Why We Need to Address Climate Change

Sea level has been rising cm/yr, based on meas...

With ongoing Hurricane Sandy cleanup operations and damage assessment being carried out on the Eastern Seaboard, it is easy for San Diegans to become complacent and argue that climate change can’t happen here.

But the impacts of climate change are already being felt here in San Diego.

For surfers and ocean lovers, subtle but significant changes in our climate have already had a big impact on our coastline and even surfing conditions.

The dramatic oscillations in ocean temperatures, changes in weather patterns, increased Santa Ana conditions and increasing loss of coastline due to erosion are all things long-term surfers and ocean observers already see happening.

As a drought-prone region largely dependent on water brought in from outside San Diego County, we are vulnerable to increases in temperatures, prolonged drought and sea level.

Dangerous wildfires experienced in the past decade may be indicative of what people in San Diego and elsewhere can expect in the future.

The issue isn’t whether or not San Diego is being impacted by climate change. Our climate is already changing. The fundamental issue that we need to address is how we as a region will adapt and respond to our changing climate.

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

We can either bury our head in the sand and pretend that climate change is a hoax.

Or we can believe the streams of data assessed by climate scientists worldwide and in San Diego to understand that we have an obligation to identify solutions that can help deal with the changes that are happening now and forecast to come–before it is too late.

The time to deal with climate change in San Diego is right now.

Even if the cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emmissions that begins Wednesday is a huge success, pollution and the rammifications of climate change are global, so we must prepare.

Luckily the San Diego Foundation has provided a blueprint, San Diego’s Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-Up Call, for such a program and identified some of the ways in which our climate is changing now and is forecast to change.

The report evaluates how San Diego’s climate will change by 2050 if current trends continue.

Some of the facts listed in the foundation’s report:

  • We will see an increase in average annual temperatures of between 1.5-4.5 degrees.
  • The weather in November will often feel like September does (as I write this we are feeling mild Santa Ana conditions).
  • Summers will be even hotter than they are now.
  • There is projected to be an increase in sea level between 12-18 inches exacerbating the loss of beaches. Click here to see how sea level rise is expected to impact local beaches.
  • We will need 37 percent more water than we currently utilize even though our sources of water might shrink by 20 percent.
  • There will be an increase by 20 percent of the number of days with ideal conditions for large fires.

One thing that is important to mention—there is no real debate on the validity of climate science. That there is “debate” on the origins and consequences of climate science is due to campaigns financed by fossil-fuel companies opposed to any increased regulation of carbon-based energy. The impact of Hurricane Sandy illustrated to a nation why we cannot afford to wait any longer to address our changing climate.

It’s not too late to take action. I sat on the city of Chula Vista ClimateChange Working Group and was impressed by how a local group of business leaders, conservationists and scientists came together to adopt a number of common sense and low-cost strategies to reduce the impact of our changing climate (just planting more trees would help).

Planning for climate change is something that every city in San Diego County should undertake. Especially for those who live for our coast and ocean here in San Diego, it’s something that we can’t afford not to do.

San Diego County Wildfires, AGAIN!

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5 Ways to Save on Gas While Surfing

With gas averaging $4.72 a gallon in San Diego County, commuters and especially surfers are scrambling to reduce their fuel consumption. Surfers waste gas while driving non-stop coastal loops in search of the best waves and endlessly idle their vehicles during street end or beach parking lot surf checks.

Surfers love their gas guzzling bro-dude monster surf mobiles that boost macho core-scores but put a strain on bank accounts and produce smog alerts. Find a surfer and you can guarantee he’s packed his quiver in the back of a lifted 4×4 F-350 crew cab, which makes sense when hauling a trailer filled with sand toys to Glammis but not so much when it comes to driving a mile to the beach.

A typical SoCal surfer bro-mobile.

