The Blog Aquatic » surf News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Surfers Find a Way and So Will Japan Fri, 01 Jun 2012 16:42:54 +0000 Nick Mallos

Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos

A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.

Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.

Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.

The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.

I spent my entire time cleaning an area roughly 3 meters by 3 meters, and I amassed a list of items most people find scouring an entire beach. After an hour of grappling concrete and sorting through driftwood, I finally grasped the enormity of the task at hand.

In both Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, I judged progress by the number of debris piles and the amount of land cleared of debris. But once the final truck tire or refrigerator has been removed, another cleanup needs to occur—a far more gargantuan one.

Toy found among tsunami debris at Gamo Beach

Credit: Nick Mallos

Millions and millions of smaller debris items sit in the infinite crevices created by fallen trees or broken concrete. The tumultuous waters that swept in entangled twigs, ropes, fishing line and an array of debris items that one could spend hours trying to disentangle.

When our cleanup ended, our efforts were reduced to a small pile of bags undoubtedly containing stories of Japanese lives. Some probably say our efforts were insignificant in the grand scheme of the recovery effort, but I respectfully disagree.

Much like the issue of ocean trash, these small, individual efforts, when measured collectively, have huge implications for the health of our ocean.

Cleanups will be needed here, as well as in Iwate, for a very long time. But just as surfers always find a way to reach the waves, so too will the people of Japan find a way to clean up and recover from this tragedy.

My Debris Counts

  • 3 ropes
  • 2 espresso cans
  • 2 flower pots
  • 12 plastic wrappers
  • 4” x 6” foam padding
  • 1 condom wrapper
  • 3 plastic bags
  • 9 miscellaneous plastic pieces
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 3 plastic lids
  • 4 plastic bottle caps
  • 3 plastic water bottles
  • 1 other plastic bottle
  • 1 toy Yoda
  • 5 balloon ribbons
  • 1 burlap rice sack
  • 1 tube of glue
  • 1 motorcycle helmet
  • 1 coffee cup
  • 5 lighters
  • 1 aerosol can
  • 1 noodle bowl
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Santa Cruz named World Surfing Reserve Tue, 01 May 2012 16:35:48 +0000 Guest Blogger steamer lane

A surfer catches a wave at Steamer Lane, one of the iconic breaks included the new Santa Cruz Surfing Reserve. Photo credit: flickr stream

On April 28, 2012, Santa Cruz received international recognition as a World Surfing Reserve– one of only four spots so designated around the globe. Santa Cruz joins Malibu, Manly Beach in Australia and Ericeira in Portugal on the list of honor.

Launched in 2009 by Save the Waves Coalition (based out of Santa Cruz County), National Surfing Reserves (an Australian organization) and the International Surfing Association, World Surfing Reserve’s official mission is to “proactively identify, designate and preserve outstanding waves, surf zones and their surrounding environments around the world.” World Surfing Reserves are dedicated only after a rigorous nomination and selection process that requires local communities to commit to ongoing monitoring and management, ensuring the surf breaks are protected into the future.

Santa Cruz’s application ranked highly on all World Surfing Reserve criteria:
wave quality and consistency, unique environmental characteristics, surf culture and history, and community support. Nearly two dozen surf spots are contained within the seven miles of coast included in the new surfing reserve. These include iconic breaks like Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point to the beginner’s spot where I surf whenever I can.

The new Santa Cruz World Ocean Reserve is located within the ecologically rich Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. National marine sanctuaries are special places designed to help conserve, protect and enhance ocean wildlife and habitats. Surfers in Santa Cruz are often treated to up-close and personal experiences with ocean wildlife. Where I surf it’s not unusual for a sea otter to be resting in the kelp or a curious sea lion to swim by as I wait for a wave.

Surfing is 20 parts waiting for and one part riding a wave. And the average water temperature in Santa Cruz, California is about 55 degrees. So it’s a good thing Santa Cruz is also the birthplace of the modern wetsuit!

If you could nominate a place to be named the next World Surfing Reserve, where would it be? Share your favorite spots below.

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