Parades and Races

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Jim and I survived the constant barrage of precipitation as we joined our friends to support and promote Clean Ocean Access in the annual Newport St Patrick’s day parade. While we were out on the parade route I realized that walking in a parade has a lot of similarities to running a 5k.

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Of course there is the obvious, both have a start and a finish. At both the start and finish of a parade and a race you will find spectators who cheer for you as you go along the course.

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The next and maybe a little less obvious similarity is the beer. Many of the races Jim and I did over the years were accompanied by beer either during but usually after the race. This similarity could be because this was a St Patty’s Day parade but there was definitely lots of beer and other beverages which Dionysus would approve.

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Finally and probably the most important similarity was the sense of community. One of the things I love about road races is how it brings people together. Even though there was rain falling from the start of the parade to the finish, people still came out to the streets of Newport to celebrate this fine holiday.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day.

Patience

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Jim is part of the seaweed analysis program with Clean Ocean Access.  Every Saturday he and a group of people head down to the beach to see how much seaweed is on the beach.  They are interested in finding out if there is something we are doing to make the seaweed grow and end up on the beach.

 

Since my injury most Saturdays I stay at home with my foot propped up on a pillow. I sit and watch television, do some reading, grade stuff, or write.  Today was beautiful.  The thermometer read over 50° so I went to the beach with Jim. Why not enjoy the ocean view while reading my book and listening to music?

 

For a while I watched the surfers.  Something occurred to me as I watched them, something I know but I had forgotten. A lot of time out in the water is spent sitting and waiting patiently. Sometimes it is waiting for your turn. Sometimes waiting for the next set. Sometimes waiting for your arms to recover so you can try paddling again.

 

Not only is there a lot of waiting, there is trial and error. There are times when you paddle and miss the wave. When you do you have to go back out and try again.

 

The sport takes a lot of patience.

 

I’ve spent months out of the water. But sitting today and watching was a great reminder. Right now I am just between sets.

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For Love of the Ocean

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I tend to believe things happen for a reason. One day I caught an interview with David Gessner the author of “My Green Manifesto”. Gessner suggested an alternative approach to environmentalism. His premise is people will do more to protect the environment if they care about it. To get people to care about the environment people have to spend time outside in nature.

Surfers fit nicely into Gessner’s hypothesis. They spend a lot of time in nature. The ocean is their playground and they are more likely to fight to protect it. When people mess with surf spots, surfers mobilize to protect them. Trestles and Ruggles are great examples of this.

While the surfing community puts up a good fight for the ocean, the reality is there are not many surfers in the world. With a population of over 7 billion people, it is estimated only one third of one percent (0.3%) are surfers. Even though nearly 80% of the people in the world live within 60 miles of the coastline, few join the surfing ranks. Surfing tends to be an insular community; family or friends who surf introduce most new people to the sport.

The challenge is getting more people to use the ocean as their playground. What better way than to share the stoke.

After listening to Gessner’s words, I skipped drafting my manifesto and jumped to action. My goal: take kids who don’t usually get a chance to go surfing out for a day in the waves. My hope: the kids would fall in love with our local beach and want to preserve it.

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While surfing would be the main draw of an event like this, I wanted it to be more. My hope was to create a sense of responsibility in keeping the ocean clean. In order to make that happen I worked with Save the Bay and Clean Ocean Access, groups dedicated to preserving our coastline and beaches, and Island Surf and Sport. Together we created a day centered on learning about marine life, keeping the beaches clean, and surfing for kids from the Boys and Girls Club.

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At the Save the Bay Exploration Center the kids from the Boys and Girls Club were allowed to touch and handle several species of animals found in our local waters. While the kids acted squeamish about touching the spider crab, horseshoe crab, sea anemone, dogfish, and skate their curiosity outweighed their apprehension and they eagerly took the opportunity to find out what these animals felt like.

