Take all of the surf conservation organizations (Surfrider, Surfers Against Sewage, Save Our Surf, etc…), throw in a handful of scientists, artists, filmmakers, and some of the top surfers and big wave riders on the planet, and put them all in the water at one of the best surf spots in England, – you get total stoke mayhem.  The conversations were as much informative as they were direct calls to action—from buying coastal land to spearheading legislation. What was clear from this conference is that surfers are united and their collective power is growing.

“The image of the stoned bohemian in a VW van is replaced today by lawyers, teachers, engineers, CEOs, politicians with sandy wetsuits drying in the trunk of their cars. Surfers are a collective force, with saving our seas in their hearts and minds.”

On the last day on the conference I had the opportunity to interview Ramon Navarro.  Ramon is one of the world’s most talented big wave surfers with a mission. He is working with Save the Waves to conserve as much of the Chilean coastline as possible within his lifetime, starting with “Punta Lobos.”  Their goal is to acquire and protect 23 coastal acres, and it’s working. Learn more about supporting them here.

Ramon Navarro and I marvel at this pre-plastic surfboard. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

Ramon Navarro and I marvel at this pre-plastic surfboard. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

As Ramon and I stood on the beach, the tide flowed in at the pace of a slow walk, and a woman in her 70’s climbed out of the water holding a wooden board.  “This was my mothers surfboard,” she explained, ” it’s around 80 years old and doing just fine.”  We marveled at the simplicity and efficiency of this pre-plastic invention.

Now the conference was over and like clockwork, at 5 pm EVERYONE from the conference got in the water; sometimes 20 people on the same wave surfing and laughing.  The sunset followed by pizza, beer and a few guitars in the hotel bar.

At 8:00 am 30 of us were on the bus for London, dressed in suit and tie for the House of Parliament, where two MPs are supporting legislation to protect more British coastline, but also to stop the horrible discharge of raw sewage into the ocean called “Combined Sewage Overflow” or CSO.  In the UK it’s the folks from Surfers Against Sewage, known for their inflatable turd, that are fed up with getting sick from being in the water and are working to flush this problem away.

Surfers Against Sewage and their famous inflatable turd. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

Surfers Against Sewage and their famous inflatable turd. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

5 Gyres is well aware of sewage overflow. Our 2015 Sea Change expedition, we sailed 3,000 miles in the N. Atlantic and collected our biggest and ugliest sample in the Hudson River.  It was full of condoms, tampon applicators, cigar tips, plastic toothpicks, a few straws and little drug baggies – really nasty stuff.

Sick of this $H!T? Are you finding these objects washing ashore on your local beach?  Then is possible that your city has a century-old sewage treatment system and is dumping raw sewage into your local waterway.  Here’s what you can do:

  1. Contact your local sewage treatment facility and ask them if they discharge combined sewage overflow, when do they do it, under what conditions, and if they have a system to warn the public.  Also, ask if there are future plans to update city plumbing to treat all waste.
  2. What’s the common plastic item you see?  Why is a tampon applicator with a high likelihood to be flushed down the toilet, made from plastic?  Why a plastic toothpick, or Q-tip?  These are design flaws and are objects to target because of the design flaw.  These products are where campaigns can start.

(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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