either case, you’ll also see it’s a much more pulled-back position than fighting for what “I” want, versus what “they” I want. It’s about finding a compromised position that serves everybody. Not just the people, animals and communities living here now — but moving forward, as well.

It would be nice to see all the parties in this access issue stifle the hate a bit and work toward a long-term solution that preserves the park for all uses. Maybe that’s na├»ve, but let me use the above-mentioned Mr. Blackwood as an example of former radicals undergoing radical change. For many years, Russell was the most feared monster to lurk in the shadow of the Lighthouse. As he says, “I was an angry man and I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve wished all sorts of ill will on me, and likely still do.” But somewhere, along the way, he realized that spewing hate and anger and forcing your will upon others can only fuel more nasty feelings and dischord. I’m not sure when that happened — I do know it was long after he barked me back to the beach at the tender age of 13 on one of my first, and better barreling days beneath that black-and-white striped beacon — but I still remember, and use, the explanation he dropped in a phone call roughly a dozen years back: “I learned a long time ago that it’s easier to wear slippers than it is to carpet the world.”

I’ve still yet to understand what any of the involved hardliners have to gain from closing the beach or destroying a nest, but I’d hope they’d that moving forward, they can kill the ‘my way or the highway’ carpet approach, and maybe try on some more flexible slippers. Now here’s that e-response to show what mine look like and why I wear’ em:

“Got your email about the beach driving issue and whether it's a hypocritical stance -- especially considering our current campaign against oil drilling.
None of these issues are ever black and white, but let me try to explain. I'll start with the 'official Surfrider stances.'

No drilling: pretty self-explanatory. It's bad for the environment. It's bad for surf spots. Pretty easy to see why Surfrider is diametrically opposed.

Beach driving in Hatteras (not the best way to describe it since the current situation limits pedestrian access as well, but the name's stuck so here goes): “Surfrider's for 'maintaining responsible access.'”

Without getting too specific -- because I don't know how specific nationals gets -- I'd argue that means finding ways to make sure humans can keep accessing the beach without too much negative impact. That could mean any number of ways: driving permits, different boundary solutions, etc. etc. But I think our point there is: let's take the issue from an approach of "how do we keep people enjoying these resources and maintain them ecologically?"

Unfortunately, from my experience, Audubon, Defenders, etc. are approaching from a strict: "how do we keep the most people out?"

That's the tack that the chapter -- and me, personally -- have the most problem with. And it basically comes down to a pulled back perspective: if humans can't access a resource, they will stop trying to protect it. At that point, the resource is in even greater danger.

I spoke at two of the Neg Reg meetings last year, and my primary points were: a) birds/turtles can't hold protest signs and write elected officials b) fishermen/surfers, etc. are some of the beaches greatest stewards, we should be using them to protect species and not alienate them c) if we alienate them, they will not fight with us when a huge issue comes like offshore drilling (ironically, I made that argument in May -- months before the federal moratorium was lifted) d) give this place a generation or two without access, and it will be easy pickings for developers/drillers/you name it.

I wish I could go on to list just how many way the above groups have pushed back the environmental movement among user groups that should be most eco-friendly, but it seems every time I turn around, there's an example of double standards that only add to the level of distrust. This summer a kiteboarder got beached in an 'off-limits' area; a park ranger wrote him a $150 ticket -- then left him to walk out instead of removing him from the habitat as quickly as possible. When the water line broke to Hatteras Village, they tried to keep it from being fixed. How is a plumber different from a scientist from the birds' perspective? And why not just escort him in if they're worried about him making a mistake?

And if this is a beach driving issue -- why the insistence on removing so much pedestrian access, as well?

I don't know why they're so hardline. I've had talks where an Audubon rep almost acquiesces to various solutions as being potentially beneficial (driving permits for example) but then reverts to a strict, 'these boundaries are the only thing that works' -- even though 'human contact' accounts for just 12% of the birds' mortality rate. (Keep in mind that 'human contact' includes everything from beach driving to folks bringing their dogs to the beach. So a 'no dogs' rule could end up being just as effective.)

Another interesting note -- while we're talking double standards -- how can a group that says global warming is the planet's greatest threat team up with Toyota -- the largest car co. on the planet? Audubon’s argument is they use the cash for greater education. In their perspective, they'll yield a greater good from that funding than the potential bad of promoting a polluter. I'd argue, that – though there may be localized risks -- maintaining responsible human access to our natural resources fosters an enlightened and active community who will fight for its protection for generations to come.

If it's driving permits -- fine. Hell, I'd even consider a solution like I saw in Uruguay at Cabo Polonio, [[see picture posted above]] where they have large trucks with benches on each side that carry groups to the beach like a bus. What I don't agree with is: "Sorry, you humans can't come anymore." Especially when, from my experience, they aren't using the best data science or intent to make sure they're saving the species they're using to justify the cause. (I've got several specifics on this, as well, but don't want to bore you.)

