Padding the Loop

“In 16 years, this was the best Loop ever,” said Dan Mann, of Mannkine Surfboardsand organizer of the annual Memorial Day weekend 11.4-mile paddleboard race around Coronado Island.

More than 70 paddlers enjoyed the finest ocean and weather conditions in more than two weeks with light winds, sunny skies and calm ocean conditions.

The ocean athletes paddled from Gator Beach at the south end of the Coronado Shores out to Zuñiga Jetty at the entrance to San Diego Bay. They then headed back down around the Naval ships docked at the North Island Naval Air Station, past the bayside homes and restaurants of Coronado, and the high rises of downtown San Diego.

The last leg of the endurance race had them pass through the Coronado Bay Bridge before arriving at Glorietta Bay, a grassy beach park, ringed by awaiting family members and friends.

Back in the 1940 and 1950s many surfers who competed in surfing competitions also raced paddleboards. Tom Blake is credited with developing the sport back in 1926 when he built a redwood board for the Bishop Museum that was a replica and ode to ancient Hawaiian “olo” surfboards.

Along with Blake, watermen such as George Downing, Pete Peterson, and Mike Doyle were as accomplished on paddleboards as they were on surfboards.

Today, the popularity of prone paddleboarding has been eclipsed by the trendier and more female-friendly sport of stand-up-paddling (both are great workouts).

Elite paddelboarders such as Jamie Mitchell and Kyle Daniels are famed for their athletic prowess and dominance of the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race and the Catalina Classic. Both 32-mile events require ocean crossings in rough conditions and are the ultimate ocean endurance paddle test.

Moloka‘i Paddleboard race

Additionally the Hennessey’s SUP and Paddle Board Racing Series offers up the U.S. Championships in Dana Point on June 2nd.

Paddleboards are long, sleek and built with traditional fiberglass or lighter carbon fiber or epoxy. A new custom board unlimited class board (over 18’) can cost over well over two thousand dollars and are outfitted with tillers, and small racks that hold water bottles and waterproof GPS devices. Shorter boards (12’ and 14’) are also raced.

Roch Frey of Encinitas dominated the Loop field winning overall and the unlimited division by more than three minutes. Sean Richardson and Dan VanDyck followed him.

Event winner Roche Frey.

Geoffrey Page of Imperial Beach placed first in the 50 and Over division with a time of 2.00.06. “I actually didn’t train enough for the race,” said Geoff. “I just had a good start and tried to hang on until the finish. I was really struggling at the end.”

Big wave charger Jim Montalbano, also of Imperial Beach, placed third in the Stock class. “I’m training for the Molokai to Oahu race,” he said before the race commenced. The Hawaiian event takes places on July 29.

My eldest son Israel, 16, entered the race the morning of the event. Borrowing a 12’ custom stock board from Jeff Knox, he started out the race fast ignoring dad’s advice to start slow and carry food and water.

Israel at the finish.

“Halfway through the race I began to fully realize my mistake,” wrote Israel. “My arms became harder and harder to move and I began to fantasize about fast food. I still had six miles to go. The only thing in my mind was the thought of eating incredibly large amounts of food that were waiting for me at the finish line. I passed the finish line and immediately started eating.”

The Loop perpetual trophy.

Coronado’s Dougie Mann of clothing company URT has competed in the Loop since its inception back when he was 12. “It is always worth getting in the ocean. It always makes your day better,” he said.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

The Loop 2012 Results

Unlimited

  1. Roch Frey, 1.51.17
  2. Sean Richardson, 1.54.35
  3. Dan VanDyck, 1.58.13

Women

  1. Shannon Delaney, 2.19.14
  2. Aimee Spector, 2.22.35
  3. Kristin Thomas, 2.32.52

50 and Over

  1. Geoffrey Page, 2.00.06
  2. Ron Nelson, 2.03.42
  3. Wally Buckingham, 2.05.04

14’

  1. Jay Scheckman, 2.04.40
  2. Reno Caldwell, 2.06.34
  3. Brant Bingham, 2.13.07

Stock

  1. Steve Schlens, `2.02.01
  2. Rodney Ellis, 2.05.27
  3. Jimmy Montalbano, 2.07.12

IB’s Mark “Kiwi” Fields. Kiwi had never raced a prone paddleboard event. He typically races SUPs.

Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin

Israel starts the paddle portion.

 

Yesterday, my son Israel and I participated in the first ever Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin race at Center Beach in Coronado.

City of Huntington Beach Lifeguard Nick Sullivan rounds the final buoy on the paddle portion of the event.

“The Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: The URT Swim, Paddle, Fin competition featured three consecutive open-water events, conducted in the standard triathlon fashion, with the start, transition area, and finish all occurring at Center Beach,” said James Kehaya of North American Athletics who organized the event in partnership with URT.

Men’s finalists from left to right: Serge Dedina (me)-4th, Ryan Pingree-3rd, Israel Dedina-2nd, Nick Sullivan 1st.

“The competition was designed to test traditional waterman skills, through a competitive endurance event.Event gifts and prizes were provided by URT, Emerald City, James&Joseph, Suunto, Ocean Minded and T3.The event began with a 500 meter swim, followed by a 3000 meter open water paddle (SUP or Prone), and finished with a 1000 meter open water swim with fins.”

Women’s finalists: Carrie Lingo (3rd), Carter Graves-2nd; and Gracie Van der Byl 1st. Gracie put on a great performance and passed me in the final leg of the swim, but I caught a set wave on the way in and passed her. She is fast!!

“Challenging conditions and great athletes were the hallmarks of the first ever Swim, Paddle, Fin,” said Kehaya. “The building surf, wind, and chop challenged even the most seasoned watermen and women.  Congrats to everyone who came out to challenge the course, and battle it out in tough weather.”

It was a tough but fun race and another great event hosted by Ian Urtnowski and Dougie Mann of the URT clothing company.

The URT Team won the relay. They killed it!!!

“The contest was split into 2 divisions; open and relay, ” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. ” The Open division was defined by one contestant completing all the legs, while the Relay division assigned one person to each leg of the race.”

It was good to see longtime friends in the race including the Mann brothers, the legendary Kiwi and Adam Wraight. My son Israel came in second behind City of Huntington Ocean Lifeguard Nick Sullivan who proved that you had to be a fast paddler and swimmer to place in the event. Ryan Pingree came in third.

Coronado Beach LIfeguard team came in second.

Gracie Van der Byl put in impressive performance placing first in the women’s division, followed by Carter Graves and Carrie Lingo.

Team URT came in first in the relay division followed by the Coronado Lifeguards. The Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

“The URT SPF was a pilot contest of more Watermen Endurance Triathlon Events to come,” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. “So to keep your ear to the ground go to www.urturt.com or www.northamericanatletics.com for more details and pictures. ”

Mens Results:
  • 1st: (0:37:51) – Sullivan, Nick
  • 2nd: (0:40:02) – Dedina, Israel
  • 3rd: (0:42:33) – Pingree, Ryan
Womens Results:
  • 1st: (0:44:09) – Van der Byl, Gracie
  • 2nd: (0:46:27) – Graves, Carter
  • 3rd: (1:07:29) – Lingo, Carrie

Team Relay

  • 1st:  0:37:06- Team URT
  • 2nd 0:40:38 – Coronado Beach Lifeguards
  • 3rd 0:46:11  – Imperial Beach Lifeguards

Israel Dedina heading out for the last leg, a 1K swim with fins.

Steve Pendarvis on Creativity in Surfboard Design

Steve Pendarvis. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Anyone who surfs the reefs and beaches of Central San Diego has come across the original shapes of Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex line of  surfboards. The irreverant and innovative Sunset Cliffs surfer is part of the long line of unique San Diego shapers and designers that includes Skip Frye and especially Steve Lis.

Steve has worked with Canyon Surfboards, Classic Glass, Superior Glass, and Diamond Glassing. Some of the surfers who have ridden Steve’s boards include Buttons, Dave Rastovish, Dan Malloy and Gavin Beschen.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Serge Dedina: When did you first start shaping surfboards?

Steve Pendarvis: In the 1960s when I was in my early teens, I started shaping and building surfboards. I was always tinkering with projects: boards, model airplanes, boats, bikes, all finely tuned.

Dedina: How did your interest in shaping begin? Did you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a shaper.”

