Surfing the Border Cape Region Tour

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja --Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja –Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

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With a staff member of the municipality who came to my talk in Todos Santos.

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Todos Santos is a Pueblo Magico in Mexico and has done a great job of using the arts to promote economic development and tourism.

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I gave a talk at La Esquina on the west side of Todos Santos and was happy to see my longtime friend Gary there. I’ve known Gary since I started surfing in Imperial Beach.

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With our WILDCOAST Chapter members in Todos Santos and Paula Angelotti (second from right) the manager of La Esquina who hosted the talk. 

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When I lived in Todos Santos more than 20 years ago, the beach at Los Cerritos, south of Todos Santos, was bereft of development. Now the dunes there have been replaced by buildings that are at risk from storm-related erosion there.

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Thanks to Armando Figaredo of Cabo Mil radio for interviewing me on his very popular mid-day radio show. I was on the air after a candidate for governor, so I knew it was a good audience. Thanks Armando!

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Osiris Herrera and of the Papalote Sports Bar kindly hosted my talk in San Jose del Cabo. Thanks Osiris and Anne for he wonderful poster design!!!

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We had a great group in San Jose including Raul Rodriguez Quintana, the Los Cabos Municipality Director of Ecoloby (kneeling) and Martha Moctezuma (in the green blouse to my right).

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The Estero San Jose Wetland Reserve is a natural gem at the edge of Los Cabos. It is also a sister reserve with the TJ Estuary in Imperial Beach.

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The reserve is an important habitat for migrant birds.

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The Estero San Jose Reserve is also a wetland of international importance.

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The reserve is incredibly beautiful.

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With Sofia Gomez of WILDCOAST (left) and the Los Cabos Municipality crew along with Martha Moctezuma of Los Cabos Coastkeeper.

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With Melina Arana of Imperial Beach and her husband Horacio who manages he Los Cabos Organic Market.



With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

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At the very nice VidaSoul Hotel and Restaurant on the East Cape. Thanks to owner Joan who generously hosted my talk.

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With Cabo Pulmo National Park Director Director Carlos Godinez (blue shirt) and Park Monitoring Coordinator Ronald Zepeta along with East Cape resident and writer Dawn Pier at Vidasoul-which is a great place for talk.

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Thanks to our WILDCOAST Chapter members who organized a talk at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in the East Cape town of Los Barriles. It was great to see my longtime friend Markos Higginson who I used to lifeguard with at the Silver Strand State Beach more than 20 years ago.





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WILDCOAST IMPACT 2014

One of the great pleasures of being the Executive Director of WILDCOAST is being able to evaluate our impact each year. And this year was a tremendous year of success. Here are some of our results.

impacts page

Trash ,Tires and Sediment in the Tijuana River

If the multiplicity of agencies working along the U.S.-Mexico border from both the U.S. and Mexico did their job, there would be little trash, sediment and waste tires in the Tijuana River. Unfortunately most look the other way until they are pressured to clean things up. Now WILDCOAST is pressuring agencies to clean up the river before winter or more unusual summer rains happen.

A pedestrian bridge made from waste-tires in the Tijuana River in Tijuana.

A pedestrian bridge made from waste-tires in the Tijuana River in Tijuana.

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The Tijuana River in Tijuana just next to City Hall. There are thousands of “Zombies” or homeless men and women (mostly men) living in the river which authorities in Tijuana have shown little effort in dealing with (many were deported from the U.S.). Besides the social and crime problems as a result, the trash that is accumulating is awful. Many of the men wash in the sewage waters of the river. The minute it rains all of this will be washed downstream.

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More garbage and sediment in the Tijuana River just upstream from the international border line. This scene is repeated throughout the river and its watershed. One solution would be to hire the mostly homeless “Zombies” to clean up the river and Tijuana. That would be much cheaper than letting the trash and garbage wash across the river on the other side of the border in the U.S.

 

Blown Away by Finca Altozana

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To celebrate our 24th Wedding Anniversary, my wife Emily and I and our longtime friends Trace and Teri took a trip to Javier Plascencia’s Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe on Mexico’s Highway 3 in northern Baja California. It was a wonderful day and meal, and we were all blown away by the sumptuous meal and spectacular and sublime beauty of the  restaurant and the setting among vineyards.