There is a solution here. The problem is, the respective parties -- in some cases on both sides -- don't seem to want to acquiesce a thing. Unfortunately, with the groups who sued holding such a hardline stance it puts Surfrider in the unenviable position of having to take issue with what should be a supposed ally. What's sadder is the current approach has already probably done more damage then good.”

The NPS must make a final decision by 2011. If you want to encourage them to adopt a balanced resolution toward responsible access on Cape Hatteras, Email the Park. You can also email Governor Beverly Perdue. Please keep your arguments polite and logical, and remind them how important the area is to surfing — and vice-versa.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A FISTFUL OF PROZACS: And a few Xanax more

That’s what I suggest you take before reading Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction. Talk about depressing, I’ve barely read one chapter, a prologue and the preface — freshly added in 2009 — from Terry Tammien’s expose on how petroleum damages the health of our planet and ourselves and I already feel the need to lock my medicine chest and hide all the sharp objects. Among the interesting tidbits so far:

Petroleum was listed by the Geneva Protocol on Air Pollution as the largest single source of air pollution worldwide.

Exhaust fumes have all the nasty particles of cigarette smoke (except one); diesel fumes cause 125,000 cancer cases each year and more than 8,000 deaths in So Cal alone (four times than the amount of car crashes.)

In the past 10 years, Americans have added 10 pounds to burn an extra 350 million pounds of jet fuel per year.

That 98% of the world’s plants and animals became extinct before the awn of industrial man.

And that we’re in the middle of the planet’s sixth ‘mass extinction’ that could see half the earth’s plant and animal life by the middle of the century.

That’s just a random sample from at least 50 little passages I’ve starred or squiggled so far. And I’ve still got another six chapters, including one on drilling where I just glanced down to see that “a single exploratory [offshore] well dumps approximately 25,000 pounds of toxic metals….[and] …the USEPA and oil industry agree that more than 1 billion tons are discharged annually…. And that they are entirely unregulated.”

Screw the Ginsus. One more sentence like that, you’ll find me dead in the garage with my car running. But then from what I’ve read about exhaust fumes, I’m already committing suicide just by breathing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: This ISD, celebrate and protect your favorite spot with

We can do it one day.This Saturday, as a matter of fact. Better known as International Surfing Day — and even better known as the summer solstice — it’s the date Surfrider, Surfing and their partners set aside to get the whole world to paddle out, make a difference and generally celebrate, display and fully fondle our saline-implanted lives. Well, here’s a way to make sure you can make all that fun count for decades to come: by taking the Surf-First survey before the sun sets.

Granted, with offshore drilling threatening almost every mainland wave at once, we’ve been neglecting some of the more local risks to America’s surf breaks. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. In North Carolina alone, differing interests are pushing to allow sand-stealing jetties and block access across Hatteras Island, while in Wrightsville, there’s a fresh squabble between fisherman and surfers over Johnny Mercier’s Pier. (In Montauk, that squabble never went away.) Long Island and New Jersey are continuing to battle gas terminals. In Texas, a new law could allow private homeowners to rebuild their houses on your public beach. In Delaware, there’s a sewage outfall in the works. And in California, every single state park is in danger of being shut down including that precious Trestles we thought was saved.

That’s just a smattering of fights from this year. And, besides Trestles, not one has the benefit of concrete data of how these issues affect surfers — and vice versa. That’s why it’s never has been more important for our surfing existence and future generations to describe our individual surfing habits — where we surf, what we spend, how often we travel and where — so we can accurately depict just how important America’s unique surf spots are to our economies and way of life. But there’s a much more pressing reason to do it this Saturday than just ISD: because you don’t have much longer to take part.

“We’ve officially budgeted an intern to crunch numbers this fall,” says Surfrider Environmental Director and Surf-First co-founder Chad Nelsen. “So we need as many surveys filled out as possible this summer. We’ve got a good start — more than 2500 — but in order to make this thing as really solid we’d like to see 10,000 surveys or 400 per state. And we need them by Labor Day. Because no matter what, we’re going get the results live online by next Spring.”

That means by this time next year, the first comprehensive study of U.S. surfers —their favorite local spots and travel destinations, economic status and family traditions — will be ready and put into pure numbers for any surfer to access and use in any battle no matter how big or small. But there’s only one way to make sure your state, your town — your very break — reaps the benefits: by taking 20 minutes and taking the survey. And if we all do it on Saturday, by Sunday we could have all we need to forge a new weapon in our fight for surfers’ rights, making sure there are plenty of festive surf holidays to come. Every single day. And that’s something worth celebrating.

