Here are my top 10 ocean stories of 2012, on the OWOO blog. Number one was the Arctic. Check it out.
A polar bear swims in a sea with less and less ice. Photo: Florian Schulz.
First posted yesterday on the OWOO blog.
As a reminder of my time on the other side of the surfing coin, living in the mountains, riding snow, I still occasionally get powder alerts from various ski resorts. It’s a little painful when we’ve had a long flat spell and I sit down at my laptop to see Snowbird got 20 inches last night. Especially when the water temp drops, the offshores blow cold out of the canyons, and the north swells have yet to show – it starts to seem like all the chilliness is for naught. But then a slide like this comes across the light box and it all makes sense – yes, we have our white winters here at the beach too.
The OWOO Crew is a blog series that introduces readers to the people behind OneWorldOneOcean.com. As Online Editor, I figured I’d jump in first, so here’s my post, by Kimmy Helling and Sarah Bedolfe. (See original here.)
To kick off this blog series, we’d like to introduce you to someone whose work you are already familiar with from visiting this website. As Online Editor for One World One Ocean, Ted has a hand in everything that touches our site, from content to design to implementation to campaign planning to partner and contributor relationships. Between editing the blog, coordinating the development of infographics, and launching the online store, among other tasks, the new father still finds time occasionally to show the rest of the team photos of his adorable son, Cedar.
He is an avid surfer as well as a photographer, and we couldn’t help but notice that he also has a real knack for modeling. Without further ado, this is Ted:
No matter how far you live from the ocean, you live in a watershed, and your actions really do impact every waterway, from backyard creek to deep blue sea. Here’s a piece I wrote on the connection between mountains and sea for Nat Geo’s Education Blog.
I’m not normally one to bug people. When I saw Nathan Fletcher surfing Salt Creek this morning, I paddled over to the least crowded peak I could find and intended to leave him alone. But I got to thinking about that Teahupoo wave that recently got him the covers of Transworld Surf and Surfer Magazine, who called it the heaviest one ever ridden.
I had seen the mag in the grocery store, but hadn’t read the story, or seen this interview. I knew nothing more than that photo. So I got curious partly to hear what it was like, and partly to see how this guy would describe it.
He took a few seconds to respond, like he had to sift through some troubling imprints to access the memory.
After we had spoken for a few minutes I asked, “Did it hold you down long? Or was it quick but really brutal?”
He paused, looked up at me.
“Both…” he said, then trailed off, as if the memory had taken him somewhere he could only go alone. I sat there looking around at the glassy peaks bowling around us, and other surfers scratching into heaving two footers.
He then came back.
“I was surprised.”
“Surprised it was so brutal?” I asked.
“Surprised I came up.”
No qualifiers. Not, “came up so quickly,” or “came up without any injuries,” just “came up.”
He truly thought it was over.
Someone yelled, “Hey bro!” from the other side of the peak to the north of us, and hurried over, almost paddling over the nose of Nathan’s board, high-fiving him as he tried to finish talking to me, asking if he was heading to the North Shore soon. Nathan finished his sentence, said hi to the guy, and as a set was approaching we paddled off toward different bumps in the peaky, bending beach break morning.
That’s when it happened.
I got the sickest barrel. It was like shoulder high. I was so in there. Seriously. I even caught air on the kick out. It was epic. I think a bodyboarder hooted. There was a guy on the beach with a huge lens. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be in the next issue of Surfer.
And here’s proof I know what it’s like to eat it in the tube on a wave only slightly less threatening than Fletcher’s.
Photo by David Pu’u.
Method, maker of home care and personal care products, has figured out how to take plastic from the ocean and recycle it into new bottles for their products. This is cooler than it first appears.
Even though researchers predicted trash would collect in the north Pacific Gyre in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until Charles J. Moore, returning to California from Hawaii after finishing the 1997 TransPac race, sailed right through the Pacific garbage patch, that ocean plastic emerged in the public eye.
By now, the often cited “garbage patch twice the size of Texas,” is the well-known culprit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year, but scientists are just beginning to dig into the implications of plastic components like polymers making their way into our food supply through the sea animals that eat them. (Styrene monomers cause cancer, but that’s another story.)
