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.

Global Wave Wednesday-Save Waves Today!

 

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Today surfers and coastal conservcationists around the world are helping our friends at Surfers Against Sewage in the UK develop some of the world’s first surf-conservation legislation (I think maybe Peru was first).

So please help us save the waves and sign the petition.

Mysto waves north of San Miguel.

Mysto waves north of San Miguel are in need of protection. This is now a World Surfing Reserve.

 

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Me surfing another great wave we need to preserve–Barra de la Cruz in Mexico.

 

The Best 5 Surf Spots in San Diego County

My son Israel at Sunset Cliffs.

My son Israel at Sunset Cliffs.

With our winter surf season over (it was middling at best, with no major swells) and spring upon us, a lot of us spend our days chasing waves up and down the county.

Luckily San Diego is blessed with a plethora of waves that work year-round and are considered some of the world’s best surf spots.

Please note—all of the areas mentioned are for experienced and respectful surfers only. Don’t expect to paddle out at any of these spots if you are not a local and an experienced surfer and catch the best waves. Please respect the locals and the sanctity of the lineup.

1. Black’s Beach. One of the world’s top beachbreaks, this jewel sucks in swells courtesy of the Scripps Submarine Canyon. Probably no other spot in San Diego County is as consistent, with as many good waves and surfers, as Black’s. The water is generally crystal clear and the clarity, shape and uniqueness of the waves reminds me of beaches in Australia.

Black’s is also one of the best places in San Diego County to spot bottlenose dolphins and just offshore is one of the most important locations for shark research in Southern California.  Thankfully, Black’s is now part of the San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area—a marine protected area.

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Gabriel Medina during the 2012 Nike Lowers Pro

2. Trestles. Guess what, Orange County—Trestles is really in San Diego County—so it is our spot! (I’m joking—I realize that the incredibly generous and very talented surfers from San Clemente and most of southern Orange County are nice enough to share this spot with surfers from San Diego and around the world).

This is a great improver spot and arguably the best place on a good southwest swell to see some of the world’s best surfers at the top of their game. I love surfing here despite the crowd and so do my kids.

This is about the best place to take your groms and their friends on a surfari in the county. Just remember that dreadful TCA still wants to plow a toll road through San Onofre State Beach.

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Gabriel Medina at Trestles during the 2012 Nike Lowers Pro.

3. Swami’s. On a big winter swells, Swami’s is the Sunset Beach of San Diego County. This amazing reef that is also now a marine protected area creates lined walls perfect for high-performance surfing.

The only problem is that it is very crowded with very good local surfers who dominate the lineup, so your chances of catching a good wave here are pretty limited.

4. Oceanside. This long stretch of beach offers up a variety of breaks—from the wave field south of the pier (and around it) to the opportunities around the pier and between the jetties. Oceanside, like Imperial Beach, is still a classic blue-collar and military surf town with a very talented crew of local surfers.

Generally you can count on the fact that Oceanside is bound to be bigger and breaking a little harder than just about every other spot in North County.

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

5. Sunset Cliffs. This fabled stunning stretch of coastline offers up a variety of waves for every type of surfer. It is generally always crowded with a crew of older guys on bigger boards who rip, but there is typically a slot or two for everyone. Please remember to respect the locals here.

There are a ton of other spots that offer up clean and consistent waves in San Diego County. The more you travel, the more waves you score and the more friends you make.

Especially if you have kids, surfing a variety of spots is the best way for them to improve their surfing and have the type of adventures that are the stuff of groms dreams.

A nice winter day at Sunset Cliffs.

A nice winter day at Sunset Cliffs.

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.

Another Weekend of Perfect Waves at San Miguel

We spent the weekend at San Miguel for the 3rd Annual Walter Caloca Open, a surf contest that brings together competitors from Mexico, the U.S. and around the world.

The waves were a blast!!

Sunday morning--San Miguel channeling Lowers.

Sunday morning–San Miguel channeling Lowers.

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That’s me channeling Terry Fitzgerald at J Bay in 1975.

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My eldest son Israel.