If you’ve already taken the survey, consider yours work done. But why not regift the idea: email your friends to tell them to take part. Remember: nobody’s gonna stand up for your break — but you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CLEAN BEACHES RANK HIGH: Offshore drilling beaches just plain rank

Add one more thing to the list of traits Andy Irons and I have in common. Besides sick tube-riding skills, a mean frontside cuttie and three world titles — his as ASP champion, mine as “Earth’s Hairiest Human” — both of our homes earned a spot onDr. Beach's Top 10 list for 2009 :

1. Hanalei Bay, Kauai, HI
2. Siesta Beach , Sarasota, FL
3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, NY
4. Coronado Beach, San Diego, CA
5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, HI
6. Main Beach, East Hampton, NY
7. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, NC
8. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, FL
9. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, MA
10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

Granted, Hanalei Bay placed number one while Cape Hatteras came in at 7. (And, yes, I’m not really a Hatteras local, residing roughly an hour away.) But when you consider the tens of thousands of beaches on the mainland US alone, just living near a spot selected by Dr. Beach — aka Stephen P. Leatherman — is like joining an elite club. (Kind of like almost qualifying for the WCT.) And while Kauai certainly boasts bigger waves, better surfers and meaner sharks, there’s another trait all 10 share: not one has offshore drilling for hundreds of miles. (In fact, the only state with any drilling at all was California). Proof, that when people picture their ideal ocean environment to relax and play in, live and — insert cash register noise here — visit, they don’t just want petroleum way out of sight — but also out of mind.

What’s scary is besides Hawaii, all of those beaches — especially, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and to some degree New York and California —are threatened by the petroleum industry who are actively working to sacrifice their precious, pristine shores and renewable coastal economies for a paltry return in revenue sharing.

So, again, I suggest that any elected official considering opening their coast, tempted by the promises of extra cash at no extra cost: first visit the places where drilling is ongoing. Compare their beach to yours, then rank the experience for yourselves. And since that ain’t gonna happen, instead of believing what the oil execs and our government tell you about ‘clean drilling’, maybe ask an unbiased Gulf Coast resident what they think of offshore drilling and the onshore infrastructure it requires.

That’s what I did. Last week in Rodanthe at Real Watersports’ Triple S kiteboarding event, Outer Banks Surfrider was seeking signatures for their “Clean Beaches =Healthy Businesses” petition. The people who needed no explanation were those who’d already lived in the shadows of derricks. There was the instructor from Alabama who nearly knocked me over to grab the pen. The tourist from Louisiana who said he grew up driving an extra four hours to Destin, FL to avoid the muck. (There’s something I’d never considered: residents taking their tourist dollars to other beach towns.) And, perhaps most telling, a Houston kiteboarder who actually worked for an oil company and — after some on-site soul-searching — finally signed. Why? For the same reason she’d rather fly to Hatteras than drive to her closest body of water. Because in — her words — “Galveston’s the biggest shithole.”

Not quite like being named one of “America’s Best Beaches,” but I guess it’s a title.

Friday, May 29, 2009

BRACE YOURSELVES! 2009 Hurricane Season Starts June 1. (2009 Hurricane Hype Already Active.)

Disclaimer: The snarky sub-head is in no way meant to diminish the danger of tropical systems. If nothing else, being prepared early saves money and time if you find yourself in the crosshairs of a Katrina, Wilma or just a [yawn] Erin (the cute little cat one that somehow still managed to condemn my apartment in 1995). So go ahead and cut your plywood, fill the water jugs and stock up on double D batteries for the radio (or any other appliances you and the old lady might find handy if you’re locked in doors for a couple weeks without power). Then sit back and watch the tidal surge of SCARY HYPE spew forth from talking heads on every network from The Weather Channel to TMZ as they try to predict the most unpredictable weather systems on the planet.

Of course, these days, we don’t have ‘psychic friend networks’ – we have psychic friend ‘experts.’ Plural. Once the sole domain of Dr. William Gray’s climate team at Colorado State, it seems everyone wants a piece of the tropical season prediction biz: Accuweather, (13 named storms and eight hurricanes), WSI Corp (13 named storms, seven hurricanes) and the Weather Research Center (seven named storms, four hurricanes). Even NOAA – those noble scientific stewards that once only discussed a storm’s future in the vaguest of details (aka what it MIGHT do within hundreds of miles over the next 12 to 120 hours) has decided to go all Nostradamus on us, unveiling their own long term forecast. (Their call? Fourteen named storms, 4 to 7 becoming hurricanes, 1 to 3 of which will be major Cat 3s or more. )

Nevermind, that all the services pull from the same data and global patterns that CSU does. (Which explains why they all sound so similar.) Or that even after two decades, Gray’s team almost always gets it wrong. (2005 had 28 tropical and subtropical storms; they predicted 15.) Or that not one of these tropical tarot-readers saw that the first depression of 2009 would develop on May 27 around noon. (The type of specific info that might be useful for more than driving ratings and Home Depot sales.) If you print some hurricane hype (tip: use the phrase ‘period of heightened activity’), they will come.

