16 October 2011


Last year for Blog Action Day, I wrote about water. While the connection between surfing and water is obvious, when I read that this year's topic is food, at first I didn't think I'd have anything to write about on my surfing blog. But on second thought, there are quite a few links.

Fish made of plastic beach trash
Our beaches are littered with the discarded containers of our convenience-food society. At the Jetty last Sunday, covering a short section of high-tide beach on my way from the surf to the road, I picked up an empty plastic Pepsi bottle, a large plastic 7-Eleven drink cup, and a plastic lid from a jar of pretzels, and deposited them in the roadside trash can 30 feet away. A growing number of cities have banned plastic grocery bags, but until more do, they'll continue to litter our shores and seas. I recently visited the Washed Ashore Exhibit at the Marine Mammal Center and learned of a whale who had been found dead with over 300 lb (136 kg) of trash in her belly. When coastal visitors choose the convenience of free plastic bags at the grocery store instead of bringing their own, beverages in plastic bottles instead of re-usable ones, or sandwiches in zip-lock bags instead of tupperware, and then don't have enough respect for the planet and other beach-goers to haul out what they hauled in, the result is non-biodegradable trash on our beaches that washes into the ocean to be mistaken for food by the animals who call it home. And that's a crying shame.

Ouflow from an abalone farm
Our food choices also affect water quality. Runoff into the ocean from agricultural operations can introduce pathogens that make surfers sick Fertilizer flowing from coastal farms triggers algae blooms that are toxic to some marine wildlife. While generally harmless to humans, some surfers, like my buddy Manabu, experience an allergic reaction to these "red tides." Large animal factory farms are a major contributor to water quality issues, especially on the east coast, and are responsible for growing ocean "dead zones." (For these environmental reasons but primarily ethical ones, I've been vegan for many years. It's easier than you think.)

Recently California banned shark-finning, an Asian food choice that has had devastating affects on the shark population. A variety of superstitions are spooned up with expensive shark fin soup, but the reality is that fishers cut the fins from slow-reproducing sharks and throw them back into the ocean to die, leading to a significant decline in the population. As a surfer with a niggling fear of being chomped by one of the Men in Gray Suits, perhaps attracted to the lineup by fishers casting bait into the lineup in search of smaller swimmers to fill their bellies, I admit to being a bit conflicted on this issue. After all, fewer sharks in the ocean means less risk of being mistaken for a seal in my mostly-black wetsuit. But I'm only a tiny bit conflicted; shark-finning is wrong, plain and simple, and I applaud my state for outlawing it.

Litter, runoff, finning and fishing: all ways that what we choose to eat affects the ocean in which we play.


  1. Good onya for picking up the rubbish and posting this. Poor bloody whale, shameful. I also pick up rubbish. At least I feel like I am doing something positive about a really negative situation.

  2. Good for you too, MF! Every little bit helps.