20 October 2014

The Orange Bucket

Today was a rare day when I didn't take the time to check the surf before I grabbed my board and shut my key into the lockbox hanging from my car door handle. The tide was dropping and I didn't want to delay. Nothing was breaking as I picked my way carefully down the steep path to the cobblestone beach, but a couple dudes had just paddle out, one heading to Sewers and the other to Henneman's. Must be something out there to ride, right?
Eh, not so much. The waves were small, soft and breaking shallow. I spotted an orange bucket on the beach at the base of the cliffs, just below where a few-million-dollar La Jolla house had been torn down and workers were busy preparing to erect a many-million-dollar mansion. Surfrider has a plastic art contest going on for Rise Above Plastics Month, and I decided to fetch said bucket to perhaps use in my sculpture. Not that I have much hope of winning the contest, which has a top prize of a Firewire surfboard. After all, this is not my entry:
Fish made from plastic beach trash at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito
This is (so far):
Mostly it's made from trash I collected at Surfrider's cleanup of Goat Canyon in Border Field State Park the weekend before last, with a few additions from Hennemen's: the "scarf" is a plastic bag that tangled around my leash like a strand of immortal seaweed. The border cleanup was a real eye-opener; we were within a mile of the beach, and there was an amazing amount of trash poised to wash into the ocean with the first heavy rains. Because garbage doesn't respect border fences.
Mexico is on the other side of the fence, but the trash is here
But I digress. After chatting a bit with the other dude at the main peak, about how us goofyfooters love it there and the appeal of Garbage (the break) at Sunset Cliffs, I finally caught a stoke-worthy wave and decided to end on a high note. Paying heed to the reef that was nearing the surface on the dropping tide, I made my way to shore, set Rocket gently on the stones, and walked back a bit to get the orange bucket. I picked up a few bits of trash and my board, then painfully stepped toward the cliff path on shifting cobblestones, stopping for more detritus along the way. By the time I reached the ascension point, I'd filled the bucket to almost overflowing, with two balloons, two straws, a potato chip wrapper, a fiberglass strip perhaps from a surfboard deck, a knee pad, one plastic Starbucks cup, a golf ball and odd bits of plastic.
A fitness coach and her charge saw me emptying the lot into a trash can at Calumet Park, and thanked me for doing a little cleanup. They got to talking about the gyres, and I politely corrected their misperception that they're floating islands of recognizable trash, explaining that sunlight photodegrades plastic into smaller and smaller pieces like this:
Photodegraded plastic is hard to clean up on land and impossible in the ocean
but the little bits never go away (at least not for 450-1000 years). I left them on a positive note from a film my Rise Above Plastics committee screened a couple months ago: scientists may have found a bacteria that eats the tiny plastic fragments in the gyre. Maybe they'll save us from ourselves.

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