Pendarvis: Having projects naturally led to building surfboards. Not to mention 2 dollars for resin, 40 cents per yard for cloth, skateboard marine plywood for fins, blanks from Ridout plastics or G&S for about 8 bucks. Yeah baby! $20 dollars or less to make a new toy, now we’re talk’n!

Steve field testing his Pendoflex design in Baja. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: With all the pop-out surfboards made in China and computer-shaped boards, is the role of the underground shaper still even relevant?

Pendarvis: Yeah, I still have my planers and sanding blocks humming, hands on is key for me. A lot of the innovation comes from underground shapers. If a design becomes trendy, it is often picked up by corporations and mass-produced and may eventually be popped-out overseas.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Given the market forces that are forcing the consolidation of the surfboard industry into a more corporate structure, why are you still handcrafting surfboards?

Pendarvis: To each their own. I prefer the work ethic of making a carefully hand-crafted surfboard.

Dedina: What is the value of a handcrafted surfboard?

Pendarvis: Absolutely custom for the client is what it’s all about!! Hand-crafted surfboards are built for the customer, thus the word custom!!

Dedina: Your shaping and surfboards have been associated with Central San Diego and especially the Sunset Cliffs. Why have the Cliffs been such a hotbed of surfboard innovation and design?

Pendarvis: Can’t really say, except for beaches and reefs a plenty!

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Many of your Pendoxflex designs have used alternative surfboard technology and building techniques. Can you describe some of the alternative ways you are designing and building boards and what materials you are using?

Pendarvis: The Pendoflex has a high torque, high speed, tail design built into the tails; it’s a stand-up derivative of a Greenough shell, which I then back-fill with foam to bring the deck flush with the rest of the board. A Pendoflex taps more of the available energy, sort of like a Fiberflex skateboard, weighting and unweighting,building speed on speed. It’s really cool.Subtle flex characteristics fuel powerful rail turns, while the board conforms to the wave face.

Generally my boards have a foam core, for instance US Blanks (PU), and WNC or Marko foam (EPS), and here and there, balsa, agave, cork and veneers.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Who are the surfers and shapers who are inspiring you to think differently and continue to progress in your shaping?

Pendarvis: Some are Skipper (Skip Frye), Stevie (Steve Lis), Greenough, Paul Gross, Dan Hess, the Campbells, the Thompsons, Brian Conley and the Murpheys, legless.tv, and others. And everyone and thing that comes across your senses helps define your relativity.

Dedina: You and your wife Cher are known as super positive and a stoked couple who continually look on the bright side of life.  Since the members of Sunset Cliffs surfing crew have not always been known for their laughter and good cheers (at least with outsiders) why do you think it is important for surfers to be positive and create connections outside their local surf spots?

Pendarvis: As you know every dog’s gotta leave his mark on the fire hydrant. Hey, that’s my hydrant! And you can use it too mate! I dunno, share and share alike. I still get my poker face going from time to time when the bait ball shows up, loading up the zone, Yikes!

We look for the positives, and appreciate friendship and kindness among people.

Steve and his wife Cher.

*****

You can find out more information on Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex surfboards here.

More from the Blue Tour in Mexico

Just a few odds and ends from my recent trip to the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca to give talks and show the Blue Ocean Film Festival.

Areceli Oregon, the Mayor of Barra de Potos at our press conference opposing the placement of a FONATUR cruise ship terminal on top of the village and mangrove lagoon.

This is Julio, a sea turtle conservationist giving a talk to kids in Barra de Potosi about why it is important to conserve sea turtles and not eat their eggs.

This is in Zihuatanejo. Fishermen are mad about being displaced there. It is a lovely city--that has not kept pace in terms of managing its rapid growth.

I gave a talk in Saladita at Lourdes's Bungalows. From left to right: Irwin of Azulita, Kristy Murphy of Siren Surf Adventures, Lourdes, Pato of Azulita, me, Cat of Siren Surf Adventures, and Natalia of Costasalvaje.

We had over 200 people attend our event in Puerto Escondido.A great crowd.

That's me addressing the kids in Barra de la Cruz, a village in Oaxaca.

Maybe the most surreal moment of the trip to Zihuatanejo was going to visit Dr. Enrique Rodriguez, wildlife and animal rights activist and not realizing until I walked into his small office on the second floor of building just off the malecon that he was a small animal vet. He was of course in the middle of spaying a cat (which he does for free)
He offered to let me watch the operation, but I really didn't want to.
Just another surreal magical moment in Mexico.
Always expect the unexpected.