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My youngest son Daniel.

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IB surfer Sean Fowler.

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San Miguel local Kevin Meza.

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Zach Plopper

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Israel

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Israel

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Contest organizer Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

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From left to right: Me, my youngest son Daniel and friends Josh Johnson and his dad Daren Johnson.

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Junior boys finalists including from left to right: Gavin (3rd), Daniel Dedina (2nd), Dakotah Hooker (4th) and Josh Johnson (1st).

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Daniel.

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Daniel

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Josh Johnson

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Daniel

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Beach cleanup Saturday.

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Shaping New Ideas with Plus One’s George Gall

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George Gall grew up blocks from the water in Ocean Beach body surfing and riding inflatable mats. Today the third generation board shaper runs Plus One Surfboards.

Serge Dedina: You are a third generation shaper. You would think that the adversity that surfboard shapers face economically would have pushed you away from shaping. Why have you stuck with it at Plus One Surfboards?

George Gall: My grandfather made boards starting in the 1920s for himself and his friends. I don’t know that he made any for money, plus the number of surfers was not that many, so his income came from other sources. He was a bit of an artist, I was told he did graphic/sculpting work on buildings in Balboa Park, worked at the Navy Aircraft Rework Facility on North Island, and worked as a chauffeur/assistant for a prominent San Diego family, the Luces.

I only remember my dad having one foam/glass surfboard and they only had their own boards for surfing and abalone diving. So again there was not a lot of economic pressure to make a living from surfboard building, which is probably why I never heard any discouraging parental words to not shape boards.

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

Likewise, I had other careers. I went to college and got degrees in mechanical engineering and then mathematics. All the while I made boards, I kind of thought I was going to go the full corporate route, and I did, working for the Space Systems Division of General Dynamics on the rocket program that launched payloads like Cassini, the GPS array and military payloads for the Air Force and CIA.

Then the big change for me happened, wanting to surf more again, I took a big chance and changed careers. I became a high school math and computer science teacher and worked in Chula Vista. This opened me up for summers off, perfect for surfing and travel, and making even more boards.

I was busy to the point of surfing less and working more. Not for the money as much as wanting to make good boards and to stoke people on them. I enjoy it.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

Dedina: Is San Diego a good place to be a shaper?

Gall: This is a double-edged sword. Southern California has always been the pre-internet hotbed for innovation and the active lifestyle. This means lots of board makers come here to establish credibility and all the major ingredients: the blank makers, resin and glass suppliers had set up shop near San Diego.

It is good to be a shaper in San Diego, for many reasons: cred, leading edge, testing and close to media to share designs and do business. San Diego is a bad place to be a shaper because there are so many shapers trying to do the same thing, thus the market becomes a bit saturated at times, and the price and profit for boards is probably the lowest in the world outside of China.

San Diego can be an aggressive market due to pro surfers wanting sponsorships and low-ball pricing. Access to materials to home builders has an influence on killing the margin needed to make a living from surfboard building.

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

Dedina: It seems like there is more support for local shapers from the industry and the media. Does that translate to greater sales? Has it helped at all?

Gall: There has been a huge shift from the mindset of pre-2005. Gone are the days of shaping 40, 50, 60 of the same board over and over. Supplanting this is the desire for fresh designs. This paradigm shift has brought the spotlight on “alternate” designs, on new ideas, and thus local shapers.

This translates into different sales, depending upon which side of the threshold the shaper is working. If they were once doing 300 boards a week of the same design, the rise of the local shaper counters their effort. If the shaper is one of the local brands, then yes, they are going to feel an increase in demand, if their designs are good.

However, the local shaper hits a ceiling because there are other local shapers on either side of the shaper’s “territory.” If that shaper has a good share of a particular coastal stretch, then that shaper usually does well, just servicing that business model.

As the territory expands, then the shaper is no longer perceived as a “local shaper” requiring a morph of the public image. In my book, the board has to work, it has to be fun, and the business will come.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Dedina: What are the trends you see for surfers and the type of boards they are riding right now. What are the hot shapes?