There are, however, some creative and innovative ways to save fuel, the planet and money in order to arrive at the beach for a surf. That’s because although for some conservatives, “conservation” is a dirty word, for this old-school cheapo, anything that directs less of my paycheck to the monolithic retrograde oil industry and all the dictators who love to sell us petroleum (e.g. Hugo Chavez), is a good thing.

Trade in Your Gas Guzzler

For everyone who bought their mega-truck on zero percent financing and now  pay $170 to fill it up, run to your nearest auto dealer and trade it in for a hybrid or electric vehicle. My 2010 Honda hybrid averages about 40 MPG and it fits four groms  With the money I save on gas I can afford to buy the groms tacos at Rubios after a run to Blacks. If the groms don’t like your new wheels with less legroom make them hitchike.

Carpool

You know that really mean and grumpy silverback who screams at you everyday in the lineup even though you’ve surfed together for over twenty years and live down the street from him–well, next time he lovingly blasts you with an insult, pitch him on a carpool. As in, “Hey bro—look I know surfing makes you incomprehensibly angry, but why don’t I ease your pain by joining you on the beach commute and we’ll share some tasty waves together.” Paint a picture of all the fun you’ll have and even offer to let him bitch slap you around in front of his crew for spilling yerba mate on his ride. So make some new friends, save some money and bring peace and joy to your spot by bringing carpooling to your lineup.

Here’s my 1980s Schwinn girls ten speed beach cruiser with Carver Surf Racks.

Recover a Bike from the Trash and Ride it to the Beach

I come from a long-line of hardened dumpster divers or what eco-hipsters now call “freegans.” As a grom, my crew and I roamed the streets salvaging bikes, surfboards, wetsuits and anything else that could propel us to the beach and in the water (no one in IB had any money in the 70s). I continue that tradition with my kids and often depend on the largesse of my eighty-year old immigrant father—the Freegan King of California—for a parade of old bicycles we’ve cobbled together as urban surf machines (my kids first line of bikes proudly emerged from a dumpster run—we fixed them up together). I’m currently cruising a 80s’ Schwinn ten speed girl’s beach cruiser that my father either liberated from the street or found very cheap at a garage sale that I’ve outfitted with Carver Surf Racks (that cost more than all of our bikes combined), and a big basket  No more parking problems and I burn a few more calories during my daily surf commute. The Trestles locals are the fittest surfers in California and seem to have bike rack and trailer systems dialed. I have noticed more people switching to bike surf commutes in the past month than ever before. So search the streets and alleys of your local millionaire laden beach town (La Jolla is gold) and enjoy the gifts of our throwaway consumer society in order to save money, get in shape and improve air quality.

Take the Bus

The Southern California coastal region is chock filled with trolleys, trains and busses. A monthly pass costs anywhere from $72 for adults to $18 for seniors. So go ahead and make a few friends while swinging your longboard around the bus during the morning beach commute. Last year my kids and their friend Jake caught the ferry, two buses and the Coaster from Imperial Beach to San Clemente in order to spend a few days surfing Lowers, and it only took five hours one way. Time is money and since no one seems to have any money, spend your time wisely, meet new people, and cruise to the waves in our wonderful transit system.

Stop Surfing

Your significant other and mom are correct–surfing in an incredibly selfish and self-centered sport that accomplishes very little and interferes with your job, life, and relationships. So nix surfing, reduce your overhead, and spend more time at home with your spouse and children. Who knows, they might even remember who you are.

Magnificent Animals: Why Sharks are Good for the Ocean and For Us

Dovi Kacev at work. Courtesy: Dovi Kacev.

Dovi Kacev grew up in South Africa and San Diego. A longtime La Jolla surfer, Dovi is finishing up a joint SDSU-UC-Davis Ph.D. in Ecology. For the past 11 years he has carried out research on shark ecology and conservation which has allowed him to study sharks in the wild in San Diego, Baja California, and the Caribbean.

Serge Dedina: As a surfer who grew up in South Africa where there are a lot of sharks, why did you choose to make your life’s work the study of the ocean’s apex predators?