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The view of the vineyards of the Valle de Guadalupe from Finca Altozano. I would never have predicted that from the ashes of what was the Baja California tourism industry after about 2007, that a world-class wine and food scene would have emerged in the chapparal landscape of northern Baja California and in what were declining urban environments of  Tijuana and Ensenada. I am awed by the creativity, originality and entrepreneurial spirit of the purveyors and dreamers behind this wonderful scene. It is also a strong argument against Mexico’s past model of mega-tourism and demonstrates the vitality of a sustainable tourism model that celebrates Mexico’s diverse and unique landscapes, cultures and natural environment.

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Trace and Teri have been traveling with us to Baja for over 20 years including an epic journeys to Bahia Magdalena, Bahia de los Angeles, and Laguna San Ignacio. Teri and I have been friends for 42 years (we grew up together down the street from each other).

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It is truly a bucolic setting. It was hot yesterday–in the 90s–but the restaurant was an oasis.

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Emily and I met in Lima, Peru, in August 1985, were married in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 2, 1989, and life has been an adventure ever since. Baja is so special to us since we lived in Laguna San Ignacio, Bahia Magdalena and Todos Santos for a total of 2 1/2 years and travel throughout the Peninsula extensively. We are so lucky to live on the Border so we can sample the best of Baja fairly easily.

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Grilled red peppers and rose wine.

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The outdoor grill.

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They do a roast pig on occasion–so here’s the pig that will be roasted. Don’t get too attached!

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Grilled and stuffed squash.

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The open-air kitchen.

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Beef tongue and lamb tacos were tasty.

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Here’s grilled octopus in an Asian style sauce. I have a special place in my palate for pulpo because when Emily and I lived in Laguna San Ignacio in 1993-94 we spent many afternoons hunting it down on low-tide excusions with Maria Luisa “La Yaqui” Camacho de Aguilar and her son Octaviano along with our Australian shepherd Chip and their black lab Black. Pulpo or octopus is one of Javier Plascencia’s signature dishes, and for me, along with freshly harvested bay scallops or almeja catarina.  are my favorite seafood dishes.

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Finca Altozano is all about the little things and food. All these touches like the wine bottles make it such a unique restaurant.

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Emily in the garden.

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An Argentine style roasting spit and BBQ.

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Everything is done in great taste. The aesthetics of what I would call the Baja rustic and especially Valle de Guadalupe design style are really nice.

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After a two-hour meal. I’m happy–I swear! Ilook forward to  many more adventures in Baja and returning to Finca Altozano and the Valle de Guadalupe with Emily.

Surfers Unite to Save Waves: The Global Wave Conference 3

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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.

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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.

Kristy Murphy’s Endless Summer

Two of my favorite people to hang at the beach and surf with are Kristy Murphy and Cat Slatinskly of Siren Surf Adventures. Both are super positive, smart, great surfers with great attitudes–and pioneers in women’s surfing and women-owned surf business. Here’s my interview with Kristy who was the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champ. Cat grew up in my hometown of Imperial Beach.

Kristy Murphy, the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champion talks about women’s professional surfing and running Siren Surf Adventures, an international surf, Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and yoga tour and retreat company.

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Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Kristy Murphy: I started surfing in my hometown of Jupiter, FL in 1999, around my senior year in college. As a kid, I grew up bodyboarding, fishing and free diving with my family. My brother surfed all the time and I was always temped to try. My best friend’s dad was a big surfer in the 70s in Jupiter, and had just bought a new Donald Takayama Model T. We thought it was the coolest and would try to use it every chance we got! My first wave on a longboard I was up and riding.

Dedina: Were there any particular women surfer role models for you when you were into surfing.

Murphy: I loved watching Mary Bagalso (who is now a good friend and continues to inspire me), Julie Whitegon, Cori Schumacher, Ashley Lloyd, Kassia Meador, Julie Cox, Desiree Desoto and Frida Zamba. Thanks to guys like Joel Tudor, by the time I started getting really involved in surfing, the longboarding movement was happening and starting to regain popularity again. It was also right when women’s longboarding was staring to take off as well. I was always drawn to longboarding, ever since that first ride on a longboard, I knew I wanted to noseride.

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Me with Kristy and friends last year in Saladita (Kristy second from left).

Dedina: How did you get into competitive surfing?

Murphy: I first began locally in West Palm Beach, with the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA). I met another Jupiter local girl Jenni Flanigan, and we would go to all the local events together every weekend. It was a blast meeting people, surfing together and creating lasting friendships. After winning the ESA Championship Women’s longboard division in 2000, I decided I wanted to go out and give it a try on the West Coast. Jenni and I decided to take a trip together to California one summer and try to do some of the professional events out there.