There has been no shortage of efforts to remove the plastic from the ocean, and turn our plastic waste into constructive things before it hits the ocean. Moore and crew launched the JUNK Raft in summer of 2008, sailing from California to Hawaii, through the garbage patch on a vessel made of an old cessna fuselage and 15,000 plastic bottles. David de Rothschild and crew went one further and pulled off the brilliant Plastiki expedition in 2010, sailing a boat made of 12,500 plastic bottles – the amount consumed every 8.3 seconds in the US according to the website – from San Francisco to Sydney. Hug It Forward has leveraged kid power in Guatemala to build 12 schools out of plastic bottles. The City of Taipei went bigger and built the EcoARK out of 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles. The list goes on, and they’re all awesome.
Now Method has shown that creative use of recycled plastic is more than an attention-getter — it’s part of a successful business model. (They were in Target stores nationwide within 2 years of launching, and were the 7th fastest growing private company in the US in 2006.) They’ve teamed up with beach clean up orgs in Hawaii to gather plastic that landed there from the Pacific Gyre, ship it to their recycling partner Envision Plastics, and recycle it into bottles for their products.
William McDonough and Michael Braungart, writers of Cradle to Cradle, said that recycling often is not really recycling but downcycling – giving an object one more go around on its way to the land fill. True recycling is when something can be reused at the same level without degradation, indefinitely, like when Patagonia takes your old clothes and makes…more clothes.
Upcycling – taking something and transforming it into a higher quality or function, is even better. I would say taking bits of plastic that have floated their way to beaches in Hawaii, and turning them into bottles for Method products — eco-friendly hand wash, fabric softener, etc — qualifies.
End note from Method: “The point, of course, is not to clean up the Gyre. The scientists who study this problem will tell you there is no practical way to clean it up; the area is just too remote, and the plastic too small. The goal is to raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution, and to point us toward the solution already in front of us – using the plastic that’s already on the planet.”
Colin Philip walks around the Hine Moana, at anchor in Dana Point, climbing over railings, ducking under rigging, making sure everything is in place. He is voyage coordinator for six vakas, traditional Polynesian sailing canoes, which have sailed from Hawaii to San Francisco and are now on their way down the West Coast to San Diego. The mast broke on his vessel, so he will be towed to San Diego, while the rest of the fleet will sail. They are scheduled to leave in under an hour and tourists are still shuffling on and off the boats, asking questions, taking pictures.
Philip is an understated man who doesn’t seem inclined to the spotlight, but knows he needs it. His fleet needs it. The ocean they’ve sailed across needs it.
I never received a press release, or any other notification they were coming here. I only knew because of a Facebook post a few fays ago from a friend of mine who happens to be tuned into these kinds of things. There has been almost no fanfare from the ocean-loving beach communities of Southern California, which seems odd when something so unique as a fleet of six ancient sailing vessels come through the harbor entrance down the street. Philip cites a frustrating lack of PR planning, though he and the rest of the crew seem overwhelmingly positive. I offer to use my tools as a journalist to help however I can.
The crew members of this voyage, which began over six months ago, come from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Fiji, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. From their website:
We are voyaging to strengthen our ties with the sea, renew our commitment to healthy ecosystems for future generations, and to honour our ancestors who have sailed before us. As we sail our Vaka across the Pacific, we are respectful and gentle, always remembering our voyage motto: “Move your paddle silently through the water.”
The Ocean provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, life-sustaining medicines, and nourishment for our souls. Currently, our Ocean is in peril and these essential gifts are quickly disappearing…The Pacific is our home, our breath, our future. We can only survive if we come together as cultures, as crew-mates, to preserve the health of our ocean planet – Our Blue Canoe.
With the Okeanos Foundation, they are launching the “Vaka Motu” project, through which communities on remote Pacific Islands will build their own vakas in a carbon-neutral manner.
The Vakas have fiberglass hulls, but follow an ancient design and otherwise use traditional materials for the superstructure, sails and rigging.
Colin Philip, Voyage Coordinator, below deck. All crew sleep inside the hulls.
This would be the other modern addition to the Vaka. Colin showing me the 2 x pod motors that can power the canoe at 6 knots all day, from solar panels, as long as there is plenty of sun.
20 year old Fijian Setareki Ledua, the navigator on board one of the canoes. Make that traditional navigator. You know that cliche about navigating by the stars? This man does it, and can set sail from Dana Point harbor and safely land you thousands of miles across blue water in Hawaii, Tahiti, where ever. He was wearing his sheepskin jacket all morning — still getting used to the cold climes of Dana Point in August. That 1900W solar array is what powers the motors above.
Kalei Velasco, from Kauai, plays the ukelele for Perry Makiha, of New Zealand.