Gall: Experimentation. The average surfer has seen the iconic top surfers trying “new stuff.” With this permission slip, the average surfers are cleansing themselves of the “one-design” constraint of the last 20 years. With this experimenting there will be successes, which will manifest larger quantized jumps in better designs than the small incremental refinements of the old designs.

With this greater design mutation, it is assured you will see greater, more noticeable progress in surfboard design; the door is now open wide, pushed by newfound creativity and also financial reasons. In a way, it is good to see this wide array being tried in the water. Along with this, we are seeing surfing change, less “clonish” with different styles and approaches.

On the other hand, imagine being a surfer who finally gets the hundreds of dollars together to get a new board who must make a decision to go with a “known” design, usually reinforced as a “model,” which implies more credibility to a board, or to take an expensive gamble on an unknown concept that might result in being stuck with it for a while, having to get rid of it, and having to endure criticism from peers–the all-stagnating peer imperative.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

Dedina: Is the economic incentive to use more sustainable or “green” materials there yet?

Gall: We are still on the uphill side of sustainable boards at the leading edge of performance surfing. I often wake up wanting to go in the shop and build something that was grown or was from something used previously for another purpose, so it would not be a waste.

Everyone in my family built wooden boards and that weighs on me, especially now. The big difficulty is educating the buying surfer to understand that purchasing a sustainable board is much more than just getting another board to ride.

Seeing the big picture offers a satisfaction, and to some a fulfilling duty, to make a responsible surfboard purchase. We are trying new materials all the time and are in contact with many of those dedicated to finding the coming viable solutions. I do not think there is a surfer out there who would be opposed to owning and riding a surfboard that was 100 percent green. The constraints right now seem to be cost, durability, performance and convenience.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Dedina: What can the surf industry and even the surf media do to promote having surfers work with local shapers? Could local shapers work together more effectively to create a trade association to promote the art of shaping and buying handcrafted surfboards?

Gall: Most of the push is word of mouth. The push is being felt the strongest where it matters the most: in the water. But whether at the local break, or big contest, or daredevil surf spot, the credibility of the shaper is in how the board works in the water. In most cases there is a core group or core surfer who is devoted to a particular board concept.

The shaper needs to be dedicated to listening to the surfer, produce the dream into a reality, and maybe answer the phone every once in a while. Reputation is, or should be, made by the merits of the shaper. The modern “word of mouth” is social media.

I get more and more boards ordered on an Internet-only basis, and it is working. In fact I am seeing less errors on orders since we have written histories on boards and idea development. This has actually made my workload easier and a little less stressful.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Another thing I see happening post-2005 (blanks) and post-2007 (economy) is that the remaining shapers have had to pull up their stakes and regroup. It is now common to see five or six shapers have their boards made under the same roof.  At Plus One we have six to eight shapers who will come in to do their work, all of their own brand.

This strategy is a good starting point to go to the next level which is to promote the trade. Shapers are more networked together now than ever before. We have tribute shows and a semblance of a trade show open to the public. A trade association would strengthen the small local shapers and give them a voice and a channel to improve what they make.

Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change and Sand Replenishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

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

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

Why Marine Protected Areas Benefit Surfers

Cabrillo MPA in Point Loma, San Diego.

Any North County or southern Baja vet most likely has run into Garth Murphy intensely evaluating surf conditions from shore and gracefully riding the best waves of the season. A California icon who partnered with Mike Doyle and Rusty Miller in their infamous and pioneering Surf Research company, Garth is the author of the epic novel of California, The Indian Lover, and the son of noted fisheries biologist Garth I. Murphy, who was La Jolla’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography‘s first PhD, and a professor at the University of Hawaii.

Garth, who has lived, surfed and advocated for coastal and marine protection in Hawaii, Australia and Baja California, was a member of the California Department of Fish and Game‘s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) Regional Stakeholder Group.

As a result of that effort a new network of marine protected areas (MPAs) was established in Southern California with reserves at Swami’s, Black’s-Scripps, South La Jolla, Cabrillo-Point Loma and the Tijuana River Mouth. These MPAs conserve key marine ecosystems such as kelp beds, reefs, sea grass beds – the ecological features that provide the foundation for some of our very best waves.