Dovi Kacev: From as early as I can remember I have been interested in sharks, but I did not think of becoming a shark biologist until I was in college. Learning about how important their roles are to maintaining balanced ecosystems, how little we know about their biology, and how much trouble they face due to human pressures, led me to realize that there is a lot that we need to understand better about sharks.  This led me to a career in shark biology.

Dedina: On Tuesday, surfers and a photographer spotted what appears to be shark in Imperial Beach. What is the typical migratory pattern of these animals and what is their conservation status?

Kacev: We have many different species of shark in Southern Californian waters and each species has different migratory behavior and habitat preferences. The shark in the photograph in question looks like it is either a white shark or a basking shark, both of which are known to use local waters and both are protected species due to conservation concerns. Recent tagging studies have shown that adult white sharks tend to come to California in the fall but migrate offshore to an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for much of the year. Juvenile white sharks are known to spend more time in the the Southern California Bight. Much less is known about the behavior of basking sharks, but scientists are trying to learn more about them with a new tagging study. Much like it is difficult to identify the species from the photo, it is not possible to estimate the size without some sort of reference.

Dedina: Is it likely the shark is still hanging out in Imperial Beach? Is there enough food locally to sustain them? And what are they typically feeding on?

Kacev: This all depends on the size and species. Last year basking sharks were sighted spending time off of Imperial Beach. They primarily filter feed on small copepods in the water column. Juvenile white sharks seem to take up residency in Southern Californian waters. As juveniles, they are fish feeders, and pose little risk to people. Adult white sharks are known to be seasonal residents in certain locations in central California and Mexico, but to the best of our knowledge tend to be just transient in our waters. If that was an adult white shark, there is no reason to expect that it is still in the area.

Dedina: How many white sharks are out there along our coast?

Kacev: This is a difficult question to answer as sightings are so rare and therefore data on white shark abundance is hard to come by. The most recent study of adult white shark abundance in Northern Californian waters estimated that there are between 200 and 300 adult individuals, which is a pretty small population. Another recent study suggests that the population size may be growing, but growth of shark populations happens at such a slow rate because they take a long time to mature and reproduce at a slow rate. The simplest answer to this question is that the population is likely quite small and that they are more threatened by people than they are a threat to us.

Dedina: Are there any locations in Southern California and especially in San Diego County that you have identified as having larger numbers of sharks?

Kacev: There are areas of seasonal aggregations of leopard sharks and smoothhounds, but none for the larger, more pelagic sharks.

Photo courtesy Dovi Kacev.

Dedina: You have been carrying out research outside of Black’s Beach. What are you and your colleagues observing there?

Kacev: The area off of Black’s Beach is interesting because of a large submarine canyon. We see a lot of leopard sharks, guitarfish, and bat rays. We occasionally catch juvenile thresher sharks in the area, which we tag and track.  In all of my time surfing, diving and fishing in that area, I have yet to see any large, potentially dangerous sharks.  This is not to say they do not exist there, but not in particularly high densities.

Dedina: What is the role of sharks in maintaining the balance of the ocean? Do we really need sharks?

Kacev: Sharks often act as apex predators and as such they are important for controlling the population sizes and behaviors of the species they feed upon.  Research on the East Coast has shown that in certain areas where sharks have been over fished, populations of rays have blossomed leading to the collapse of shell fish fisheries, because the rays feed on the shell fish. Healthy ecosystems need to be in balance and this requires maintenance of all the levels of the food web.

Shark carcasses in Mexico. Courtesy Dovi Kacev

Dedina: You have been traveling down the coast of Baja California to carry out shark research. What have you found there?

Kacev: We have found that in Baja there are a lot of fishing camps that catch a lot of sharks and rays, particularly juveniles. These fisheries are likely to have a large impact in the shark populations in the region. We have also found that in general the fishermen in Baja understand the importance of sustainable fisheries because their livelihoods depend on there being healthy populations of these fish. As a result, most of the fishing camps have been very accommodating to our research.

