Why Enforcing the Coastal Act Matters

That me on the right with my brother Nicky, my mother, and my Uncle Emile in San Felipe either in 1972 or 1973.

Beachtime when I was a kid. My mother and little brother Nicky are on the left.

In 1971 when I was seven, I accompanied my mother and little brother Nicky to the sand dunes on the southern edge of the Silver Strand’s bayside in Coronado.

I can still remember the shock and fear I felt when a security guard with a gun approached us.

“This is private property and you are trespassing,” he said as we bathed along the shore (the area was later developed as the Coronado Cays).

My English mother, who had first encountered the very public beaches of England after surviving the Battle of Britain while a child in war torn London, was outraged.

“How dare that man scare us with his gun while we enjoy the beach.”

That incident occurred just before the California voters approved the passage of the Coastal Act in 1972, which authorized the formation of the Coastal Commission.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

“Without the Coastal Act and the Commission, the coast would be inaccessible to ordinary people,” said Patricia McCoy a former member of the Coastal Commission who lives in Imperial Beach.

My oldest son Israel spent the summer working as a California State Lifeguard at the Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado. “I really noticed how truly happy people are at the beach and how many different types of people use the beach,” he said.

“I never take for granted the California’s stunning coast, or the foresight of those who passed the Coastal Act four decades ago to keep it accessible to people all over the state,” said Karen Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The problem with the Coastal Commission is that the agency, “Can set the rules, but it can’t enforce them,” said Chad Nelsen of the Surfrider Foundation. “Imagine what the roads would be like if the police couldn’t issue traffic tickets. That is essentially the plight of the Coastal Commission with regard to beach access.”

Wallace J. Nichols

Wallace J. Nichols

Ten years ago, Wallace “J.” Nichols (who worked with me at WILDCOAST at the time) trekked the 1,200 miles from Oregon to Mexico along the coastal trail.  “I witnessed first hand the diversity of people who love the ocean and I saw how some people, particularly around LA, were fighting to keep it for themselves, despite clear laws protecting the coast and providing public access for all.”

For Warner Chabot, “The Coastal Act initiative was the result of public outrage over landowners blocking access to the coast. Now there are more than 1,944 Coast Act violations of which 690 are in Los Angeles County and of those 533 are in Malibu, and 123 are in San Diego.”

Malibu beach access signs designed to mislead the public.

Malibu beach access signs designed to mislead the public.

To remedy this situation, Assemblymember Toni Atkins from San Diego has introduced AB 976, which would give the California Coastal Commission the ability to levy limited fines for Coastal Act violations. A similar enforcement tool is already in place for 21 other state regulatory agencies, including the State Water Board, Air Board and the State Lands Commission.

“Free and open coastal access is critical to the health and well-being of our communities,” said Ben McCue of Outdoor Outreach, an organization that takes kids from low-income communities on outings to the beach.

Making sure everyone can use the beach will require agencies to enforce the laws that voters passed. We should ensure that private property owners cannot continue to obstruct the natural and legal rights of the public to enjoy resources that belong to us all.

After all, “A day at the beach is a right all Californians are entitled to enjoy,” said Marce Gutierrez of Azul.

With my sons israel and Daniel.

Everyone has the right to use and enjoy our coast. it is a public trust for all!

Surfers Unite to Save Waves: The Global Wave Conference 3

DSC_1868

On the first ever Global Wave Wednesday, a report on how surfers from ten countries came together May 5-8, 2013, in Rosarito Beach at the Third Annual Global Wave Conference to talk about strategies to preserve waves and beaches.

 “We are more than a wave,” Pablo Narvaez of Barra de la Cruz told me last week while we ate lunch at the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

 Barra de la Cruz, considered one of the world’s best waves by Surfer Magazine, is an indigenous coastal village in Mexico where surfing is the main source of tourist revenues. “We have sea turtles, a mangrove lagoon and a beautiful village filled with culture,” said Pablo.

Pablo was among the surf conservationists from 19 organizations representing ten countries who came together in Rosarito Beach at the world’s largest gathering dedicated to global wave protection in Rosarito Beach for the for the 3rd Global Wave Conference to discuss experiences and strategies to protect coastal ecosystems and resources.

DSC_1875

Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO and Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach.

“Over the last decade the surf conservation movement has blossomed but until recently the world’s surf protection groups have been working in isolation,” said Surfrider Foundation Environmental Director Dr. Chad Nelsen. “The Global Wave Conference is designed to change that and promote exchange of knowledge and programs, information sharing and collaboration, with the larger goal to establish a unified front for global wave protection.”

 The conference represents a growing understanding that the world’s coastlines, and more specifically its surf spots, are important economical, ecological, cultural and recreational resources that must be protected.