Into the Mangroves

Jose Antonio Oregon, lifelong fishermen guided us into the pango, a wooden handmade pirogue covered with a coat of fiberglass and resin.

“A panga won’t work,” he said. “The lagoon is too shallow. This gets us around better.”

I was in the Laguna de Potosi, located just south of the Zihuatanejo airport on the Costa Grande of the Mexican state of Guerrero.

The 1,200-mangrove lagoon sits behind nesting beaches for endangered leatherback sea turtles. Humpback whales can be found in the sea outside the lagoon. During south swell season surfers visit Barra to surf lined up point lefts.

Jose Antonio gently pushed the pango out into the lagoon.

“There’s a kingfisher,” he said pointing to the small bird with a large oversize beak that was flitting and darting across a lagoon channel into the mangroves.

My companions, Sergio Flores and Natalia Parra, the WiLDCOAST Southern Mexico Coordinators, know this coast well. They have spent the last seven years working here in an effort to preserve sea turtle nesting beaches and to reduce the illegal trade in sea turtle meat and eggs.

I was in Barra de Potosi to support the village’s effort to halt the proposal by Mexico’s National Fund for Tourism (FONATUR) from placing a cruise ship terminal on top of the lagoon and the 900-person ramshackle pueblito.

Sergio, Natalia and I were also Barra to launch the first stop of the second year of Blue Ocean Film Festival tour of Mexco to screen ocean documentaries free of charge to Mexico’s fishing communities and coastal residents.

“I don’t see how they can build the project without destroying the lagoon and our village,” said Jose Antonio pointing to the colorful fishermen’s palapas that line the nearby surf beach and the lagoon entrance.

This small and friendly village of brightly colored fishermen’s home’s, sandy streets replete with handmade terrayas (throw nets) and numerous shrines to the Virgen de Guadalupe, is the latest casualty in FONATUR’s efforts to create new mega-resorts on top of some of the loveliest and most pristine coastal villages, coral reefs, and mangrove lagoons in Mexico.

Every weekend and especially during Semana Santa, Mexican families flock to the surfside palapas to pass the day eating sumptuous ceviche de abulon, empanadas de pescado, and grilled fish, freshly harvested from the nearby lagoon and sea.

Aracelia Oregon, the mayor of Barra and Sergio Flores of Wildcoast.

“Barra has some of the best seafood in Mexico,” said Sergio. “And it is a nostalgia trip for so many of Guerrero’s families who come her to relive the old ways, spend time with their families and reconnect with the fishing folk they have known for generations.”

The pango glided through a narrow channel lined with green mangroves that are home to more than 200 bird species. We spotted blue herons, flocks of cormorants, night herons, and scores of kingfishers.

“Those guys are fishing for corvina and lisa (mullet),” said Jose Antonio pointing to a pango manned by two fishermen in broad billed straw sombreros about a hundred yards out. The pescadores pushed their pango through the lagoon with a palanca or modified pole and paddle.

These are Mexico’s original stand-up-paddlers.

One of the fishermen balanced precariously in the pango and launched his terraya. Later we observed them silently perched next to the mangrove hand lining for snook and pargo.

At a break in the mangroves, Jose Antonio guided the pango on to a small mud bank. We disembarked to inspect the community’s salt making operations.

The salt makers use plastic sheets to hold lagoon water that is pumped into holding basins accelerates the process. Piles of artisanal salt lined the sides of the saltpans. “We collect the salt and then sell it,” said Jose Antonio.

Upon our return to the village, we greeted Jose Antonio’s sister, Areceli, the local mayor under the palapa restaurant her family owns. Her mother Linda, was already preparing thick pancake style tortillas de maiz, a pot of beans on the traditional adobe wood fire stove, and freshly caught snapper.

I walked into the kitchen to snap a photo of Linda’s kitchen. “Have another tortilla with beans,” she said while plopping beans into a freshly made tortilla.

“We already lost the right to have our palapa here,” said Areceli. “And now FONATUR says that it has the right to grant our fishermen access to the sea. If they build their project, we’ll lose everything.”