Dedina: There seems to be a lot of documentation and reporting now about shark sightings along the California coast. Is the population of sharks increasing?

Photo courtesy of Dovi Kacev.

Kacev: It is difficult to say whether shark populations are increasing, the population of ocean users is increasing, or the likelihood of people reporting sightings is increasing. It may also be a combination of all three factors. It is important to note that most shark populations are low relative to historical abundances, so even if their populations are increasing they are still of conservation concern. Even if shark populations are increasing, they do so at a very slow rate. Also, since sharks play such an important role in our coastal ecosystems and many species are of conservation concern, we should be celebrating if their population are indeed increasing. I hope that with continued increase in public curiosity and education, people will realize that sharks are a welcome part of our ocean system.  Instead of fearing them, we should respect them.

Dedina: California just passed a ban on the sale of shark fins. Why should we care about the plight of these animals?

Kacev: We should care about the plight of sharks because they are magnificent animals and our ocean ecosystems rely on them. Beyond just the value of sharks for their ecosystem services, it is important to remember that many people’s livelihoods revolve around the oceans and fisheries. Any disturbance that effects the balance of the ecosystem could eventually lead to the collapse of various fisheries.

Photo courtesy of Dovi Kacev.

Massive Swell Pounds California: An Interview with Surfline Forecaster Sean Collins

From a Patch article I published on Friday September 2, 2011.

Waves from a storm that originated off of Antarctica have pounded Southern California beaches since Wednesday resulting in at least one drowning in Orange County and resulting in broken surfboards up and down the coast and epic rides for the region’s best surfers.

Beaches that saw larger than usual surf with sets up between 8-10 feet included Imperial Beach, Coronado, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Trestles, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach among others.

“Yesterday, one reef in La Jolla was breaking with eight wave sets and was at least triple overhead,” said marine biologist and surfer David Kacev.

According to Surfline, the size of the sets breaking at Newport Beach’s infamous Wedge, were between 15-20’ yesterday.

Image representing Surfline as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Lifeguards from Imperial Beach to Zuma are patrolling beaches to make sure inexperienced surfers and swimmers stay out of the water and out of trouble.

The drowning victim, Jowayne Binford of Long Beach, was an inexperienced ocean swimmer according to his mother, Gail Binford, in an interview with KABC-7.

On Tuesday, Sean Collins, Chief Forecaster and President of Surfline, alerted Southern California authorities about the dangers posed by the swell. In a press release he stated that, “Extra caution is urged to keep the public aware and safe from these large waves and associated rip currents.”

Sean Collins at work. Photo courtesy of Surfline.

Collins was the first person to accurately forecast swells on a regular basis in the ’70s and early ’80s. He pioneered and created the first ongoing surf forecast available to the surfing public via Surfline and 976-SURF in 1985.

From his coastal headquarters in Huntington Beach, Collins and his Surfline team provide surf-related weather and forecasting services to lifeguard agencies in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, and surf companies.

Surfer Magazine named Sean one of the “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century”. In 2008, he was inducted to the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. He is the author of California Surf Guide: The Secrets to Finding the Best Waves.

Sean acted as Chief Forecaster for last week’s Billabong Pro Tahiti surf contest at Teahupoo, in which the same swell that is now pounding Southern California resulted in 40-foot waves and closed harbors throughout the island chain.

When I caught up with Sean, he was on his way to New York City to act as Chief Forecaster for the $1 million Quiksilver Pro New York surf contest, that will be held on Long Beach, New York from September 4-15.

Q. When was the last time we had a southern hemisphere swell this big hit California.

A. Actually this is the biggest out of the southwest for quite a while, I think that last one like this was April 2004. The swell in July 2009 that hit the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach was actually a little bigger, but not as long period. Depending on the swell period some areas will focus the swell energy better like on Wednesday. The 20-22” periods were really focusing into some areas but completely missing others. Once the period dropped on Thursday most other areas began to see the swell.