 “The GWC was a really productive and amazing conference. From local fisherman in Baja, to non-profit leaders in the UK, to representatives from the UNDP in Costa Rica; The true strength of the conference was to create new and innovative partnerships among all surf users,” said Save the Waves Executive Director Nik Strong-Cvetich.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

Nik Strong-Cvetich of Save the Waves, Gustavo Danemann of Pronatura-Noroeste, and from WILDCOAST Sofia Gomez, Fay Crevoshay and Eduardo Najera.

In Rosarito Beach, a number of the attendees represented communities throughout Mexico and Latin America who are striving to conserve their waves, beaches, and way of life through surfing tourism and conservation.

Local conference participants discussed strategies to protect coastal access and surf spots.  According to Dr. Eduardo Najera, Director of COSTASALVAJE, “Surfing provides a unique way to get in contact with nature and can increase people’s awareness about coastal conservation and sustainable use of the coastline.”

 Fernando Marvan from Surf Ens presented on the recently established Bahia Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve. Carlos Luna of Rosarito Beach and Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO discussed youth surfing in the region and the future of the sport in Baja California.

 “Waves are natural resources, it is up to us to protect them. As ocean lovers we need to spread the love and also educate young surfers about our environment,” said Alfredo who organizes youth surfing contests and lessons in both the U.S. and Mexico. “They are the next generation that will take care of our coasts.”

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

Participants who spoke on issues along the U.S.-Mexico borde and in Baja.

 Artemio Murillo and Jaime Villavicencio travelled all of the way from the fishing village of Bahia Asuncion in Baja California Sur to present on how surfing has been a catalyst for coastal stewardship. Jaime helps fix up old surfboards in his remote village to make sure that local kids have access to surfing.

 One of the most moving presentations was by Pablo Narvaez who discussed how his tiny Oaxaca community of 800 people is effectively managing their coastal resources and offered a model that can be replicated in many areas around the world. “We charge a fee to use our beach services. Those monies in turn fund community projects and medical care for every member of our village,” said Pablo.

 Presentations were also given by Surfers Against Sewage from the UK, Save the Waves, Salvem o Surf from Portugal, Surfrider Europe, Surfers Environmental Alliance, the Canary Island Surfing Federation, Desarrollo y Gestion Costera from Peru and Oso and Golfito Initiative from Costa Rica.

 “Every wave is unique. Every beach is important for the community,” said Carlo Grigoletto, Executive Director, Desarrollo y Gestión Costera (DGCOSTERA) of Peru.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

Will Henry and Nik from Save the Waves with Pablo Narvaez from Barra de la Cruz, Mexico.

 For Brad Former of the Gold Coast Surf Council in Australia, “There’s no reason why all major surf cities internationally can’t adopt a Surf Management Plan to extend beyond National and World Surfing Reserves models.”

 The conference concluded with a field trip to Ensenada to show some of the exceptional efforts being carried out by local community groups and NGOs and the location of what will be Mexico’s first World Surfing Reserve in Bahia Todos Santos. The reserve that will be launched sometime in the fall, will include San Miguel, Tres Emes, Salsipuedes and Todos Santos Island.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

Here I am presenting on wave conservation in Mexico.

 “The conference also delivered the first ever united global action for wave protection through Global Wave Wednesday. A great template for working together.” Hugo Tagholm, Director, Surfers Against Sewage.

 As an act of solidarity the groups attending the Global Wave Conference agreed to support Surfers Against Sewage’s Protect Our Wave campaign, which is designed to increase legal protection for surfing in the UK.

 “It was great to see the commitment, tenacity and innovative approaches surfers are using to protect the waves they love all over the planet,” said Surfrider Foundation Executive Director Jim Moriarty.

 

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Some of the group on a field trip to visit the Bahia de Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve.

Surfing Charities That Deserve Your Support

With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, many of us take the opportunty to write checks to our favorite charities. With the emergence of new surf-related non-profits dedicated coastal protection, humanitarian and community development and recreation, there is no reason that every surfer shouldn’t give back this year.

Here is a list of surf-related charities worthy of a check or online donation.

wildcoastresults

WiLDCOAST The conservation team that I run has preserved over 3.2 million acres of bays, beaches, lagoons, and islands since 2000. A 4-star Charity Navigator ranked charity, WiLDCOAST this year mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to clean up 150,000 lbs of trash and helped to preserve miles of beautiful coastline in Mexico.

Wildcoast

Wildcoast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfrider Foundation: The granddaddy of surfing charities, Surfrider is a well-managed and effective coastal protection organization that mobilizes its thousands of members to strategically save surf spots and beaches in the U.S. and around the world.

The Surfrider Foundation Logo

The Surfrider Foundation Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

gompers 093

Outdoor Outreach in action.

SurfAid: This humanitarian organization carries out health related work in Indonesia. If you’ve surfed Indo and/or care about the fate of people who suffer from diseases present in tropical paradises than donate to SurfAid.