Serge Dedina: Why should surfers care about marine conservation and creating MPAs in Southern California?

Garth Murphy: Because we have 300 wave-rich surf spots to choose from and over a million Southern California surfers average 20 surfs a year – for 20 million yearly immersions in what usually happens to be our ocean’s most bio-diverse coastal marine habitats. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes traditional surfing as a compatible recreational use of the ocean resource, permitted in protected areas except at mammal haul-outs, bird roosts and estuaries. A network of Marine Protected Areas, by protecting and conserving complete coastal ecosystems and habitat, enhances the biodiversity and abundance of marine life, enriching our experience, while minimizing and controlling potential habitat-destructive human activities, which directly affect us.

Looking toward the San Diego-Scripps MPA and Black’s Beach in La Jolla.

Dedina: Why is preserving marine ecosystems of Southern California so important for surfers?

Murphy: Southern California surfers and marine life share natural coastal ocean habitats of every important class: estuaries and river mouths, beaches and inter-tidal zones, surf grass and eel grass beds on composite reefs like Cardiff; rare cobble reefs like Trestles, Rincon and Malibu; rocky reefs like Windansea and Laguna; submarine canyons like Blacks, and sand bars at Newport and Pacific Beach; as well as man-made habitats like the Piers at Huntington and Imperial Beach, rock jetties like the Wedge and Hollywood by the Sea, and artificial reefs.

As a boon to surfers, thick coastal kelp forest canopies, which shelter the greatest biodiversity of coastal marine species, also protect us from the afternoon winds, refining ocean surface texture and grooming the swells to extend our surfing hours and the carrying capacity of affected surf spots. Habitat-based marine protected areas preserve everything within their boundaries, including our cherished surf spots.

Dedina: What about water quality? Would marine reserves help our efforts to keep beaches free from polluted runoff?

Murphy: Coastal ocean water quality is not just a function of land pollution runoff. Over-exploitation and depletion or collapse of important food web components causes imbalances that degrade marine ecosystems and make the ocean more vulnerable to disease outbreaks and opportunistic invasive species like stinging jellyfish, algae blooms and toxic red tides, diminishing water quality and habitat suitability for marine life and surfers.

On the contrary, robust, bio-diverse marine ecosystems with intact food webs are resilient, resisting and adapting to environmental change and pollution, maintaining water and habitat quality. Estuaries are marine life nurseries, fresh/salt water interfaces that empty into many of our finest surf spots. We absorb that same water through our eyes, ears, nose and mouths on duck-dives and wipeouts. Rebuilding and maintaining bio-diverse estuaries with a full range of marine life creates healthier nurseries, and encourages upstream compliance with pollution regulations. The result is better water quality for all of us.

Dedina: So in the end, how does preserving our marine heritage in Southern California benefit surfers?

Murphy: The California surfing style evolved in a unique marine environment of glassy peeling waves. Stylish surfing and our beach lifestyle have become an important part of California history and culture –and media focus – generating an endless wave of glossy-color surf magazines, surf videos and feature films. The success of the $7-plus billion surfing industry, centered in Southern California, depends on maintaining the high cultural value of the traditional California surfing experience: as exciting, invigorating exercise, as a get-away, as a sport, a meditation, a dance, a family get-together and photo opportunity –enhanced by a vibrantly alive and healthy ocean.

The ocean is Earth’s largest and most accessible enduring wilderness. Regular contact with wilderness is a human, and especially American, cultural value, manifested today in the ocean by the popularity of surfing. A full and abundant spectrum of marine species – from whales to hermit crabs to phytoplankton – is an integral part of our ocean-wilderness experience.

Marine Protected Areas enhance ecosystem awareness by exposing us to a broad diversity of marine life. They encourage monitoring of potential problems and upstream compliance with complementary air and water quality regulations. The positive water quality and life-giving effects of marine protected areas are a valuable gift to the surfers and marine species who share them.