While we talk, Linda places a plate of grilled fish prepared butterfly style in front of me. I gingerly forkful of fish in my favor and close my eyes while savoring its sweet freshness.

Later that evening more than a hundred of the town’s residents gather for the film festival. Chairs line a sandy tree-lined street. We displayed the documentaries on the wall of an elementary school. Children squealed with delight and received prizes when they answered questions about sea turtles and other ocean trivia.

“It would be a shame to lose this,” said Areceli, who will soon travel to Mexico City to discuss the fate of her village and home with Mexico’s media, elected officials and government agencies.

I hope for the sake of the people of Barra and the wildlife they protect, that Araceli and her family and friends will be able to defend their mangrove lagoon, their community and their way of life.

Thanks to Eugen of Villas Tuparaiso, Adriana Luna Parra of Casa de la Luna, the Oregon family, Irwin and Pato of Azulita, Siren Surf Adventures, Lainie and Mike, and Lourdes for their hospitality.

What it Takes to be a U.S. Navy SEAL

US Navy SEALS Fire Exercise

With the release of the film Act of Valor, and the recent success of SEAL Team members in killing Osama bin Laden and rescuing hostages from the clutches of Somali pirates, a lot of attention has been focused on our most elite U.S. special forces.

Having grown up in Imperial Beach, just down the beach from where SEALs train at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, I have observed their ocean training first-hand.

Although I work out or surf with a few current or former SEALs, I knew very little about what it takes to be a member of the world’s toughest team.

To get more of an idea of what it takes to become a SEAL and how they train, I checked in with an active-duty SEAL who has worked as a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) instructor. In recognition and respect for the SEAL ethos not to seek recognition, he requested he remain anonymous.

Serge Dedina: Why did you become a SEAL?

SEAL: I joined for the excitement and the challenge. I liked the idea of getting paid to work out. I didn’t expect to stay in as long as I have. I have always said that I will get out when I quit having fun or didn’t enjoy the work anymore.

The caliber of men that you are associated with is a big draw as well, obviously due to the selection process to become a SEAL. The work is always challenging and the opportunity to lead SEALs is very rewarding. I also stay in with the commitment that I will stay in as long as I can effectively contribute to the war on terror with the hope that our kids won’t have to deal with it.

Dedina: With the Department of Defense looking to increase the presence and numbers of special forces, the Navy will want more SEALs. What type of recruit makes an outstanding SEAL candidate?

SEAL: In the last decade, there has been a great deal of research to determine what kind of background successful SEAL graduates have that would make them more likely to graduate so as to target those types of BUD/S candidates.

Studies have shown that those individuals that have participated in high school sports such as wrestling, swimming, water polo and track and field have a higher probability to make it through BUD/S training. Essentially, any type of endurance athlete has a greater probability to make it to graduation. Much of what we do requires a strong athletic ability with strong cardiovascular system.

Dedina: What are the physical requirements to become a SEAL?

SEAL: The Physical Screening Test (PST) is only a test to ensure you are fit enough to start physical training as part of the SEAL training process. The PST is strictly administered with no waiver allowed and no deviation from the format. The test is strictly enforced – no exceptions.

Dedina: How do SEAL instructors know how to push recruits to the edge without going over the edge?

SEAL: Having been through the exact same training themselves, as well as being recent combat veterans, the instructors have a keen sense of knowing the limits that the human body can take and regulate accordingly. There are always medical personnel on hand during all training evolutions to keep a close medical eye on the condition of students during training, especially during Hell Week.  They pick up on initial signs of potential injury and treat as appropriate to avoid aggravating further.

Dedina: Is training more advanced now for SEALs than it was a decade ago? It seems as though SEALs must have to master fairly advanced and high-tech equipment.

SEAL: Training is definitely more advanced now than a decade ago. This is largely because of the advanced technological equipment available and used by SEALs today, giving them the tactical advantage. To adapt to the complex nature of our missions today, tactics, techniques and procedures have also advanced to be able to more effectively find and fix our enemies that hide among the population.

Dedina: With the release of Act of Valor and the recent success of SEALs in killing Osama bin Laden and hostage rescues off of Africa, do you think SEALs run the risk of being viewed as modern day superheroes that can do anything? Could that help set the SEALs up for future failures if they somehow don’t continue to do the impossible?