Outdoor Outreach: This San Diego non-profit is one of the nation’s most effective organizations at getting low-income and at-risk kids into the outdoors. Founder and Director Chris Rutgers, a local surfer, involves kids in surfing, rock climbing, camping and even snowboarding as a way of building self-esteem and providing recreational opportunities for kids who have very few.

Save the Waves: This Davenport-based organization focuses on preserving surf spots around the world and promoting and developing World Surfing Reserves.

Waves for Development: This New York-based charity creates life-enriching experiences in coastal communities in Peru through educational surf programs. Waves for Development is working in some of the most marginalized coastal communities to bring in surfing and get volunteers involved to assist in community development programs.

Crawford at Del Mar 6-29-09

Outdoor Outreach in action.

Center for Surf Research-SDSU: Researcher and surfer Dr. Jess Ponting has created this new academic and action-oriented research center in order to promote more sustainable surfing tourism and manufacturing and to promote great involvement by the surf industry in environmental and humanitarian issues where surfing tourism occurs. Off to a great start with groundbreaking conferences on surfing philanthropy, this is a truly innovative university research division.

YMCA Camp Surf: This wonderful beachfront youth camp located in San Diego County is an ocean oasis that provides recreational and educational opportunities for thousands of kids each year. For many campers their day and overnight camping experience here are their first real contact with the ocean.

Sustainable Surf: This San Clemente-based organization works with surfers and the surf industry to foster and promote recycling and re-use of surfboard materials, and promote better and more sustainable practices in the surfing industry.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

I’m also a big fan of the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In these challenging times, all of these organizations provide critical and much-needed recreational opportunities for kids and families, including teaching kids to swim – which is key to enjoying the ocean and learning to surf.

Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change and Sand Replenishment

As I watch the news reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, I think of the south county coastal area where I live and surf.

Imperial Beach is a low-lying coastal city connected to Coronado by a thin strip of sand. Any storm with a potent tidal surge would immediately obliterate the homes, dunes and streets of my coastal backyard.

Understanding the the impact of Sandy on the beaches, barrier islands and cities of the East Coast is critical for the residents of Southern California in order to evaluate the costly efforts to preserve local beaches.

Now that SANDAG is finishing up its $28 million regional sand replenishment project, we need to ask if having government agencies continue to spend billions of dollars nationally dumping sand on our beaches to forestall the inevitable reduction in size due to man-made erosion, violent storms and sea level rise, is really worth it.

That is especially true in light of new proposals by the Army Corps of Engineers to spend $261 million on sand projects just for Encinitas, Solana Beach and San Clemente.

Beach replenishment and beach nourishment are euphemisms for what are really beach dredge and fill that turns the beach into an industrial site during construction,” said Surfider Foundation Environmental Director Chad Nelsen. “They should be designed to minimize impacts to nearshore reefs that are important recreational (surfing, diving, etc.)  and ecological resources.”

Terry Gibson, a longtime surfer and fisherman from Florida who is the Senior Editor of Fly & Light Tackle Angler, has spent a considerable amount of effort evaluating the impacts of badly managed sand replenishment projects on the East Coast.

“Near shore reefs or other types of essential fish habitat are typically buried or silted over, without adequate much less kind-for-kind mitigation,” he said.

According to Gibson, “Chronic turbidity is often a problem. The entire slope of the near shore environment typically changes so that wave quality from a surfer’s perspective is degraded or destroyed. And you often lose the qualities that make a beach attractive to sea turtles, not to mention the impacts to the invertebrates that live in the beach and are a requisite forage source for fish and birds.”

The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is currently monitoring the impacts to surf throughout San Diego from the current SANDAG regional effort via video monitoring. In Imperial Beach the SANDAG project has shut down the surf for about 75 percent of our beachfront.

“At IB we’ve been seeing a trend towards decreasing surfer counts and decreasing ride length,” said Tom Cook of San Diego Surfrider.

According to Julia Chunn of San Diego Surfrider, “We hope that video-based monitoring, similar to our current Surf Monitoring Study, will be required of all large beach nourishment project in the future.”

For this reason, it is my view that the current SANDAG project is preferable to the incredibly expensive projects the Army Corps has slated for Solana Beach, Encinitas and San Clemente. Those proposed federal projects come with a price tag that in light of the cost of Sandy’s storm damage and federal fiscal woes, seems obscene.

Additionally, the federal project planned for Solana Beach-Encinitas, that in the long-term is designed only to protect 300 feet of beach, would involve more than double the amount of sand SANDAG deposited on beaches throughout the entire county. These Army Corps projects are relics of the past that do not reflect our climate-contorted and fiscally prudent future.

