Take A Break To Save One

posted by / News / March 19, 2009

3000 people. That was the estimated number of attendees at the San Diego “Save Trestles” rally last spring, sparking a surge of momentum to keep So Cal’s top surfing epicenter free from toll roads. Little over a year later, that battle’s over — some may say ‘paved over’ — but on the other side of the country, another one continues, affecting a surfing region that’s equally important: Cape Hatteras. And you have less than a week to join in the fight.

It may not be the industry’s backyard, but for more than four decades Cape Hatteras has served as the dominant beacon of East Coast surfing. It’s the home of the ESA Easterns, the place where every single homegrown ‘CT player scored their first major amateur title. It’s the same region that produces all those heaving tubes you drool over each hurricane season. And for those who grow up between Maine and Miami, it’s often the first surf trip, the routine family vacation, the very soul of what’s best about Atlantic wave-riding: lots of peaks, pitching lips, and heaps of space. When we call it “sacred,” we’re not just speaking for thousands of East Coasters, we’re quoting them directly – or at least three of them – namely the Hobgood brothers and Kelly Slater. In fact, Slates goes so far as to call it a “Mecca for Easterners and all US surfers alike.” (You can read their full letters here.)

Without going into too much detail or history, right now a huge chunk of this ‘mecca’ faces being shut-off because of an overzealous lawsuit by the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, claiming to protect turtles and ten bird species (piping plovers being the primary concern). Closed not just to Off-Road Vehicles (aka ‘beach driving’), but pedestrians, as well. In some cases, the breaks threatened are among best waves around; in others, they can be the only rideable spots for hours. And from now through August, you might not get within miles of them. Furthermore, these restrictions could remain in place for the next 30 years, despite the following facts:

1.{{{90}}}- 98% of the morality rates attributed to the animals is due to predation and weather – not ‘human contact’ (which includes everything from ORVs to loose dogs.)
2.Of the 21 documented ORV-related plover deaths in the US, 20 were committed by federal vehicles; and no deaths have been documented in Cape Hatteras.
3.Humans actually scare off the very predators that are killing the bulk of the birds.
4.The increased closures have produced no increase in local animal populations whatsoever.

Trip Forman, one of the owners of Real Watersports in Rodanthe, represented surfing, kiteboarding, and the every other water sports activity over two and half years of meetings between pro- and anti- access groups, before they officially finished last month. His take?

“The number one thing killing everything on Cape Point is storm overwash and predation. Those two are responsible for between 90 and 98 % of the losses. So they’re focusing their whole recovery plan on 2% to 10% of the problem. And anyone who runs a business or some other project will tell you that the 90% to 98% is where you focus your time and effort. We’re on the very southern edge of the plover recovery plan, of which we’re a single digit percentage. So a national park is being closed to citizens in defense of a micro-percentage of a species that – while it’s making a comeback in its other habits – is having no difference right here either way. We want the birds to flourish. We want the turtles to flourish. But the problem with this process is nothing’s flourishing. So what we want is for the park to look toward this situation with a ‘net gain’ approach: find a way where the wildlife gains, the users gain, and the businesses gain. We believe there’s a way to do that.”

With the meetings over, the next step is for park officials to determine which areas to keep open and which ones to close seasonally. They’ve already heard from thousands of fishermen, birdwatchers and other beach-lovers speaking up for their favorite spots. Now we need thousands of surfers to speak up for theirs. We’re not asking anyone to sacrifice eight hours of your day and hold up a protest sign; all you need to do is send your name and hometown to this email:

SaveCapeHatteras@realwatersports.com

Trip will the include them all in his final submission to the park on March 25. If you happen to have some positive personal insights, feel free to include them; and if you happen to be a pro surfer or industry big wig, please put your title, as well. Remember: No ‘plover-hating.’ The whole purpose here is to clarify to decision-makers just how important surfers are to Cape Hatteras as lifelong coastal stewards — and how important Cape Hatteras is to surfers lifestyles and livelihoods.

And how important is that? Well, somewhere between accepting his ninth world title and beginning his assault on number 10, Kelly Slater – the busiest man in the sport, at the busiest time of the year – took a minute to stand up for what he considers one of the most important waves on the planet. All we’re asking is for you to do half that much.

For the full conversation with Trip Forman about the ins and outs of the decision-making process — as well as {{{CJ}}} and Kelly’s full letters — go to the Surf-First blog.

For ongoing coverage of the issue, monitor IslandFreePress.org; and for a history of the fight, the lawsuit, and how a recovering species of birds is being used under false pretenses to limit access, click here.

And to help make sure the next time we face an access fight we have hard data to proves surfers are as important as the next user group, go to Surf-First and take the survey. If you have already, tell someone else.

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