Keeping the Stoke Alive

During a recent trip to Mexico, a hurricane that slammed the coast of Oaxaca a week before rearranged the sand banks at a remote point. I took a two-mile march up the coast, noticed a new post-hurricane wave spinning down the beach and paddled out.

Out in the lineup a set came. I caught the first wave and drove down a head-high wall that kept slightly open as it peeled along a narrow sandbar.

For me the essence of living a stoked life is being able to see and try new experiences and tap into the energy of the ocean.

I met my wife Emily in 1985 on my first day as a UCSD study abroad student in Lima, Peru. Emily, who is from Wisconsin, had just turned 20. I was 21.

We immediately realized we shared a passion for adventure, the outdoors and the ability to laugh at our misfortunes. Soon we were clambering up rocks to reach 16,000-ft. alpine lakes in the Andes and exploring the culturally rich coast of northern Brazil.

A few years after our marriage in 1989, we found ourselves living in a 14-foot trailer in an off-the-grid fishing village in Baja with our Australian Shepherd Chip while we carried out graduate research on gray whales.

At the end of our two-year stay in Baja, Emily became pregnant with our oldest son Israel and we moved back to the U.S. Three years later my youngest son Daniel was born.

That is when life got really good.

Before my children were born I was pretty much over the marginal conditions of the beach break I grew up surfing. As soon as my two sons were old enough to enjoy the beach, all of a sudden the mundane became exceptional.

A normal day at the beach became the best day ever.

With kids you get to experience everything new again and again. Their laughter as they jump over waves holding my hand and their joy the first time they surf a real wave.

A few years ago, the boys and I hiked down to Black’s Beach on one of the best days of the winter. Normally I would have avoided the super-packed lineup of one of the world’s best beach breaks like the plague.

But whereas I was frustrated trying to compete with the likes of Jordy Smith for set waves, the boys were stoked to share waves with one of their heroes.

After a few waves I went in and found surf photographer Jeff Divine on the beach.

“You know, with kids, everything is an adventure,” he said.

Six months after that experience at Black’s, Emily was kind enough to let me take the boys to Australia for six weeks to live in a van while we chased cold and powerful winter surf along the New South Wales and Victoria coasts. Emily came over and spent an additional month with us, which included a trip to New Zealand.

The memories of our adventures—finding perfect, empty waves in Ulladulla, watching Daniel light up as we encountered a mob of kangaroos on a wild beach, surfing Bell’s Beach, hiking around glaciers in New Zealand and watching tiny penguins waddle up a beach on Phillip Island—will be embedded in my memory for the rest of my life.

I have never had much money, and I am not sure how to go about making much of it. My life is richer for all the experiences I have had and the family that is my greatest joy.

What has kept my stoke alive are those moments of transcendence in which something new brings my family together around shared adventures, experiences and making the world a better place.

Deep Design: Daniel Thomson on Surfboards, Physics and Simmons

Dan Thomson putting it on a rail. Photo courtesy of Tomo Surfboards.

Daniel Thomson of Tomo Surboards is a young and innovative surfer who is part of a core group of San Diego shapers pushing the edge of design and development to move surfing to the next level. He has been affiliated with Richard Kenvin’s Hydrodynamica project that is based on the influence and theories of San Diego’s legendary surfing innovator Bob Simmons.

Serge Dedina: Why did you starting shaping surfboards? And what is it about creating surfboards that you love?

Daniel Thomson: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a surfing family so I pretty much have been surfing since I can remember. My dad (Mark Thomson) is a respected shaper in Australia so ever since he made me my first board, I was involved in the shaping process. As I evolved as a surfer, my desire to shape more specialized equipment became apparent so I continued to follow my passion for exploring the connection between creative art specialized for performance surfing.

Dedina: Who are your shaping and surfing influences?

Thomson: My dad obviously. George Greenough was a family friend during my younger years so his work definitely made an imprint on me.  More recently the work of Bob Simmons uncovered by the research of Richard Kenvin has been inspiring. Also, I like to look outside of surfing for inspiration: modern aviation, quantum physics and the universe challenge the mind to think deeper for new ideas.