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

Clearly we are going to have be smarter and more resourceful with our tax dollars when it comes to conserving our beaches. The process works best when all stakeholders as well as scientists can come to the table with local agencies and evaluate the most cost effective and sensible solutions to coastal erosion, rather than when Army Corps push through massive dredge and fill projects with little public oversight and accountability.

“These projects should be considered temporary solutions that buy us time to find sustainable long term solutions to our coastal erosion problems because they are expensive, short lived and will not be sustainable in the face of sea level rise,” said Nelsen.

Beaches, Sand and Money

Photo: Chris Patterson

As I watch shorebreak bombs explode at the Quiksilver Pro Francevia webcast, one thing that stands out besides the crazy hollow shorebreak is the brown large grain sand local beaches are made of.

The beaches and sandbars of southwest France, that result some of the world’s best beach breaks for surfing, are filled with large grain brown sand that flows out of the estuaries and rivers of the region.

Because much of the coastal zone along the southwestern coast of France remains free of development, with extensive barrier dunes still in place, the beaches aren’t subject to the same process of erosion as our beaches are (but there is extensive erosion in coastal cities there).

Imperial Beach, Sept. 25th,Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In San Diego in contrast we have channelized and dammed our rivers and thrown up rocks, seawalls and structures along most of our coast.

In short we have done everything possible to obstruct natural sand flow and enhance the non-stop cycle of beach erosion.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the prescription for our own coastal erosion mess in Southern California was for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a historically inept and mismanaged agency, to build large jetties along the shoreline and even more destructive breakwaters.

Photo: Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

Later the Army Corps carried out massive dredge and fill projects to replace lost sand. In 1977 the Army Corps dumped massive amounts of toxic sediment and sludge from San Diego Bay on the beach in Imperial Beach.

Later the City of Imperial Beach and the Army Corps proposed the construction of a mile-long rock breakwater. Thanks to local surfers and the then fledgling Surfrider Foundation, we stopped that crazy scheme just as the Corps was ready to dump the rocks in the ocean.

More recently the Army Corps in partnership with the City of Imperial Beach, once again dredged the most toxic and  garbage ridden sites in San Diego Bay and dumped the garbage, rocks, and rebar in Imperial Beach along with toxic sediment.

This boy was almost impaled by this piece of metal left on the beach by the Army Corps of Engineers in Imperial Beach. Photo: Daren Johnson

A few years ago WiLDCOAST worked with Senator Tom Coburn and the Obama Administration a few years ago to stop a planed $50 million projectslated for Imperial Beach that proposed dredging an area near a sewage outfall pipe and WWI aerial bombing range. That project involved no public consultation, the involvement of secretive and highly paid sand lobbyists and PR films, millions spent on badly written environmental documents, and no effort to work with the public and or use clean sand.

So dredge and fill projects have largely been a mess in San Diego County. However, of all the projects that have been carried out those managed by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) have been managed in the most sensible way.

The 2001 regional beach replenishment effort by SANDAG resulted in the deposition of clean high quality large grain sand, extensive public consultation, and the involvement of locally-based project managers who work with local stakeholders—something the Army Corps of Engineers has no interest in doing.

On Thursday, SANDAG will finish up its sand replenishment operations for Imperial Beach after having placed more than 300,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project is massive and has been well managed. For many surfers and beachgoers the current sand project has been a field course in coastal geomorphology and engineering.

After finishing in Imperial Beach this week, SANDAG moves the project to Oceanside, Moonlight Beach, Cardiff State Beach, Batiquitos, and North and South Carlsbad. In total SANDAG will place more than 1.4 million cubic yards of sand on county beaches.

Photo Eddie Kisfaludy/Wildcoast

In Imperial Beach the new sand has temporarily wiped out rideable surf over much of the beach (note to surfers—don’t waste your time coming down to IB—the entire beach is a closed out shorebreak), but I expect the sand to level out over the next few months.

As the project moves to Oceanside and the rest of North County, it will be critical for surfers and other stakeholders to monitor the project and evaluate its impacts.

As a surfer, coastal conservationist, and dedicated beachgoer, I know that having a local agency like SANDAG carry out these projects is a million times more preferable to having ecological and economic coastal disasters foisted upon us by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Photo: Chris Patterson

Remembering Peter Douglas, California’s Coastal Hero

On the day last week that I heard that Peter Douglas, the 26-year executive director of the California Coastal Commission, had passed away, I spent the morning surfing Upper Trestles.

On my dawn patrol down the trail that meanders along San Mateo Creek, I scanned for wildlife, and smiled when I came upon the sandy beach that delivers surfers into the cobblestone reef and waves at Upper Trestles, a masterpiece of natural engineering.

The surf was firing and the small crowd was friendly.

California bliss.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

It was fortuitous that I happened to be at Trestles that morning.