Dedina: In 2005 you became the Women’s World Longboard Champion. Did winning the world championship create career opportunities for you?

Murphy: Obviously when you are competing at anything the goal is try to be number one. And after four days of surfing well and keeping it all together in 2005 I did it! It was awesome. I had dreamed of being a “pro” surfer and this was my breakthrough. I figured the sponsorships would come rolling in and I would be paid to surf.  It was funny; although longboarding became more and more popular, that did not mean more opportunities for the surfers. Actually just the opposite happened.

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Kristy cheering on a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

No new sponsors came knocking on my door. However, with my new title in hand, I did not give up and went out looking for sponsors and ending up working out some relationships, most importantly Costa Del Mar sunglasses whom I still work with today. Also, my surfboard sponsor, Siren Surfboards, has always supported me since the beginning to today and Kialoa Paddles for stand up paddling.

I was bummed that I did not get the overwhelming sponsorship support I thought I would after winning the World [Championship]. I was inspired to go out and keep surfing by doing it on my own. I worked at surf camps between competitions and eventually, after enough experience, opened my own surf camp/tour business, Siren Surf Adventures. My championship title has been important to my business, as it has given me credibility in the surf world and with all our clients.

Dedina: What do you think of the new school of women pro surfers?

Murphy: They are so talented. The progress that has been made from only a few years ago is amazing. The women are surfing more progressively and beautifully at the same time. It is awesome to watch! I wish surfing would be more based on talent, when it has the tendency to be based on looks.

Dedina: You and Cat Slatinsky have a solid business with Siren Surf Adventures and what seems to be an “Endless Summer” lifestyle with women’s surfing, yoga and SUP retreats to Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Who is attracted to your retreats?

Murphy: Mostly adventurous, fun, outdoorsy type ladies who are ready to try something new, plus gals who have been surfing a while, but cannot seem to get to the next level. They are all looking to experience surfing in an authentic, fun, safe atmosphere and meet new surf buddies. Our retreats are a unique VIP surf experience. Our group numbers are small (3-4 clients in each group) and Cat and I combined have over 20 years experience in surf coaching. We find that the ladies who come to our camp really want to learn or get better.

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Kristy helping a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

Dedina: And what is a typical Siren Surf Adventures surf retreat like?

Murphy: Most days are like this: You wake up in a beautiful, relaxing, beachfront setting. We prepare coffee, teas, fruits and yogurt in the morning while excitedly chatting about the days surf session. We usually do land lessons and visualization before we paddle out, and by land lessons we don’t mean only working on the pop-up. We find it easier to work on turning methods on land before we enter the water. Then it is just surf, surf, and surf until we are hungry. Then into town for the best local flavors. In the afternoons we usually offer a yoga session, some flat water SUPing or napping and relaxing. It is a super mellow environment and we always want our guests to feel like it is their time to do what they want. Basically our daily retreat schedules have been molded from our personal experiences as professional surfers in surf travel. Surf, eat, sleep, stretch, and then surf some more!

Dedina: What is the key to getting more women in surfing and sustaining their interest in the sport?

Murphy: Programs like ours help to safely introduce women to the surf. Surfing can be so intimidating, especially when you go at it alone. To be able to experience it with people you trust and respect that you can learn heaps from as well, is priceless.

Dedina: One of the reasons I’ve been so impressed with your work is because it goes beyond surfing into community building and making sure your business has a positive impact on communities and the coastal environment. What are some of the ways you and Cat give back?

Murphy: One of the great pleasures that is a benefit of our constant travelling is having a chance to meet new people all over the world. We learn a lot from them and we try to teach them about what we know as well–and that’s surfing. We do a Dia de los Niños, in Mexico, where we teach all the kids in the area how to surf. Lourdes at La Saladita, helps us heaps with that day. We’ve also had a great partnership with WILDCOAST as well as other organizations like Azulita, The Humane Society, and Women for Whales. It’s not even something we think about doing. We enjoy it and do it for the love of our natural world.

Dedina: So what is next? Are there new retreat locations on the horizon?

Murphy: In the future, we are going to have a few special retreat trips, but for now we are enjoying the locations and adventures we have. We feel so blessed to be able to work doing something we truly love.