SEAL: I don’t think the release of Act of Valor, taking out Bin Laden, or counter-piracy successes off Somalia will put SEALs at risk of being viewed as something they are not. If you talk to any SEAL today, you will find that they don’t view themselves that way. Most look at what they do as “just a job” that they enjoy because of the challenging work, patriotism, fighting terrorism to preserve democracy and our way of life, and the camaraderie from tightly knit teams.

Act of Valor was in the works before the bin Laden raid or the piracy hostage rescue. It was made with the permission and oversight of Naval Special Warfare Command and the Navy to be a recruiting tool as we continue to grow our force.

It was seen as an opportunity to portray SEALs accurately, unlike previous Hollywood productions, using real SEALs without divulging close held tactics, techniques and procedures as well as how their personal lives are affected by their chosen profession.

While we have been fortunate to enjoy many highly visible successes, there have been some missions in the last decade that were not so successful, where many SEALs have given the ultimate sacrifice. In the end, SEALs don’t look for the visibility or accolades for their work. In my humble opinion, the visibility comes from the press and their insatiable desire for sensational headlines and those seeking political gain.

Dedina: The most infamous part of SEAL training is “Hell Week”. Can you describe what that involves and what the purpose is of this week that I have heard described as “endless days of pain, cold, and misery.”

SEAL: The first three weeks of training prepares the students for Hell Week (fourth week) where they go through five and a half days of continuous training with only a maximum of four hours sleep. This is designed to test one’s physical and mental motivation. This week proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible. During this week the students learn the value of cool headedness, perseverance, and above all, teamwork.

Dedina: What does the basic SEAL training involve in terms of physical activity and combat preparation?

SEAL: The comprehensive SEAL training process prepares students for the extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. The standards of qualification require the kind of mental and physical fortitude that few possess. For those making the cut, immense challenges and constant training are a way of life.

The first phase of BUD/S assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork and mental tenacity. Physical conditioning utilizes running, swimming and calisthenics and grows harder and harder as the weeks progress. Students participate in weekly four mile timed runs in boots and timed obstacle courses, swim distances up to two miles wearing fins in the ocean and learn small boat seamanship. The second phase of training is the diving phase of BUD/S that trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. Physical conditioning continues and becomes even more intensive.

Students learn two types of SCUBA: open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% Oxygen) including basic dive medicine and medical skills training.

Emphasis is placed on long-distance underwater dives with the goal of training students to become basic combat divers, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their combat objective. This is what separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces.

The third phase of training is Land Warfare that trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition and small-unit tactics. Physical training continues and becomes even more strenuous as the run distance increases and the minimum passing times are lowered for the runs, swims and obstacle course. This third phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.

US Navy SEALS splash into the water in exercise

US Navy SEALS splash into the water in exercise (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

Dedina: SEALs spend a considerable amount of time in the ocean. Is there specific ocean related training that occurs in terms of how to navigate large surf, rip currents, and/or storm conditions, or is it “sink or swim?”

SEAL: First phase of training involves an extensive amount of surf passage training; both individually as a swimmer and with Inflatable Boat Small (IBS) rubber boats, manned with seven students with paddles. Although there is initial classroom training in navigating surf, dealing with rip currents and storm conditions, the true learning/training to navigating the surf is through practical experience in the ocean. During hydrographic reconnaissance training in the first phase, the students learn about tides, currents and wave shape and duration to be able to include that in their hydro reports that go to the Amphibious Ready Group for potential beach landings.

Dedina: It appears that quite a few SEALs are surfers. Are surfers attracted to the SEALs or do you think that SEALs become surfers after spending so much time in the ocean?

SEAL: It has been my experience that more SEALs become surfers after they become a SEAL, most likely because of their increased familiarity with and exposure to the ocean. Many SEALs come from the Midwest and haven’t had that much exposure to the ocean. Being based in coastal communities also lends to SEALs wanting to surf.

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

Dedina: According to the SEAL ethos, a SEAL’s training is never complete. How do you motivate team members to continue performing at the highest level over the course of their career?

SEAL: Many SEALs come and go in the teams. It is my experience that SEALs that choose to make a career in the Navy continue to be motivated because the teams attract men that fall into a “warrior class” type of individual. They live a lifestyle of fitness. By the time they start to get operational burnout because of a high op tempo, they take a shore duty job that will give them a break to recharge. Additionally, the more senior a SEAL gets, the more leadership positions they gravitate to where their experience is used to bring up younger SEALs.