Q. It seems like the swell hit earlier than forecast and the estimate of its duration is now longer than originally forecast?

A. Only because the spots that focus the longer periods picked up earlier. If we forecasted for that, most spots and surfers would have said we were wrong. We did say that the swell would be filling in Wednesday afternoon. Longer periods travel faster than shorter periods so that is why the long period spots flared up first. Longer swell periods also help the swell to wrap into San Diego County where spots need more southwest in the direction, or longer periods to feel the ocean floor to wrap in.

Q. Is it hard to predict the surf that is generated from southern hemisphere storms?

A. It’s the most difficult because there is so little data in the middle of the ocean to validate the models, and the models are off all the time. A difference of 5 knots of wind speed between 40 knots to 45 knots in a storm off New Zealand will result in a 24-hour difference in arrival time here in California and a difference of 4-feet in surf face height.

Q. These large storms off of Antarctica that produce massive swells are pretty unique. Generally how often receive southern hemisphere swells?

A. On the long term average we receive about 50 swells a year from storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of those swells create surf of 3 feet on the wave face, 40% of those swells are over 5 feet, 10% are over 8 feet. This swell is obviously in the top 10% and we usually receive about 5 major overhead southern hemisphere swells a year. But this swell is definitely at the top of the best swells and will probably be the largest southern hemisphere swell we’ve received in the past few years since the July 2009 swell. Again, most of San Diego County is not exposed to all of the southerly directions like other areas in Southern California so you may not see as many there.

Q. When large sets hit one location are they hitting different areas around the same time?

A. Powerful long crested swell like this one do have sets that arrive at the same time along a few miles of beach. And the swell energy travels in these big patches through the ocean with big lulls in between.

Q. Besides the Wedge in Newport Beach, what locations in Southern California Cal received the brunt of the swell?

A. La Jolla wrapped in it great. And then everywhere from Oceanside up to Huntington Pier was solid. North of there was shadowed behind the Islands (Catalina and Channel Islands). The LA County South Bay around El Porto, north to Ventura was also very solid. Malibu was epic Thursday but saw very little of the swell on Wednesday, due to the swell period and island shadowing issues.

Blue Hawaii

Duke's board that he traveled with and surfed in Hawaii on. From the Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

I’m on a family trip to Kauai and Oahu in Hawaii. It has been a great opportunity to enjoy ocean recreation and culture. There is no place like Hawaii to experience real ocean culture and people who are so passionate about their relationship with the sea.  Historically, the people of Hawaii  had one of the world’s most advanced ocean cultures.

My son Daniel with a 19th century alaia surfboard from the Bishop Museum. These boards were thin and about five feet long. The original surfboard and required a native surfer to have an exceptionally high surfing ability.A shark hook and other fishing hooks from the Bishop Museum.

A traditional sailing canoe from the Polynesian Cultural Centeron Oahu.

Traditional shark and fishing hooks displayed at the Bishop Museum.

A replica transoceanic saling canoe built by the Hawaiian studies program at BYU. Students and their teachers take the canoe out to learn traditional sailing methods.

A sign at Poipu Beach on Kauai about protecting native Hawaiian monk seals. It is great to see Hawaiians take pride in protecting these nearly extinct seals. Hawaiian seems to cherish their ocean wildlife rather than fear them as in La Jolla where residents seem to relish assaulting seals and fear a wild ocean.

A sea turtle conservation sign at Poipu Beach. It has been great to see how sea turtles have become an icon of Hawaiian ocean culture. I have surfed and swam with some really big turtles here. Awseome!!

My eldest son Israel surfing a wave on Kauai's south shore. I am always reminded of the power of the oean in Hawaii and the complexities of surfing coral reefs. Very different than surfing the beaches and sand-bottom points I grew up with and am used to.

