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..