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Street Art in Tijuana: Avenida Revolucion and Pasaje Rodriguez

Artists and restauranteurs are trying to bring Tijuana back. It is not an easy task. The once proud Avenida Revolucion, the heart and soul of touristy Tijuana is struggling to stay alive. Artists have inhabited former curio “pasajes” or passages. Pasaje Rodriguez near the corner of Revolucion and Third is one of them. Pasaje Rodriguez has cool little boutiques and galleries. Unfortunately most were closed when I was there on a Sunday afternoon. Best to return on a Friday or Saturday evenings. I will be back. Be sure to visit and eat at Javier Plascencia’s amazing newly renovated Caesar’s Restaurant on Revolucion–great food and very cool historic bistro atmosphere.

A mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

A mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

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Mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

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Mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

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The sheriff of Pasaje Rodriguez–I’m not sure what and don’t ask…

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Mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

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Mural in Pasaje Rodriguez.

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A more traditional style historic mural.

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On Avenida Revolucion

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On Avenida Revolucion–this type of art can remake a city. It will take a lot more to bring Tijuana back. Art can heal and bring people together and demonstrate that “forgotten” corners of a city are not at all forgotten.

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I love this.

Ended our excursion with a light lunch at the newly renovated Caesars's Restaurant on Avenida Revolucion, now run by Javier Plasencia and his brothers.

Ended our excursion with a light lunch at the newly renovated Caesars’s Restaurant on Avenida Revolucion, now run by Javier Plasencia and his brothers.

The Top Springtime Surf Destinations

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

In the past few weeks little pulses of southern hemisphere swell energy have lit up the reefs, points and beaches of the Pacific Coast from Chile to Canada. San Diego does especially well this time of the year with combo swells firing up beach breaks across the county. Here’s a guide to your best travel choices to catch springtime swells.

Trestles: You’re going to fight crowds and the some of the world’s best surfers at the top of their game. But if you want to surf some of the best lined up waves designed for high-performance surfing, than Trestles—Middles, Lowers, Uppers, and Cottons—is the best game around. Don’t like crowds—then surf at midnight. Just remember that we all need to fight to Save Trestles.

WCT surfer Heitor Alves was ripping. He made this.

WCT surfer Heitor Alves was ripping at Trestles. He made this.

San Diego County Beachbreaks: Our more than 70 miles of coastline suck in combo swells this time of the year. Beachbreaks especially do well in the springtime when multi-directional ground and wind swells can make random beachies fire for a couple of hours or a few days.

Baja: Southern Baja can light up with southern hemi swells. The surf can go from flat to overhead in a few hours and then die just as fast. Winds are notoriously fickle on the Pacific side and water temps plummet through June. The dreaded northeasterly winds on the East Cape can kill your epic session in about five minutes. Baja has a rhythm all its own but bring along a fishing pole, SUP, and a friendly attitude, you won’t be sorry.

Serge Dedina dawn patrols remote Baja

Serge Dedina dawn patrols remote Baja

Vancouver Island: Snow capped peaks, bald eagles, friendly surfers, fun beachbreaks and mysto reefs, along with great springtime snowboard and ski runs make this Canadian adventure outpost worth a visit. Great food and arguably some of the most beautiful surfing vistas on the planet make this island and its wave-riding capital of Tofino one of the most unusual and worthwhile surf destinations in North America.

It is cold but beautiful on Vancouver Island. Somewhere near Tofino.

It is cold but beautiful on Vancouver Island. Somewhere near Tofino.

Mainland Mexico: Pick a point or beachbreak. There is a reason why some of the world’s best and bravest surfers flock to iconic and heavy waves like Pascuales and Zicatela. There is no other location on the planet where you can as easily and cheaply score barrels that can spit you out into the light of day or grind you into the sand. The mellow points and reefs of Punta de Mita, Saladita and Sayulita offer a more fun reality for less danger inclined surfers. All in all, mainland Mexico is arguably the most cost effective and wave-worthy destination on the planet. If you’re adventurous there are thousands of miles (literally) of wave-rich coastline that largely go unridden.

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Central and South America: Pick a country. Chile for long left points and the opportunity to ski and board early season snow. Peru for even longer lefts and the world’s best ceviche. Nicaragua for offshore A-frames and El Salvador for perfect but crowded right points. Ecuador is the newest surf destination with warm water, consistent waves and a friendly vibe.

Australia and New Zealand: Unfortunately prices have shot up, so make plans to camp and cook your own food, but with some of the world’s most beautiful and iconic landscapes and diversity of waves, Oz and Kiwi-Land are great surf and adventure travel destinations.

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Why you travel to Australia-it doesn’t get any better than this.