Carl Eckstrom and Daniel Thomson at the Hydronamica opening in San Diego earlier this year.

Dedina: How did you end up shaping and surfing in San Diego?

Thomson: After making a few trips out to San Diego from 2004-2010, I realized that the market for progressive designs was stronger in California. Also, I was ready for a change of pace in my life.

Dedina: Your boards have been associated with the hydrodynamic theory and movement espoused by Richard Kenvin that was directly influenced by the design of Bob Simmons? How did you interest in the legacy of Simmons and the partnership with Kenvin occur?

Thomson: Richard was visiting in Australia back in 2003 on one of his first Hydrodynamica missions. He was looking to connect with Dave Rastovich.

In hope that he would be able to film him riding some of the keel fin fish boards he had brought over, Richard tracked down my dad as a support filmer and naturally my dad suggested to Richard that ‘I give these fishes a go.’

A few sessions later, we had some awesome footage of Rasta and me riding these boards. After that I kept in close contact with RK and continued my natural progression in refining the fish design.

Dedina: What are the types of surfboards you are shaping now and specifically what are the designs that you see working best in Southern California?

Thomson: Generally all my boards are fairly suited to California because of the straighter curves and wider tails. The boards that I am currently most excited about are my new Next Generation Modern Planing Hulls (MPH).

They are basically 21st century adaptations of the original Bob Simmons plaining hulls mixed with wakeboards technology. They seem to be very functional designs with a whole bunch of potential to be seen as an apex high performance design in the future.

One of Dan’s Simmon’s inspired planing hulls.

Dedina: Explain what the hydrodynamic principle means for surfboard design and surfing in general?

Thomson: Broadly speaking, you can apply some sort of hydrodynamic principle to any surfboard. More specially describing a hydrodynamic planning hull is a board designed to minimize drag through several different streamlining methods including utilizing a parallel rail line from nose to tail with a wider nose tail profile and straight-line fin placements

Dedina: What materials are you working with right now?

Thomson: I have always been a firm believer in epoxy resin for its strength, durabilty and flex memory. I am currently working with XTR (closed cell styrofoam) Epoxy and several applications of vacuum bag carbon fiber.

Dedina: You are shaping boards for WQS surfer Stu Kennedy. How did that relationship come about and how do you work with him in terms of giving and receiving feedback?

Stu Kennedy with his Tomo quiver. Photo courtesy Tomo Surfboards.

Thomson: Stu has been a close friend from my hometown of Lennox Head so I have shaped for him quite a bit in the past. When I was home visiting in March, I showed Stu some of the latest boards. He was pretty blown away on how they surfed, and he has barely set foot on a regular short board since he tried one.

Since I shaped him a new quiver of the MPH’s he has been dedicated to riding them in high-level completion as he feels he can achieve his best performances on these boards. He recently placed 9th in the 6 star WQS in England and a 17th in the U.S Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

Dedina: Are most pro surfers too conservative with the boards they are riding?

Thomson: Most definitely. The cutthroat nature of competition doesn’t nurture experimentation. Most elite surfers have grown up there whole lives riding one style of design and is not confident riding something unorthodox. Most are jaded to the fact that there could be a left field design out there capable of performing better, so they tend not to have faith in something new. Things are changing though.

Dedina: There’s a photo with Kelly Slater and you when you were a grom and more recently Kelly commented on the boards you shape for Kennedy. How has Kelly’s surfing and his own departure from pro surfing surfboard orthodoxy influenced your own career as a shaper and a surfer?

Thomson: I have always been experimental in nature with my equipment so I haven’t so much been following Kelly design wise. However his surfing is what inspires me most to figure out ways to improve my design to allow me to surf at higher levels.

Dedina: Where do you see yourself going with your shaping career? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Thomson: I would obviously like to be successful. I am more of a surfer/designer than a ‘shaper’ so hopefully I will be surfing more and not be a slave to the shaping room. I have always done it for the love of surfing and a healthy creative outlet. So as long as I am doing that, I will be happy.

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