Because if Peter had not lived and dreamed of a coastline in California that belonged to us all, there just might not be a San Mateo Creek or surf at Trestles.

“Peter Douglas is to the California Coast what John Muir was to the Sierra Nevadas,” said Surfrider Foundation CEO Jim Moriarty.

The watershed and wetlands of lower San Mateo Creek, part of a California State Park, would have been destroyed by a toll road.

Trestles as we know it would be gone.

The architect of Proposition 20, the citizen’s referendum that established the Coastal Commission, Peter was also one of the principal authors of the Coastal Act, arguably the greatest single piece of legislation worldwide that provides a blueprint for conserving and safeguarding our greatest public trust.

More groms at the Save Trestles hearings.

“Peter was one of the most humble, effective ocean heroes of all time,” said Wallace “J.” Nichols, the marine biologist who I co-founded WiLDCOAST with.

Without Peter, not only would we not have many of our most treasured public beaches, in many cases, we would not have access to much of our coastline.

“In the summer of 2003 our family trekked the entire coast of California,” said Nichols.  “The enduring beauty of that mega-transect, owes so much to the battles fought and won by Peter Douglas. His legacy provides unmeasurable emotional and cognitive benefits to the world each day through the beauty of our protected coast and ocean.”

Besides the fact that Peter was a force of nature, he was a dedicated public servant who took his mission to safeguard our coast for all very seriously despite the political fallout it caused him.

One of his many strengths was his capacity to treat people with respect and to make the commission meetings, known for their length and ability to test the patience of anyone, more humane.

“Peter Douglas always made it a priority for he and the Coastal Commission staff to listen to and respond to Surfrider members and local stakeholders,” said Pierce Flynn, former executive director of the Surfrider Foundation. “This ‘local listening’ was a key to Douglas’ and the Coastal Commission’s successes.”

As a first generation American raised on the public beaches of California, who proudly worked as a California Ocean Lifeguard, I thank Peter and the Coastal Commission every time I surf and enjoy the beach with my family.

What really motivated Peter was his absolute joy in the coast and ocean and his belief that everyone has a right to share in the richness of our coastal heritage.

“We had a late afternoon tour that extended into the early evening at South San Diego Bay Wildlife Refuge with Peter,” said Andy Yuen, project leader
 for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

“We were standing on the Refuge levees with the soft sunset glow reflecting off the ponds and San Diego Bay, birds wheeling overhead, and you could tell that Peter was completely jazzed that this special piece of San Diego Bay was conserved for wildlife.”

The California coastline is where we get to experience the joy of nature and the roar of the surf.

Where we share in the laughter of our children as they build their first sandcastle and play in the waves.

Where we spend hours around campfires telling stories and singing songs with our friends and family.

In California, the coast is our life. And our life is the coast.

We can thank Peter Douglas for that.

Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty on Saving Waves

Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty

At the recent Global Wave Conference organized by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider Foundation Europe, one of the key questions and issues was exactly what it means to save waves. How do environmental groups such as the Surfrider Foundation or Save the Waves or Surfers Against Sewage actually go about the task of preserving the world’s best (and not so best) surf spots and the terrestrial and coastal and marine ecosystems that sustain them.

Luckily Jim Moriarty, the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, has spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. As one of the most effective coastal conservation organizations in the U.S., Surfrider’s network of coastal activists have been on the forefront of just about every coastal issue, including the ongoing effort to preserve the integrity of San Onofre State Beach and its crown jewel surfing area, Trestles. Jim’s leadership on the Save Trestles movement (that is still ongoing) highlighted how critical Surfrider is to the preservation of our coastline and the role that grassroots organizing plays in defending our waves.

Boost Mobile Pro at Trestles. Photo: Moriarty.

Serge Dedina: What is the mission of the Surfrider Foundation and what is its track record in terms of successfully saving surf spots?

Jim Moriarty: Our mission guided our first fight to save First Point, Malibu.  It is the same 27 years later – the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches via our powerful activist network. Virtually every fight we’ve undertaken, including the last 176 victories since January 2006 are connected to the coasts and waves. People incorrectly think that saving a wave is limited to the wave itself. Waves are a sensitive element of the coastal ecosystem. Surfing can be impacted by lack of beach or surf access, degraded water quality or impacts to the coast that effect the wave.

Dedina: At the recent Global Wave Conference in Europe that you attended there was a lot of discussion on different strategies for saving waves, how does wave protection start?

Moriarty: Wave protection starts when there is some kind of value associated to the wave. This protection becomes possible when the local community understands the value of the wave, and their responsibility to protect what they hold dear. Wave areas come close to being completely protected when there is a local group ready, willing and able to fight to protect the wave and preserve its integrity. The inverse of all this is also true.  If locals and laws aren’t engaged to protect waves they are lost. This happens all over the world with a frequency that surfers should pay attention to.

