The Good The Bad And The Ugly

posted by / News / December 22, 2008

We know, we know. Surf-First asks a whole lot of questions. It makes your brain hurt to remember all that. And well, it’s not nearly as fun as, uh, googling yourself. Besides, we already saved Trestles, right?

Well, Trestles is just one issue out of hundreds. And if you think a 15-minute surfing survey is excruciatingly boring, try sitting through a two-hour city council meeting. Or picketing a polluter for weeks on end. Or writing your elected officials. Or going door-to-door asking folks to sign petitions. That’s what you call real effort. Acts that require hours upon hours of energy and still seem to lead to another meeting or protest. This survey? Do it once and your work is done. We take it from there, collecting the data and crunching it so we can better understand who the surfers are and how they use your favorite spots —spots that could be threatened without you even knowing about it. And in case you still think even that 15 minutes is a waste of time, the info we’re seeking is the exact type of data that helped beat the toll road. Here’s three more solid examples where the little bit of info we ask for has helped, where it’s hurt — and a future struggle that’s gonna require every scrap of effort to avoid the ugliest stain of all.

THE GOOD: Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Solid research didn’t just make beating the Toll Road feasible. This fall – nearly five years after being designated in 2004 – Tres Palmas Marine Reserve took it’s last step into becoming the second marine protected area with surfing included as part of the reason for its existence. All thanks to an active population of waveriders like Surfrider’s Leon Richter, surfing scientists such as Ken Lindeman. One of the key tools to saving one of the world’s great big wave breaks —and one of the last remaining elkhorn coral reefs in the Caribbean —was economic information provided by Dr. Linwood Pendleton of USC, who showed free coastal resources as the community’s strongest economic engine, estimating tourist dollars being risked was greater than $51.9 million. The result? The coral reefs are now protected and Rincon remains a surfing epicenter. “That was one the reason I ended up getting my PhD,” says Chad Nelsen, who took the same theories to the recently successful Trestles fight. “And it was one of the key elements toward our developing a link between protecting the coastal environment and tourism, including surfers.”

THE BAD: Brevard County Beach Renourishment

Want to know what happens when beach managers don’t include surfers? Visit Cocoa Beach, where a beach fill project begun 2005 has now made sandbars so deep they no longer break during high-tide — the hours they used to draw surfers from across the state. That’s what happens when decision makers consider the tax revenue impacts of one interest group — like beachfront condo owners — but don’t consider the interest group they’re stealing it from. And if it can happen in the home of 9-time world champ Kelly Slater, it can happen anywhere “You have to figure there’s probably more surfers in Florida than anywhere but California,” says Sunshine State surf journalist and activist Terry Gibson. “But we can’t tell our political leaders how many or what they spend. We need to be able to walk into and say, you didn’t factor this into your cost-benefit analysis, your permit’s bogus, and you’re going to go back and consider this or we’ll sue your balls off.”

THE UGLY: Offshore Drilling

It only took a couple months. First, Congress reversed the ban on offshore drilling this summer. Then formerly opposed politicians like Florida Governor Charlie Crist saw the poll numbers and suddenly decided exploration made sense. Now the states are lining up to mine it up, as the Minerals Management Service has initiated the first step for a potential {{{lease}}} sale offshore Virginia. With a public comment cut-off date of Dec. 29, you have less than a week to voice your opinion. And you better. Because North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware are all next, hoping some quick oil bucks will save their hurting budgets in these strapped economic times. Your job is to remind them that 1) gasoline prices are back to their lowest points in four years without a single new drill site (proof of how little America’s domestic production can affect the global market) 2) that lining our shores with rigs only guarantees an environmental disaster with every hurricane that skirts the coast 3) and that — most importantly – in these tough times, the real threat is gambling the sure-bet billions in tourist revenue that support every coastal community — provided the natural resources stay healthy. When Crist flip-flopped, he said, “”the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering.” Tell these decision makers if they want to see a real suffering watch their life-long tourist industries go sour in search of a quick buck. (Click here to read all the converging elements on this sticky issue.) The saddest part of this last fight is it literally has the potential to wipe every coastal victory off the map. And though surfers can’t fight it alone, we owe it to the other beach users – the fishermen, the birdwatchers and even the tourists – to donate our two cents to the struggle. The first step is showing just how may cents we really contribute So do your part now. And maybe you won’t have to pick up a picket sign down the road.

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