So get out there. Whether you’re at La Jolla Shores, Bells or Chicama, remember that the more experiences and adventures you have, the happier you will be. And congrats to Brazilian surfer turned San Clemente local Adriano de Souza for his victory at the Bells Rip Curl Pro and all of the other ASP surfers for putting in awe-inspiring performances at one the world’s most iconic surf contest venues.

Miracle at Cabo Pulmo

In a small coastal community tucked away in a corner of Baja’s East Cape is Cabo Pulmo.

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Cabo Pulmo (Photo credit: jeffgunn)

This seaside paradise inhabited by friendly fishermen and a colorful group of expatriates is ground zero for efforts to restore the ocean.

If in Cabo Pulmo, local fishermen can work with biologists, conservationists, divers and government park staff to make a marine reserve that is a global model for the protection of a marine ecosystem and fisheries, than our conservation efforts are on the right track.

I was in Cabo Pulmo last week to review efforts to preserve Cabo Pulmo from development threats. A Spanish company had proposed building a new city larger than Los Cabos adjacent to the reef.

My colleagues and I discussed future strategies needed to improve the protection of the coral reef that is home to humpback whales, sea turtles, manta rays, schools of giant fish and a growing population of sharks, including the elusive and docile whale shark.

“There really is nothing else in the Gulf of California like Cabo Pulmo,” said Dr. Octavio Aburto, a research scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has studied Cabo Pulmo for years.

“Our family noticed that the reef and fish and Cabo Pulmo were not doing well,” said Judith Castro, the daughter of a fisherman and a longtime resident.

The Castro family has lived in Cabo Pulmo for generations. But by the early 1990s the fish were disappearing and, due to climate change, there were fears that the global wave of coral bleaching would forever damage the reef.

Breaching Mobula ray Schools of giant bat rays...

Breaching Mobula ray

I first visited Cabo Pulmo in 1996 as the founding director of The Nature Conservancy’s Sea of Cortez Program. Back then I attempted to develop a conservation program to manage the newly established national park at Cabo Pulmo.

But due to political conflicts, conservation efforts at Cabo Pulmo initially failed. Marine biologists who had studied Cabo Pulmo and had advocated for the development of the marine reserve were desperate.

It took a few years, but by 1999 conservationists, marine biologists, fishermen and the Mexican government came together to support a no-take reserve at Cabo Pulmo. Local fishermen, including the Castro family who had fished the waters of the region for decades, agreed to give up fishing inside the reserve.

“Our family had to learn to dive,” Judith said. Her family now runs a dive operation.

Ten years later Aburto and his Scripps team confirmed what marine biologists had only dreamed about, but that local fishermen and divers already knew was happening: The fish have returned to Cabo Pulmo. The reef is teeming with life.

“Fish biomass increased 460 percent over a decade, but even more critically the predator population increased over 1000 percent,” Aburto said.  “And abundant predators are key to healthy marine ecosystems.”

“No other marine reserve in the world has shown such a fish recovery,” he said. “There are so many fish that species like tuna are coming from outside the reserve to feed around the reef.”

Last year I went diving more than a mile from the Cabo Pulmo shore and was amazed by the schools of huge fish that hugged the reef. In my more than 25 years working in the Baja California peninsula, I had never encountered so many large fish.

Even sharks, whose slaughter and decline has alarmed marine biologists and conservationists, have returned to Cabo Pulmo.

“You can stand on the rocks at the end of Bahia de los Frailes at the western end of the reserve and see schools of sharks swimming around,” said Sofia Gomez, my WiLDCOAST colleague who is coordinating our Cabo Pulmo conservation program.

With additional recent good news from California’s Central Coast about the increase in marine species in marine protected areas, there is reason to be hopeful that we can reserve the decline of the ocean and the species within it.

Marine explorer and conservationist Sylvia Earle has called Cabo Pulmo a “Hope Spot” because of its importance in demonstrating that we can restore our oceans.

I am just glad that there is at least one place left where the ocean is as it is supposed to be—filled with fish and undisturbed by man.

The WiLDCOAST Ensenada Ocean Art Wall

Our WiLDCOAST staff in Ensenada (Baja California, Mexico) worked with local artists to create this super cool mural in the surfing and fishing community of El Sauzal. Due to the prevalence of graffiti it is critical to create ocean art that educates the public and inspires people to love our coast and ocean. It was very cool to work with Napenda Love, a hip hop and visual artist who helped us carry out projects in southern Baja. DSC_1632

 

 

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Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

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