Our son, Arlo, has a limited vocabulary, but he's picked up new word lately and that word is "trash". While I'm happy he's communicating it makes me sad to realize that he knows about fifteen words and "trash" is one of them; the reason being that it is so ubiquitous in our lives. We spend a lot of our time enjoying our local beaches, and he's even warming up to the ocean itself, creeping closer and closer to the waters edge day by day. Unfortunately, I've become convinced this is where he picked up the word. "Trash!" "Mama, mama, trash!" He is one and a half and he's already got a well-trained eye, grabbing up plastic cups, straw wrappers, and cigarette butts like they're candy. He runs full speed to the bin and dumps them in. My little environmentalist.
A few years ago I was about to paddle out and noticed a man simultaneously wading in the waves with his kid and smoking a cigarette. As I watched, he casually flicked the butt into an oncoming wave and walked away. Gross? While we can't control the actions of other visitors to our hallowed playground/church/ocean/whatever you call it, we can at least do our part to protect the space we love so much. Here are a few things you can easily do to be a more eco-friendly surfer and human being:
Use biodegradable surf wax and sunscreen: Chemicals in traditional waxes and sunscreens are toxic, not just to your health, but to the oceans and its inhabitants' as well. In fact, they're one of the major contributors to the breaking down of the worlds' coral reefs. So, do your part and your research to find products that break down naturally.
Quality over quantity: Down with the Costco board! Purchase well-made items, and while you're at it, take good care of them. Rinse out your wetsuit, you lazy bum! Invest in quality goods that are built to last, even though you'll pay more for them. This includes everything from deck pads to handmade surfboard bags, which is why ours are handmade sustainably with eco-friendly materials and methods, and why we contribute to carbon offsetting programs. Oh and by the way, your beloved board is probably made with petroleum products, leaving a decent carbon footprint. It's also chock full of chemicals and will sit in a landfill until the end. of. time. So, treat it well.
Clean up as you go: Notice some trash in the water or on the beach? Do like Arlo does and tuck it away 'til you find a trash can/recycling bin. If you're into that sort of thing join a local beach clean up.
Eat responsibly: Love seafood? That's cool, but know where it comes from. The ocean is an ecosystem and over-fishing affects the balance of life. Choose sustainable seafood that considers the long-term vitality of harvested species, the health of the oceans, and the livelihoods of waterfront communities. Visit Seafood Watch to learn more about what you're eating and if you're doing your part.
Educate yourself and others: Climate change is real, and its affecting people and communities across the globe, including yours. Here in Southern California, scientists have predicted that iconic breaks like Trestles will soon experience a decrease in wave quality due to global warming and the melting of the ice caps. More seriously, five entire islands in the South Pacific entirely disappeared last year due to rising waters. You love the ocean, and it's sick. Get involved wherever and however you can.