Chasing the Swell in Baja

Image

Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

Last weekend’s large surf capped three-weeks of clean consistent surf, the best run of waves in over a year. The past weekend we experienced one of the largest northwest swells in about three years.

Many surfers took advantage of the swell to experience pristine waves and wilderness south of the border.

The week before Christmas, my family (my sons Israel and Daniel and wife Emily) and I joined the Johnsons (Daren, Terri and Josh), on a trip into wild Baja that involved driving through endless mudpits, howling winds, packs of coyotes, and empty barrels.

Our trip was a return to old school adventure in Baja that requires a high-clearance 4×4, nerves of steel, and an excellent sense of direction. To reach the coast, we endured more than 50 miles of mud traps.

The small storms that passed through Southern California before Christmas resulted in four days of rain—the most it has rained in central Baja in more than five years. The desert hills were green, with flowers poking through the spiny cactus, and birds fluttering around the water holes.

Image

Israel Dedina at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

By the time we arrived at our destination, both my Tacoma and Daren’s Ford F-350 were drenched in mud.

We spent the week surfing empty points and exploring the craggy coast. WiLDCOAST the organization I am the the director of,  has conserved about 30 miles of the coastline here, focusing on the conservation of the headlands, points and wetlands that are entirely undeveloped with the exception of tiny encampments of friendly fishermen and their families.

One day a fisherman dropped off a few lobster to sample. Israel, Daniel and Josh learned how to prepare and grill lobster Baja style—butterflied, over red-hot mesquite coals.

Nothing tastes better than fresh lobster tacos after a day of surfing.

Another day, we boarded Daren’s homemade dune buggy and scouted the coast. At one embayment we found empty waves and a fisherman’s pickup drowning in the sea.

Apparently the driver attempted to make it through surf at low tide and hit a tidepool. Our attempts to haul him out were unsuccessful and the pickup was submerged within the hour (his fishing co-op colleagues apparently hauled him out hours later).

Toward the end of our stay, the dreaded ferocious Baja northeast winds hit, creating dust clouds and blowing out the surf. We survived the night, but headed out home the next morning. Upon our departure we spied a large, confident and well-fed pack of coyotes meandering across the salt flats.

The day before Big Friday I borrowed a longboard and caught some fun ones. Photo: Jeff Knox.

A few days after our return, my sixteen-year-old son, Israel, joined a crew of Coronado surfers including John and Thomas Holder and veteran lifeguard Stan Searfus, for a trip to Todos Santos Island.

“Going out to Todos, one of the world’s most beautiful big waves spots was inspiring,” said John, who was on break from his stint serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

“It is a stunning place and the surf was pumping. In between sessions we saw migrating gray whales, dolphins and enjoyed the natural beauty of one the last pristine treasures of northern Baja.”

I returned to Baja last week with Zach Plopper. We had an appointment to survey a 1,200-acre headland and wetland that WiLDCOAST, is negotiating to purchase.

We scored great waves and were amazed by the beauty and biological diversity and abundance of the coastal desert headland we hope to conserve.

Surf scribe Kimball Taylor and San Diego surfer Chris Patterson also enjoyed the swell. But unfortunately they were both shocked by the flagrant disregard one crew of surfers had for the desert wilderness.

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Israel Dedina on the left at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

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“Unfortunately, a large group of twenty-something surfers from Orange County had no respect for the landscape, chucking their trash in the desert, ripping out native plants, refusing to bury their own waste and acting disrespectfully in the water,” recounted Chris.

“They had forgotten that all of Central Baja is a national protected area in Mexico and that surfers need to treat the land and local people in Baja with a great deal of respect—since we are the only visitors there.”

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Israel Dedina at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

Thankfully, more senior and educated surfers met with the group, politely explained the “unwritten rules” of Baja surf camping and the group cleared out and left the following morning.

So please remember that on your next visit to Baja, to pack out your trash, bury your waste, and leave all native plants alone. American surfers need to be role models for leaving as little trace as possible in a wilderness area that is home to generations of fishermen and ranchers and abundant wildlife.

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.

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.

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