Global Wave Conference

Dedina: When is a surf spot most at risk?

Moriarty: A wave is most at risk when no one is engaged to protect it. This isn’t any different than most things in life. If you aren’t willing to engage and fight for something you love you may lose it when it faces real dangers. A great example is Harry’s in Baja. It was a “secret spot,” then it was put at risk by the development on a Liquefied Natural Gas facility, and then it was destroyed before anyone could act. Selfishness fed the lack of protection, now it’s gone. This isn’t a complex formula. Think of Killer Dana, gone. Think of whatever wave you’ve heard an older surfer talk about that is now gone. Think of Malibu, still breaking well because three people stood up for it in 1984 (and formed Surfrider Foundation in the process). One very clean lesson we’ve learned over time if no one stands up to protect something, it will be taken away.

Dedina: When is a wave less at risk?

Moriarty: A wave is less at risk when it has locals and laws engaged and protect it. The short version of Surfrider’s perspective is that nothing matches the value of a local, engaged group of volunteers and activists. Nothing.

Laws and or symbolic protection such as a World Surfing Reserve (a relatively new effort to provide non-binding but symbolic protection of the world’s best waves) also protect waves.  Symbolic, non-binding protection is as simple as a plaque, or other kind of designation with local commissions, but does NOT provide legal protection. Sometimes even local resolutions may not be enough to protect the wave. Legal protection is important because laws are tools that can be used when all else fails. Symbolic protections are good because they start the process of assigning a value and show that there is a local community presence ready to act to protect the waves and associated coastal resources. The downside is that nothing is enforceable to turn to if local political action isn’t enough to enforce protection.

Saving Trestles at the Del Mar I hearings 2008.

Dedina: Why is it important to have grassroots groups defend surf spots?

Moriarty: If grassroots groups don’t defend the surf spots, then they are at risk. It is not enough to simply have a group standing by (a Surfrider chapter or another similar group). What’s needed is for that group to have the will to engage. I’ve had a few people tell me “My local wave was lost and where was Surfrider?” My response is always the same “We’re not some SWAT group that parachutes in to protect your local break… we’re you.” If you’re not going to engage and work to protect something you hold dear then you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s taken away because that’s what happens time and time again. Protect what you love or don’t be surprised when it’s taken away.

Dedina: What types of laws do we need in place to protect waves?

Moriarty: Effective legal protection of waves requires laws that protect coastal ecosystems, water quality and beach access. Further, legal protection of waves through formal designation as protected areas can provide important tools to help protect fragile but highly values surfing areas.  Laws alone are not enough.

Laws don’t protect waves any more than highway speed limits don’t automatically make people drive 65 mph. Laws require enforcement to effectively protect waves but there aren’t any guarantees. Attaining legal wave protection is not easy and it’s our view a few waves in the world have this status. One is Tres Palmas in Puerto Rico and another Bells Beach in Australia. The National Surfing Reserves program in Australia is gaining momentum for legal protection of waves, and New Zealand recently past legislation to protect some of their best waves.  This is a good start and is something that we’re pushing for in the United States and beyond.

It’s crystal clear to us that having laws in place does not equate to laws being enforced. I’ve heard numerous people within the environmental movement say “we don’t need more laws, we simply need enforcement of the laws that already exist.”

This brings me to the highest level of wave protection. For a wave to have something approaching 100% protection, there must not only be laws in place to protect that wave, but there must ALSO be local groups who care enough to act to make sure those laws are enforced in a timely and appropriate way.

Greg Long and the Upper Limits of Big Waves

Greg Long at Cortes Bank. Photo: Chris Dixon/Ghostwavebook.com

From my Patch.com column this week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris Dixon’s new book Ghost Wave provides insight into the exploits of a select group of big-wave surfers such as Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach and San Clemente’s Greg Long, who are redefining the limits of big-wave surfing.

Long, 28, who has won several Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, the 2009 Eddie Aikau and the SIMA Waterman of the Year Award, has become a surfing icon for his solid, low-key, intense and strategic approach to surfing the world’s largest waves.

He has given back what surfing gave him by working with organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, Save the Waves, San Onofre Foundation and WiLDCOAST and is, “Among the most humble, well-rounded and cerebral athletes I’ve ever met,” said Ghost Wave author Dixon.

Greg Long with groms from Imperial Beach during the 2008 California Coastal Commission Hearing on the TCA toll road at the Del Mar Faingrounds.

“The other thing that sets Greg apart, and it’s a trait Kelly Slater has too, is an ability to remain focused on the job at hand while he has such a whirlwind and cacophony of distractions going on around him.

“As a prime example,” Dixon said, “I don’t think another big-wave surfer alive could have pulled as many strings, levers and pulleys as he did to make the first major Cortes Bank paddle in mission happen in 2009—a mere two weeks after he’d won the Eddie Aikau.