Just another day in Kauai. Blue Hawaii.

Haleiwa on the Oahu's North Shore is quite a scene--even in the summer. Packed with tourists and surfing is really sold. But it is still a cool place. Equivalent of a ski town in Colorado.

The Swell Chasers

From my IB Patch Southwest Surf column May 26, 2011:

Last Thursday, when the first real south swell of the season hit, the beach was closed in Imperial Beach. No roping lefts off the pier, or grinding tubes at the south end of the beach.

Shane Landry scores a left.

Luckily Zach Plopper and I happened to have a meeting at the WiLDCOAST office in Ensenada. We decided to try our surfing luck on the way home.

We headed north to check out San Miguel. The surf was washed out. So we turned around to check out a nearby reef.

The surf was firing and the lineup was empty. The reef offered up a fun selection of 4-5 foot, semi-lined up and punchy lefts.

Again on Friday, serendipity played a role in finding great waves.

On Thursday evening, an old friend, Greg Tate, arrived for a visit. Greg’s a backyard shaper and goofy foot from Florida.

Israel, Greg and Daniel.

Israel, Greg, and Daniel at Scripps Pier with boards Greg shaped.

Twelve hours after his plane touched down at San Diego International Airport, we found ourselves traipsing down the trail to Trestles, and the surf exceeded our expectations.

The wind was offshore, the waves were hollow and the non-stop sets were way overhead.

Greg paddled out at Cotton’s. I needled my way through the lineup at Uppers.

While surfing I caught up with Mark Rauscher of the Surfrider Foundation. He  updated me on the still ongoing effort to prevent the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) from building a toll-road through San Onofre Beach State Park, the home of Trestles.

“The TCA is still trying to get that toll road through. But we are monitoring them,” Mark said before catching a great set wave.

Nothing like talking about saving a surf spot while surfing epic waves at that very  break.

A few hours later Greg and I regrouped. Like everyone that morning we were both hammered by sets that swung wide and outside.

On the way home we stopped at Beacon’s in Leucadia for a surf check (the wind had come up so we didn’t paddle out) and ran into legendary IB surfer Shawn Holder, who now lives in North County, where he owns a Pannikin Coffee and Tea in Encinitas.

“I’ve been surfing and stand-up paddling northern Baja most of the winter. Most of the time I surf alone,” Shawn said, a former IB lifeguard captain who is still as stoked on the surf as ever.

On Saturday we returned to Trestles for an IB gromathon.

Surf dads Dave Lopez and Jason Stutz joined me in the lineup at Lowers along with grom squad members Daniel Dedina. Loukas Lopez, Vinnie Claunch, Noah Bender, Jake Stutz and Shane Landry. As usual the groms scored wave after wave on the inside.

After our session we picked up my son Israel at the CIF swim finals at Del Norte High School in Poway and drove to La Jolla. At the Scripps parking lot we ran into two hardcore members of the IB underground who raved out scoring perfect waves at a local reef the day before.

“Dude,” one of the surfers said, “We never even check IB when it is polluted. We don’t want to get sick.”

Scripps wasn’t working so we headed south to the La Jolla reefs. The boys found some fun lefts at an empty slab while Greg and I sat on a bench and watched the show.

On Sunday morning a southwest wind was blowing so we headed to La Jolla to see if we could snag some sideshore peaks. The ocean cooperated with A-frames up and down the beach, which brought out a moderate crowd and fun waves to play around in.

On the beach I found Craig Engelmann who I grew up with in IB. Now living in Coronado, Craig was carefully watching his son Casey surf with Israel and Daniel.

All in all it was a great weekend. Our sessions proved that despite the throngs of surfers that populate the beaches of Southern California, we can always find plenty of surfing opportunities at beaches south and north of Imperial Beach and Coronado.

Wild Sea Book Trailer

Here is the video trailer for my book Wild Sea

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