So, since everyone else is doing it, here’s what’s swirling inside my 2009 Tropical Crystal Ball:

1. 88% of the swells won’t live up to their hype.
2. Every surf media outlet will use the headline “Happy Hollow-Days” at least once.
3. TWC’s Jim Cantore will continue his Gollum-like, physical transformation into CBS’s Paul Shaffer.
4. Somebody in the Mid-Atlantic’s gonna get creamed

I’m dead serious about the last one. How do I know? Like everyone else: a little voodoo, a little science – my broken wrist is starting to ache – and a touch of past experience. Last year saw barreling bounty like no season since 1995—arguably the best year ever for surf — when Felix did a two-week tango, kicking off a conga line of five storms in August alone, including a rare Fujiwara square dance by Humberto and Iris. One season later in 1996, Southern NC got smashed by Cat 2 Bertha and Cat 3 Fran within two months of each other. So, considering how sick the surf was in 2008, 2009’s corresponding beating must be somewhat solid.

Of course, I could be wrong. But as I said, better to be prepared than impaled by flying debris. And if we don’t get solid waves or an evacuation to keep you busy, guaranteed you’ll be entertained by all the weathermen getting blown away. Now that’s storm coverage you can trust.

While you’re staying glued to your fancy weather predicting machine, don’t just worry about the swell’s behavior, make sure you know what the storm’s doing, too. Two obvious picks: NOAA. (Every 12 hours, 5am and 5pm, they turn real data into a projected path). Shortly after, Dr. Jeff Masters Wunderblog will distill all that fancy scientific talk into clear, believable, terms.

Monday, May 18, 2009

TICK...TICK...TICK: Offshore or on, the push for more petroleum is a coastal timebomb

Lots of times, I struggle with what to complain about each week.(Just check my lame-ass "Moby Dick" post below.) But usually, all I have to do is check the news every few days and I'll find a reason to spew over the push for expanding oil production off our coast. This morning, I woke up to the following bombshell, Fireball lights up oil refinery on Delaware River.

Nobody knows what caused it, but apparently "New Castle County, Del., county councilman John Cartier said he could see the flames from his home at least three miles from the refinery. 'It was almost like seismic,' he told The (Wilmington) News Journal. 'My house was rocked. It was a big large boom.'"

Granted, this isn't from a rig per se, but one of the dirty little secrets behind pushing for more petroleum offshore, is that once they find it they need to bring it in, which leads to an industrialization of the coastline -- bringing potential hazards from miles offshore right to peoples' doorsteps. Furthermore, research -- and the law of averages -- shows that increased production means increased risk of accidents. And apparently, this "refinery sits on a 781-acre site along an international seaport, and it operates around the clock seven days a week with about 700 employees." (Insert 'tick...tick...tick..." noise here.)

So, while our local 24-7 tourism enterprises employ about 10 times that with the greatest of hazards likely being a spilled drink, burned steak or drunken asshole, pushing petroleum means bringing a time bomb to our shores while making rural coastline look -- in the words of UNC researcher Pete Peterson -- " more like northern New Jersey.”

(In the case of Delaware, Chicago circa 1871 or San Francisco 1906 sounds like more accurate comparisons.)

Fired up? Good. Write a letter to your elected officials. Then, burn some more energy by taking the surf-first survey after your next session (assuming you haven't already.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

MOBY DICKS: Offshore oil is also animal cruelty

You better pray God ain’t a whale. Otherwise humans are in for a helluva payback. In fact, all you need to do is see the Danish club pilot whales, and you realize we’ve got a long way to go toward becoming humane. And since I’ve blogged most recently (all though not that recently) about the economic folly of pursuing offshore oil and gas, I figured maybe it as time to point out the ethical folly, as in: how fast humans become animal-abusing dicks just to serve our own shallow needs.

In the case of offshore oil and gas exploration, we’ll literally torture our biggest, bestest ocean mammal buddies in search just a few months supply, as the ‘seismic guns’ used to find pockets of petroleum literally bursts whales eardrums, causing death and disorientation and other problems way beyond learning to sign with simple pair of fins. In fact, here’s just a few gnarly courtesy of Greenpeace :

* Seismic explosions typically reach 260 decibels but scientists believe marine mammals are injured by volumes higher than 180 decibels.

* In the last year, whale deaths believed to be related to noise pollution have occurred off of Baja California, the Canary Islands, and the San Juan Islands.

*Physical impacts of seismic survey noise on marine mammals are believed to include auditory masking or confusion, temporary hearing loss, brain hemorrhage and even death.

In other words, this is way worse than cutting a cat’s whiskers or giving a dog peanut butter (not that I know much about either). Even more troubling, it’s only been about 70 years since whales stopped being tortured in way worse ways by American industry. Not torture like sleep deprivation or cramped boxes or even ‘waterboarding’ . But as in harpooning, jabbing, and ultimately beheading and skinning. (Take that, Talban.) And then there’s the death itself, as described in the following passage from Moby Dick:

“The red tide now poured form all sides of the monster like brooks down a hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine, but in blood, which bubbled and seethed for furlongs behind their wake. . .And all the while, jet after jet of white smoke agonizingly shot from the spiracle of the whale,...Stubb slowly churned his long sharp lance into the fish and kept it there.. And now, the whale once more rolled out into view . . .spasmodically dilating and contracting his spouthole, with sharp agonized respirations. At last, gush after gush of clotted red gore…shot into the frighted air and falling back again, ran dripping down his motionless flanks into the sea. His heart had burst!”

So what were these 19th century Nantuckers after? Meat. Nope. Sperm? Somewhat. But mostly, they too wanted oil. Not to burn in cars, but in lamps, killing thousands upon thousands to meet the world’s energy needs. Better hope when we hit the pearly gates we don’t see Shamu instead of St. Peter, or else it’ll be our turn to burn. (Better have a bucket of fish handy just in case.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SAVED BY THE BELL?: How syndicated TV can bring offshore oil to a ‘screeching’ halt

What’s scarier than taking lessons from third-world countries ? Taking lessons from syndicated TV.

Right now, Ecuador’s indigenous Amazon tribes are suing Chevron because of pollution left behind from decades of drilling. To be fair, that drilling was done by Texaco, which Chevron later acquired – becoming America’s third largest company in the process. But even if the oil execs aren’t taking ownership of the damage, they’re sure taking ownership of the fight by playing some serious hardball. Just like Exxon spent huge amounts and 20 years battling the Valdez decision, Chevron would rather buy slanderous ads in Ecuadorian papers before they’ll pay the $27 billion in damages for polluting the Amazon rainforest and local drinking water. Lesson here? Once you let the oil companies in, promises of clean drilling and “we’re your pal” vanish like exhaust fumes behind a gluttonous SUV.

But what’s more insane is how often this debate resurfaces in 20 year cycles – much like America’s other great source of pollution: syndicated TV. And you need no greater example than Kelly, Zack, Mr. Belding and the rest of the cast of that insanely goofball high school series "Saved by the Bell,” which took up the cause on October 21, 1991.

According to the summary, “When oil is discovered on the property after digging for a new guard post, an oil company arrives to destroy the pond to drill for the oil.” (Keep in mind, this was just 18 months after the Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil – the largest environmental disaster in US history — so America was still enjoying a silly cultural backlash of oil-hating hysteria.)

Now, I know I used high school cliques as a metaphor for coastal activism just two weeks ago, but I didn’t expect the Dalai Lama of losers – the holy Screech himself – to come to my rescue via boob-tube time machine. Even more surprising? Some of the perspectives were — and remain — surprisingly valid.

Check out this conversation:

Jessie: Because of your oil spills, we put 20 dead animals back into the ground.
Mr. Phelps: Well I'm sorry, that was an accident and we did get that cleaned up.
Lisa: Yeah but can you guarantee it won't happen again?
Mr. Phelps: Well no...
Zack: So what happens if there's another accident? Will it look like this? (squirts oil all over the model of the school, getting some on Mr. Phelps’ shirt)
Mr. Phelps: I'm covered in oil!
Zack: I'm sorry, it was an accident.


Lisa: Nothing survived, the oil's all over the pond.
Mr. Belding: But what can I do?
Screech: What can you do? You're the principal! Aren't you man enough to scare anybody besides the kids?

Of course, with “Jessie” – aka Elizabeth Berkley -- later lapdancing her way through the NC-17 rated “Showgirls’ and “Screech” — aka Dustin Diamond — releasing a sex tape (no ‘diamond tip’ jokes, please), both characters obviously changed their minds about both ‘oil’ and ‘drilling’ over the past 18 years. And so has our sadly short-attention-spanned country. The question is: can the current generation of America’s youth can rise up to ‘save us’ before another Valdez disaster?

Bonus trivia: go to the link to note the mysterious repetition of Slater, Kelly and Lisa as character names; also, the title of the episode is called ‘Pipe Dreams.’

Extra credit to Surfline forecaster Kurt Korte for bringing this little piece of pop culture to my attention. I was in college when this episode originally aired, doing mature college things — like streaking museums and waking up in pools of my own vomit — but apparently this was quite the groundbreaking episode for all the kiddies. For those who missed it the first time around – or just miss it in general — you can even watch it yourself Wednesday, May 6, at 7:30am on TBS. (If you want to know when ‘Showgirls’ is on, you’ll just have to, uh, Google yourself.) Or do something useful for 20 minutes and take the Surf-First survey after your next session.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FIRST THEY CAME FOR FLORIDA, NEXT THEY’LL COME FOR YOU: Sunshine State legislature opens door to oil offshore drilling

What’d you do this past week? I put together a couple of stories on the Atlantic City offshore oil public hearing to print in mags later this summer. In fact, I literally filed the second one an hour ago. The idea was to rally any cave-dwelling surfers who still don’t go online -- all those bearded Dan-Malloy-Rasta-bes? They’re actually Amish . . .sssshh -- and make sure they bust out the old quill and ink, unleash the carrier pigeons and fire up their elected officials at least as much as the Oil Interests grease them down.

Then , minutes after I pressed send, I got the news that Florida’s state legislature, voted 70 to 43 on a fast-track bill along party lines that allows the governor and Cabinet to open the door to oil drilling off Florida's coast.

“Great oily seabirds, Batman!” I shouted (No, wait, that was Robin.) But I did yell a few fowl words. Then I started to ponder what to do next:

1. Wipe my brow that I no longer live in Florida. (Did that ten years ago.)

2. Start picking which surf spots I’d rather see get ruined. (Sorry, 2nd Light….oh wait, that’s right, a bad beach fill plan took care of that years ago.)

3. Curl up in a ball, suck my thumb and pray it’ll all go away.

Then, as I was grabbing my binkie, I figured I’d better read the story firsthand. That’s when I and came across this piece saying, ”Gov. Charlie Crist and Senate leaders put the brakes on a bill to open the door to near-shore oil drilling off Florida's coast . . .”

Phew! More brow wiping (And a few other less than savory areas.) But we shouldn’t feel heartened, we should feel scared. Terrified, even. First, because right now, this same scenario is playing in every East Coast and Gulf Coast state, as well as California and Alaska.

Second, because Gov. Crist isn’t anti-drilling per se, he just figured allowing a “Drill, baby, drill” free-for-all within 3 to 10 miles of shore at the end of a legislative session, might be a little too . . .hasty. (Wuss.) They could just as easily pick it up again next time.

And most importantly, because, most surfers really do follow those first three steps any time any break is threatened for any reason. First, we say, “thank god, it’s not my spot.” Then we secretly pray if something’s gonna happen, it happens to a break we don’t like. And then we stick our heads in the nearest sandbar.

But we don’t have to. For once, we could see this incident as a real warning sign of what’s to come. We could even act by turning up the heat on our elected officials – and others.

So, Tell Gov. Crist he’s right to be worried and to say no to oil . . . period. Then, do the same for your own State.

And, for those of you still think we should be drilling, go back and read the Florida story to see just how this whole scenario played out. It’s all Texas oilmen, ‘energy freedom seekers,’ and suckers bets like dangling $75 million in ‘clean energy’ kickbacks out of billions in oil revenue— which still pales when you consider Florida’s out-of-state beach tourists spent $19.1 billion in 2003 (equal to 3.8 percent of the gross state product.) They also spent $600 million in states sales tax and created 500,000 jobs.

Do all that math and see if it adds up. Now factor in the 1.8 billion barrels we export daily on our road to ‘energy independence.’ Compare it to the amount of jobs created by renewable energy (3:1 compared to oil.) And then ask yourself: if offshore petroleum is such an easy fit for coastal states – how come their proponents always use so much grease?

Speaking of grease, this whole blog spiel is just a slick way of conning surfers into taking the the Surf-First survey so we can save our breaks down the line. So, if you haven’t yet, please “Fill, baby, fill” after your next session.

Friday, April 24, 2009

FREAKS AND GEEKS: Surfers worship the former – but we should act more like the latter

I don’t wear pop-bottle glasses. No plastic pocket protector on my chest. And I couldn’t recite the Pythagorean Theorem if you wrote it out fo-net-i-kal-ee. Yet, more and more, I feel like a geek. Mostly, right about the time I leave the latest Surfrider meeting or perform some other form of ‘coastal activism.’

Part of it's the activities themselves. That AC no drilling rally? Lots of suits and old farts (aka three-pieces and hairpieces.) Beach clean-ups? The only thing worse than black socks on sand is plastic gloves. And even if our monthly meetings usually involve cracking beers and talking surf, the idea of sacrificing your free time to do more labor seems inherently dorky, like asking if there’s any homework five minutes before the bell rings on Friday or volunteering to bring the projector -- do they even use projectors these days? -- back to the AV room.

Then there's the whole membership idea. Come join a group to ‘save the planet’ — but do it in itsy, bitsy increments instead of asteroid-smashing strokes of genius. It’s like part lame-ass Justice League, part Chess Team. I flash back to that scene in the Breakfast Club when Anthony Michael Hall defends his physics fetish as something social. (“We discuss physics, properties of physics….we get dressed up, but we don’t get high.”) As Judd Nelson’s character, Bender, says: “They’re social…. demented and sad, but social.”

How true.

But a better indicator may be who I don’t see at meetings. I don’t see the top name pros. Or superstars. Most shop-owners or reps. Or even hardcore Bodhi-like loc-dogs. If we’re to continue the SURFING WORLD HIGH SCHOOL metaphor, those guys would be The A-Crowd. The jocks, hipsters and other cool guys who get all the perks -- like set waves, free gear and hot chicks –- for just being them. They’re also the very people who make their living off surfing and can make time to surf every swell -- but still get surprisingly busy when the time comes to defend the very spots they surf.

Industry dudes are the lowest tier, like the thespians. Self-important, so ‘outside the box’ and independent and non-conformist, even as they wear matching hoodies, jeans ‘footwear’ and ‘eyewear’ – only dorks wear shoes and glasses – but with a slightly different label tilted oh-so-askew. They suffer for their artform—selling shit—but not for much else. (By the way: I rebel by wearing my 'Surfing' tee's backwards.)

Photo sluts are like the Stoner/ Slacker clique. No need to study (compete) or make the grade (be on time). A cool buzz, tasty waves, they’re fine. Definitely don’t get any of those when you’re posting flyers against some toxic polluter (unless it’s huffing fumes off the mimeograph machine.)

And, finally, there’s the Jocks. The semi-pros and seven-figure LeBrons who’ll pimp any product from underpants to cologne to energy drinks for a paycheck but won’t take a few seconds to stop and help us equipment managers carry the water cooler that keeps them from dying on the field.

What about the Trestles rally, you say? That thing was full of reporters and news crews, the eco-equivalent of “Friday Night Lights.’ But a random, dig-and-get-dirty –to-fight-the-man affair? “Sorry, dude, coach says I need to save my energy for the game.”

If you need more proof, consider this: San Francisco’s Public Hearing two Thursdays’ ago drew roughly 300 people; the XXL Big Wave Awards? 2000. If you ask me, more of those guys would be heroes had they taken the tour bus north to SF right after. Maybe pointed out the possibilities for wind and water power in many of these same big venues; said we don’t need oil derricks with 100 miles of Cortes or Mav’s. That would’ve been easily as inspiring as riding a 100-foot wave -- and if it helped keep oil rigs from going up off our coast -- infinitely more effective in terms of preserving their careers and the health of the industry.

But it also may have been just a little bit . . . difficult. Definitely boring. With no clear-cut immediate reward and hardly a hot chick or party in sight. In other words: 100% geeky.

Look: I don’t expect things to change overnight. Hell, I’ll sooner find myself with my boxers pulled over my head and stuffed in a locker as I will convince any of these folks to show up on a monthly basis. But, much like there can be no homecoming party without the planning committee, without us geeks there would be no Trestles rallies to attend. And without rallies, there’d be no more Trestles. Connect those same dots on the Offshore Continental Shelf and drilling, we have the power to protect every wave on the mainland US – but only if we start to protect them now.

You don’t need to join the Physics club for life – just show up once in a while to see how you can help.

You don’t have to write a whole college essay; just send a letter to your elected officials. (You can even have someone do it for you by clicking here.)

The latter you can do without a single person ever knowing you caved. And these little acts of dorkdom are what will preserve surfing’s cool factor for eternity -- but only if we do them now. If not, we’ll wake up one day to see the favorite waves and beach communities ruined. Even worse, we’ll know we never even put up a fight.

And at that point, we won’t be geeks -- we’ll be losers.

Tap into your inner-geek: take the Surf-First survey after your next session. (But only if you haven't already . . .dork.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"USE OIL?" "USE WIND?" HOW ABOUT “USE LESS?": Thoughts on changing our energy habits after the April 6 rally

Reduce, reuse, recycle, indeed.My journey to April 6’s Atlantic City Public Hearing last week — you can read about what happened here and here — began with a stop at Jon and Ann Coen’s house in LBI, which quickly segued over to Mark Tesi and Julie Goldstein’s home for an afternoon of beer-drinking and dumpster diving. Yes, dumpster diving.

For those who don’t know Mark and Julie -- as I didn’t until Sunday -- they’re artists and former owners of Pine, the gallery/surf shop that burned down last year to the dismay of the Long Beach Island community. Instead of screaming “lights out” (intentional Angry Samoans reference for all the hardcore punkers in attendance) the couple seized the day and bolted west to Cardiff to start anew, returning last week to finish moving out of their home with the help of friends -- who were more than willing to help themselves to whatever wouldn’t fit in the van.

Mark explained he’d gotten used to Spartan living over the past couple months and figured to continue the trend. So, as a gallery of onlookers watched, the less proud of us poured over the contents, ripping through bags, trying on sunnies, and generally goofing off while digging for gold. There were swim goggles. Boogie fins. Record players and bass guitars. Plus heaps of music and books. There were also some super nice examples of Julie’s painted woodwork, many larger than life.

I managed to snag some of everything. I got books by Joyce, Wilde and Lucas -- as in George Lucas. (My a son’s a Jabba-sized Star Wars fan and Episode IV is surely the series classic, even in “Golden Book” form.) I snaked iconic VHS titles like “The Search”, “Loose Change” and “Minor Threat Live.” I also nabbed a floral printed skate deck and sweet wood frame collage composition. But the big winner was Brian Strahle who drove off with an original Greg Noll longboard. Reward perhaps for not being quite so greedy as the rest of us.

It was hardly the way I expected to begin my New Jersey mission to scream about the push for East Coast oil exploration. But it was fitting. After all, part of our insane energy demands comes from the fact we throw so much away and conserve so little. In fact, my biggest disappointment while attending Monday’s meeting was while you heard lots of people scream “Use Oil!,” “ Use Gas!,” “Use Wind!” or “Use Solar!” Nobody yelled “Use Less!” (One exception being 12-year-old Christian Regan, who played the “from the mouths of babes” role perfectly – including calling out an oil exec to his face while voicing his comments.)