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After learning about the animals in the water, it was time for a beach clean up. Clean Ocean Access transformed their traditional clean up into a scavenger hunt. The hunt targeted items that are commonly found on our beaches such as cigarette butts, pieces of plastic, and plastic bags, which can harm ocean birds and animals. Turning the clean up into a competitive scavenger hunt appealed to the kids, they took pride in trying to outdo each other on what they could find. At the end the kids boasted they found a baby diaper and a potato chip bag.

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The reward for a clean beach is surfing. Island Surf and Sport donated boards and wetsuits. After a quick surf introduction on the beach, we donned our wetsuits and headed into the water. The waves were friendly and generous. The kids took to right to surfing. Their stoke was evident by the smiles that never left their faces. Each of them rode waves on their knees, bellies, and feet. After each wipe out, they quickly hopped on the board and paddled right back for another wave.

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The day was a success. We learned about the water, cleaned the beach, and got stoked.

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A lot of surfers complain about the ever-growing line up and competition for waves. Some people don’t want to welcome new surfers into the fold. But we need new people to love the ocean and to fight for it. Surfing is a great way to start the love affair.

Gessner’s manifesto is pretty simple: go outside. Our surf event followed that guidance, we took some kids outside, and our hope is they develop a passion for the ocean.

Ruggles, the Real Cost of Localism in Surfing

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Ruggles Ave

Up until a few weeks ago the wave at Ruggles Ave in Newport, RI was kept in obscurity. Few people knew about the break. The local surfers kept it quiet; they did not want a crowded lineup. Then the fate of the wave was in question. Hurricane Sandy damaged parts of the famed Newport Cliff Walk. In order to repair and protect the walk the Rhode Island Department of Transportation proposed building a stonewall that would serve as a break wall. To complete the construction 200-foot temporary causeways would need to be built. The causeways would sit in the middle of the surf break at Ruggles.

The Newport surf community was up in arms about losing their wave. Sid Abruzzi headed an effort to stop the construction. With the help of Clean Ocean Access, they started a petition via change.org, which got over 6,000 signatures from around the world. Abruzzi was featured in several newspapers around the country, speaking about how important the wave is to Newport. The effort was successful, Ruggles was saved.

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While the local Ruggles surfers appreciate the attention and effort to save the wave, they have a dirty little secret, they don’t want people to come surf their wave. After talking with non-Ruggles surfers in the community and researching the spot via the web I discovered numerous accounts of tires being slashed, cars being keyed, and people being physically threatened. These tactics were all means to regulate the number of surfers in the lineup.

Another tactic was refusing to reveal the name and location of Ruggles. Numerous articles were written about Newport surfers, and at the request of the surfer the name of the break location was not included.

In all the commotion to save Ruggles, the crew failed to stop and listen to what was really going on. The head engineer from the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management was against the proposal. The Newport City Council was against the proposal. The opposition was because the proposed construction could impact the economy of Rhode Island.

Hospitality and tourism is the second fastest growing industry in the state and currently ranks fourth overall. The tourism industry brings $2.31 billion into the state and supports over 66,000 jobs. Newport is one of the main draws to Rhode Island, with the Cliff Walk being one of the crown jewels, attracting an estimated 800,000 visitors annually. Altering the Cliff Walk had the potential to impact tourism for the state. The risks of the initial proposal far outweighed the gains, which made it unrealistic and unlikely.

While the construction proposal was probably not going to happen, if the wave at Ruggles was really at risk, the localism of the Ruggles surfers would have be one of the biggest threats to the wave. There are two camps in the Newport surf community, those who are welcome at Ruggles and those who are not. The not crowd is the larger of the two. The result of this rivalry is many surfers were apathetic to the plight of saving Ruggles. The interest was in protecting tourism and the environment, not the wave. Many could have cared less about the surf at Ruggles Ave. The prime reason they did not care about the wave, it was difficult to care about something they had not attachment or connection with.

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Now that the Ruggles has been saved, there is a looming question; now what? With an outpouring of support from around the globe many people may feel a connection to the wave because they were part of the fight to save it. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the thanks those surfers get is a keyed car?