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.

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