“He roped in Kelly Slater, Peter Mel, Nathan Fletcher, Mark Healey, Jamie Sterling and a crew of the most absolute badasses in our sport and had them out to the most remote surf spot on earth on Dec. 26. By my reckoning, he pulled off a Christmas miracle.”

Patch: How did someone who grew up in San Clemente become a professional big-wave surfer? What got you hooked on big waves?

Greg Long: My father was a lifeguard for 38 years. He introduced us to the ocean before we could walk. As we grew up, he instilled every ounce of ocean knowledge that he had into us. Because of this, I always seemed to feel comfortable in the ocean no matter the conditions. As I really started surfing at age 10, I was naturally drawn to bigger waves because they were so much more challenging. Over the years my surfing ability slowly progressed and continued to challenge myself in larger and larger surf.

Patch: You’ve been credited as being part of the group that is now really pushing the envelope on paddling into massive waves. What is your goal in terms of wave size? Have you already reached the limits of what can be surfed?

Long: From a paddle-in perspective, I think we are getting close to the upper limits of how big we can safely go. What you are going to start seeing now is people paddling into new waves, which were typically thought as being un-paddable like Jaws or Cortes bank. However with the implementation of Shane Dorian’s new V1 wetsuit we just might be able to push the limits a little further than we had previously thought. As far as tow-in surfing goes, there is no limit to how big you can ride as long as the conditions permit.

Greg Long at the Cortes Bank. Photo: Chris Dixon/ghostwavebook.com

Patch: What kind of boards are your riding and who is shaping them? Are you able to think critically about how your surfboard is working while you are making a big drop?

Long: I get all of my surfboards from Chris Christenson. It is imperative in our sport to know about your equipment. It is essentially your lifeline. Riding big waves comes down to managing the risks you take and if you’re out there on equipment that isn’t going to perform, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Patch: What role does fear and adrenaline play in propelling you to take more risks or to analyze a situation in which you hold back on pushing the envelope? Do you have a formal or informal risk assessment strategy?

Long: Fear is a big driving factor behind what I do. I love the mental challenge of overcoming it. I train extensively both physically and mentally to prepare myself to ride big waves and handle the potential consequences. In doing so I eliminate all the variables possibly working against me which are in my control and, in turn, increasing my odds of success.

Greg Long taking a break at the Cortes Bank. Photo: Chris Dixon/ghostwavebook.com

Patch: How are you training in terms of physical exercise, diet and mental preparation?

Long: I train every single day in some form or another to prepare to ride big waves. The main activities are yoga, swimming, cycling and running. I also have a very clean diet, mostly vegetarian. Your body is essentially a machine. If you put bad fuel into it, it won’t perform as efficiently as it should.

Patch: What is currently your favorite big wave spot and why? And your favorite country as a surf destination and why?

Long: I couldn’t name a single favorite big wave break as my favorite but my list of favorites would include:  Mavericks, Todos, Jaws, Cortes Bank. My favorite country to travel to is South Africa as it offers the widest array of surfing breaks imaginable. From perfect points  to huge slabs, it has it all. Not to mention it’s stunningly beautiful with amazing people.

Patch: Do you work with a forecaster or are you continually evaluating wave models and weather reports to determine where to travel to find waves?

Long: I do most of my surf forecasting on my own. I have been following and monitoring swells in great detail for well over 10 years now so I feel I have a pretty thorough understanding of each of the waves I surf and what they need to make them tick. I do, however, confer with Sean Collins from Surfline and Mark Sponsler from Stormsurf.com anytime I doubt or question a decision during a significant swell.

Patch: Your brother Rusty and you have carved out unique careers as big-wave surfers. Are you competitive with each other? Does each of you give feedback to the other? How often do you surf together?

Long: Rusty and I are extremely close. Growing up we never really had a rivalry but rather worked together in an effort to help one another succeed. We still surf and travel together on a regular basis and are constantly giving advice or sharing tips.

Mike Parsons, Chris Dixon, Jim Houtz, and Greg Long. Photo: Chris Dixon/ghostwavebook.com

Patch: Your father, Steve, was a legendary California State Park lifeguard, park ranger, superintendent and now a conservationist who helped to defeat the proposal to place a highway through San Onofre State Beach. How much of an influence did he have on your choice of career path? Do your parents still worry about Rusty and you when you are out surfing huge waves in off-the-charts locations?

Long: Both my mom and pop have been incredibly supportive of our careers. Growing up they never pushed us in any certain direction but rather let us find our own paths and what made us happy. My mom still refuses to come watch us surf when it’s big but loves hearing the stories and seeing the photos afterwards.