Read all about him on Coen’s blog – he’s Jon’s new hero. What’s funny, is Jon’s kind of my new hero. And not in a gay, Perseus from Clash of the Titans way, but in a Gandhi living his personal philosophy kind of way. (Yes, I know, they both wear loin cloths but work with me here . . .) What I’m saying is, lots of people bitch and moan, few people do. And Jon does. This is a guy with a veggie oil car on a strict pesco-vegetarian diet. Who brushes his teeth with Tom’s Natural toothpaste after he eats his Natural-brand cereal. A guy so straight edge, even his mouthwash is alcohol-free — no shit. But he still grilled our tofu dogs and burgers on a propane grill.

Goes to show: try as we might, we can’t escape our energy addiction; we can only change how we feed our habit. And one thing was clear at the end of the meeting in Atlantic City: wind or oil, gas or solar, if we don’t elect change for ourselves, someone will do it for us. Or more likely they won’t.

So make sure you attend the meeting in San Francisco on April 16. And if you can’t, file a written comment here.

And for those of you who think one person can’t make a difference, dig this: last week, with the help of Surfrider’s John Weber I got an “op-ed” printed in the Asbury Park Press. On Monday the Raleigh News and Observer ran another. Most importantly, at the OCS meeting itself, I directly addressed Ken Salazar, the head of the Department of the Interior, with comments, some of which ultimately ended up being referenced in a third piece here. And while the first articles may be a product of writing experience and contacts, this final opportunity only presented itself because – except for fellow Outer Banks surfer, Bob Oliver -- I was the only NC resident in the whole room. It happened because I showed up. Period.

P.S. There’s been waves the past few days – at least on the East Coast. If you ain’t taken the Surf-First survey, do it now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

SLICK MOVE: The petroleum industry’s foiled plot to keep me from Atlantic City

I know it was you. I saw the letters on the side of your van as you sped out of the Lighthouse parking lot. They quite clearly said “A.P.I.” or “L.N.G.” Maybe it was “B.E.E.L.Z.E.B.U.B.” Whatever the acronym was hardly matters, because your little plot to keep me away from Monday’s public hearing on offshore oil has failed.

On Saturday, I made a 5:30am hail-Mary mission toward Buxton in hopes of squeaking in a last session before my three-day blitz to AC for the East Coast Offshore OCS rally. Despite several checks, I was foiled; the wind had knocked the swell down and my would-be barrel-fest down south became little more than a big U-Turn by the Lighthouse.

That’s when I saw you, right when I was checking the groin (I love saying that). As you raced away, I assumed you were merely down for a meeting with the NPS and Audubon, handing off a little payola to keep people off the beach and laying the groundwork for future goal of polluting the coast. But you had more insidious plans - - plans that involved my truck.

Because another hour later – just past the bridge, thank God – my trusty ‘Yota shit the bed (literally from the sound of it) when my transmission failed. I managed to massage my way to the beach road another 10 minutes, but alas couldn’t get ‘er home. By the time I did, I had less than three hours to figure out how I’d get to NC. There’s one rental joint in town, it closes at noon on Saturday, and it had nothing on the lot but a Dodge Ram V8 pick-up, guaranteed to burn about as much petroleum in eight hours as awaits off of our shores. Oh the iron-clad irony of it all.

But then salvation: my good friends Patti Hook and Andy Tyler said – insert holy orchestra sound affects here – “why don’t you borrow one of our cars? It’s only a couple days?” Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Andy and Patti both surf – hell, Patti’s a two-time East Coast Women’s champ. She’s also from New Jersey (go Bruce!). And, more importantly, their son Grant surfs, too, so they’ve got lots of reasons to keep the ocean clean. Still, I was impressed.

“Wow,” I thought. “How generous. And what a perfect metaphor for how all of us are in this thing together, and that even if we can’t be at the rally Monday, we can all do things to help the glorious struggle…” (Not really; I just made that up. My first response was actually, “Woo-hoo! I saved $250!”)

The even better news? My so-called buzzkill of a trip south was actually the best thing that could happen. Because I broke down here, I didn’t break down between NC and NJ, forcing me to spend the big day on the side of the road. Instead I’ll be there. And I may be spewing less C02 in terms of engine exhaust, I’ll be spilling plenty in terms of hot breath saying “no drilling off the East Coast.”

So to Patti/Andy/Grant, thanks again. (And don’t worry, there’s not enough oil out there to affect your motocross gas tab, whatsoever. ) And to my ‘friends’ at the petroleum institute: nice try, suckers. From now on I’ll be checking my brake lines.

P.S. And thanks to Mickey '2M' McCarthy for the photos -- see, we really are in this together and every little bit counts...sorry, i'll stop with the metaphors for now..