Patch: You’ve won the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award and the Eddie Aikau. How do you top that? What is next for you in terms of your career and surfing goals?

Long: I surf big waves because I love it. Simple as that. Winning contests or XXL awards have never been and will never be the focus or motivation for my career. My goal in life is to be happy, live a healthy, positive lifestyle and hopefully inspire and encourage others to do the same along the way.

Cortes Bank. Photo: Chris Dixon/ghostwavebook.com

Global Wave Conference Part III

The GWC speakers during Day 1

The Global Wave Conference ended last night in San Sebastian with a great discussion on working with UNESCO to at least recognize surfing as an official sport and attempting to create UNESCO Heritage Site designations for some surf spots.

Ben McCue, Katie Westfall of Save the Waves (formerly of Wildcoast) and French surf sociologist and author Taha Al Azzawi (the guru on French surf culture)

Stand out presentations during the conference included those by Save Our Surf (from Portugal), Surfers Against Sewage, Brad Farmer and the National Surfing Reserve Organization, Save the Wave’s discussion of World Surfing Reserves, the discussion by Surfrider Japan’s director on the Fukushima/Tsunami disaster and Michael’s (forget last name) passionate discussion on marine education in South Africa.

Ben McCue and English big wave charger and oceanographer Dr. Tony Butt (who now lives in Spain)

GWC 2011 was overall a small and inspiring meeting of passionate activists who are trying their best to preserve the world’s most iconic surf spots and and coastal areas.

Dean LaTourrette and Katie Westfall of Save the Waves and the Surfers Against Sewage team from the UK. The SAS crew is like The Clash of the save surf movement. These guys are seriously organized, edgy and BOOM--kick ass!!

My thanks to the Surfrider Foundation-Europe and the Surfrider Foundation (thanks Jim and Chad) for putting together and organizing the conference.

Andy from Surfers Against Sewage. These guys impressed everyone with their passion, organization, passion, leadership and energy.

I presented during the last panel of the conference. And since the surf was about somewhere in the 6′+ range, offshore and looking pretty fun directly in front of the conference center, I was itching to get and get a surf (Chad and Rick from Surfrider were smart and paddled out at lunch) and had no patience for extended discussions. Luckily Dean from Save the Waves kept restraining me and imploring me not to behave like a petulant child-like surfer. So I stayed rather than flee and luckily had plenty of time to get my butt kicked and catch a few big-faced waves.

Ben McCue, Spanish surfer Anna Gutierrez, Serge Dedina and Zach Plopper after our end of conference surf session in San Sebastian.

The ending surf session was awesome. Most of the conference participants paddled out. Everyone was stoked to catch a few waves with each other and we all noticed that even though it was offshore, overhead in the middle of one of the biggest surf towns in Europe, that we were pretty much the only surfers out in the water (and the malecon was packed!).

During the final dinner at the People Restaurant on the malecon in San Sebastian there was a lot of wine, a four-course meal that ended with duck, included fish there were many speeches made, the signing of a MOU on a napkin and lots of laughs. A perfect surfer ending to a serious conference!

The final dinner at People Restaurant in San Sebastian.

On a final note, I couldn’t think of better locations for surf conferences or conferences than Biarritz or San Sebastian. Both are beautiful with conference facilities overlooking great surf breaks, with great food, and nice people. What more could you ask for?

Global Wave Conference 2011

Conference poster on a street sign in Biarrtiz. This is a real surf town.

I’m at the first ever Global Wave Conference in Biarritz, France. The conference organized by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider-Europe, Save the Waves, and Surfers Against Sewage and especially Dr. Tony But,  is an attempt to bring together wave-saving activists and organizations from around the world to discuss tools and techniques from around the world. Zach Plopper and Ben McCue have joined me from WiLDCOAST.

I will be talking in San Sebastian, the second day of the conference on “Saving Wild Waves: How WiLDCOAST Saved 30 Miles Coastline in Baja California, Mexico.”

Dean LaTourrette of Save the Waves (left) and Dr. Tony But (with the sweater)

The conference is taking place today, Monday, October 23 in Biarritz and tomorrow in San Sebastian, Spain on Tuesday October 24.

Mot of us arrived on Sunday evening and had a great dinner with about 20 activists from France, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England and the U.S.

The GWC Activist dinner on Sunday evening.

The conference is taking place at the Municipal Auditorium overlooking the Grand Plage of Biarritz. There is simultaneous translation of talks–which is great since they will be given in French, English and Spanish.

Outside of the beachside-auditorium in Biarritz. There are posters plastered all over the city.

The view from the conference location. The surf was 2-3' most of the day and offshore. It is a school holiday so the groms were on the pack most of the day.

 

Stéphane Latxague, CEO of Surfrider Europe who have helped to organize the event and who is the moderator.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 967 other followers

%d bloggers like this: