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Into the Blue

The personal passion about the ocean that abides along our coast is a testament to our relationship to the sea that surrounds us. Here, a guide to a sampling of Orange County's ocean ambassadors.

The final touch on the first Green Foam board shaped by Terry Martin is a signature with the words: "Go Green."

Surf Green
Ask the team at Hobie or your favorite
shaper or surf shop for a board made
with Green Foam and glassed with Surf
Sap. The other sustainable products
in this article are available at Hobie
stores throughout Orange County.
hobie.com :: greenfoamblanks.com
:: entropysports.com

Donate a Filter
To support Waves 4 Water, visit

Clean it Up
For a list of Clean Beach Stations,
visit helpbluewater.com

Pull Up a Chair
If you’re interested in attending
the 2010 SeaChange Summer
Party, visit seachangesummerparty.org

Splash! How Good Water Works
The attraction is open to the public
every Saturday and Sunday from
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Ecology
Center, located at 32701 Alipaz St.
in San Juan Capistrano.
949.443.4223 :: theecologycenter.org

The Filmmaker
Greg MacGillivray started out with movies about the ocean, and although his storied career has since brought him across the planet, from the the deserts of Arabia, to the frozen arctic tundra, to the dizzying heights of the Alps, the sea has never been far from his heart. In fall 2010, MacGillivray Freeman films will go back to the water by beginning production on One World Ocean in the South Pacific. The project, which is anticipated to take five years and is the production team’s most ambitious project yet, is being described as a “multi-platform epic” that will include a 40-minute 3D IMAX documentary, a 90-minute 3D theatrical documentary, an eight-part 3D television series, a Web series, and tie-in books. Over the next four years, as many as six One World Ocean production teams will travel to more than 40 locations around the world collecting images and stories about man’s relationship to the sea.

More than just a film project, a huge component of One World Ocean will be a social action campaign to help raise awareness of the threats that face the ocean and the ecosystems contained within it. Speaking on that aspect of the $35 million global media initiative, MacGillivray says, “If we don’t shake people up now with what’s happening to our oceans, we're not going to have the same magical oceans left in 40 years," MacGillivray says, adding that he feels more passion for this project than any other he has ever worked on. "Marine scientists predict that by 2050 there will be no more large fish left in the ocean if we don’t change our relationship with the sea," he explains. "I want One World Ocean to be a major vehicle for that kind of change.” :: macgillivrayfreemanfilms.com

The Green Surfboard Project
On a Monday morning in early August, Joe Santley, a maverick in the surf industry, ducked into a warehouse in Capo Beach to seek the approval of a master. The warehouse was the Hobie surfboard factory and the master was Terry Martin, the world’s most prolific board shaper. Under his suntanned arm, Santley held a slab of white foam that looked just like any of the other 70,000 board blanks Martin had put his hands to over the years. But this one was different in one very significant way: It was recycled. Martin shaped his earliest boards with balsa wood and has seen every new trend since, but this would mark his first board made from recycled polyurethane. The fact that it was possible is a credit to Santley and his business partner Steve Cox, whose company, Green Foam, markets boards made from polyurethane shavings intercepted on their way to the landfill. Although the idea of reusing polyurethane waste to make new boards had been kicked around for decades, Santley and Cox were the first two to really go for it — within a few days of their first attempts, they had proven that the concept worked.

As he looked down at the blank, Martin took a few minutes to wrap his head around exactly what he was dealing with. His delayed response is similar to that of other top shapers who have worked with Santley’s foam. This is because, unlike many companies trying their hand at building environmentally sensitive boards, Green Foam blanks look exactly like traditional polyurethane. After circling a few times, Martin started with a handsaw, then took up a power-planer to hew out the board’s general shape. A few minutes into his work, he abruptly switched off the planer. “So, what do you think?” Santley asked.“Well, it’s easy to work with,” Martin replied. “To me, this feels like a great success.”

Santley couldn’t have been happier. He’s received plenty of compliments on Green Foam, but to hear such a ringing endorsement from a legend like Terry Martin was ultimate proof that his product works. “You can’t tell a guy like Terry Martin what ‘is’,” Santley said later. “He’ll tell us. And for him to say that he likes it means everything.”

Santley was familiar with Martin’s work long before this monumental first meeting. He’s a student of surfing’s past — his father was a renowned surfboard glasser — a fact which has turned into Green Foam’s competitive advantage. Years around the industry have ingrained Santley with a deep understanding of the emphasis that surfers put on performance and their reluctance to part ways with the tried and true. Even though his boards use recycled material, they still have the feel that surfers are accustomed to. Green Foam boards are now being ridden by pro riders like Cory Lopez, something that makes Santley almost as giddy as Martin finding it easy to shape.

Back in the Hobie Factory, the master was still beaming. Over the past five years, since the breakup of industry giant Clark Foam, he’s seen other suppliers on the quest for the greener board come and go. Companies like Homeblown US and Ice-Nine have tried to make foam from sugar, corn and soy polyols, but the truth is that they haven’t performed, looked or felt the same as what surfers are used to. Santley’s process on the other hand, isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Instead, he simply collects and reuses the polyurethane dust created by major surfboard manufacturers, many of which are just steps from his San Clemente office. One of Santley’s main foam dust suppliers is Lost Enterprises, whose boards are machined first, then touched up by hand. In an interesting twist, a look inside the Lost warehouse reveals scores of Green Foam blanks waiting to be shaped then shipped. Santley is essentially selling their waste right back to them. And the dust created when the Green Foam boards are shaped? He’ll use that too.

After the board had taken its “rough shape,” Martin and Santley moved on from Capo Beach to Hobie’s new Dana Point store on PCH. The store features a glass enclosed shaping room where guests can watch shapers practicing their delicate art. As Martin settled in and continued his work, Frank Scura, the head of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition (ASEC), dropped by to watch the progress. Scura has been a major player in the surf industry’s push for environmental accountability and he and Santley are close friends. ASEC has gotten involved in multiple facets of the green movement — first by helping suppliers like Santley find a market for their products, second by convincing stores like Hobie to set up “Green Rooms” to sell sustainable offerings and third, by using Scura’s clout with action sports stars to make environmental stewardship “cool.” Scura compared watching Martin shape the board to “watching a child grow up and graduate from college as valedictorian. To have legendary shapers working with products that are sustainable shows without a doubt that the evolution of our sport is on track.”
Onlookers crowded close to the window of the shaping room as Martin got into the detail work, putting the final touches on Santley’s blank. But there was still the matter of glassing, which is typically done with polyester resin, a process that’s heavy on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Epoxy resins are a little better but come with their own laundry list of trade-offs. For a substantially less toxic alternative, Santley turned to Entropy Resins and their star product: Surf Sap. Entropy uses pine-based polyols made from a mixture of waste products derived from wood pulp and biofuel production processes. Like Green Foam, Surf Sap relies on the waste of other manufacturers. Their resulting resin, which performs just like traditional epoxy, has a 50% lighter carbon footprint. Guided by his love of the ocean, Entropy’s Rey Banatao doesn’t mind fighting for market share. “The surf industry is such a tough nut to crack,” he said, “the business side of my brain tells me it’s not worth it. But I’m still motivated to convince people that we can make environmentally sound products that perform even better than what they’re traditionally used to.”

Another industry veteran, Jeff Wells at UFO Glass, shared the stoke when Santley passed him the board and Entropy’s resin kit for glassing. After all, the glasser is typically the only one in the room when more caustic polyester and epoxy resins are doing their off-gassing. Once Wells’ work was done, the board went right back to Hobie for a few bells and whistles pulled from their extensive sustainable product line. The company has supported ASEC for years, and their Laguna Beach store was the flagship “Green Room.” A recycled rubber kick pad and a recycled leash made the board complete — that is until the beached-out teen working the register threw in a stick of biodegradable surf wax for free.

“Looking at that,” Santley said, admiring the final product, “I know it was all worth it.”

Scura was buzzing, too. “After watching that process, and seeing the excitement that people at the core of our industry had about building a greener board, I’m certain that we’re closing in on true environmental sustainability.”

Martin was almost zen-like in his appraisal of the board. Smiling through his white beard he said: “And to imagine that it was all just ‘junk’ headed for the dump.”

The New Site
The Surfrider Foundation has always been known as an organization adept at harnessing the energy and passion of ocean-lovers worldwide. This was on bold display at the end of 2008 when Surfrider spearheaded the fight to stop the 241-Toll Road, organizing activist groups with a precision that seemed to catch the Transportation Corridor Agency off guard. Now Surfrider is turning to its 50,000-plus members to help build and maintain Beachapedia — a living document in the style of Wikipedia. Speaking on the site’s importance, Mark Rauscher, Surfrider’s assistant environmental director, says, “Beachapedia tries to capture decades of experience and knowledge gained by Surfrider Foundation activists, scientists and staff. By sharing this resource with the public, we hope to provide tools and information to help communities make a positive impact on their local beaches.” :: beachapedia.org

The Water Cleaner
Jon Rose’s goal of getting clean drinking water to impoverished people around the world has always been tied to the waves. In fact, the Laguna Beach native’s work really took off when he handed off 10 ceramic water filters to victims of a 6.9 earthquake in the city of Pedang, Sumatra while on a surf trip. In August 2010, that bond to the ocean and beach culture was further strengthened as Rose’s organization, Waves for Water, announced a partnership with Hurley. Currently Waves for Water has helped more than 100,000 quake victims gain access to clean water in Haiti. Regarding his passion for the project, Rose, a one-time pro-surfer, says: “The thing that strikes a chord with me is that there are so many problems out there that we don’t have answers to. The water crisis isn’t like that. We do have the answers. You can go to a place with a suitcase full of filters and people who were dying senselessly due to lack of clean water aren’t dying anymore. It’s that simple.”

The Music Man
Rick Conkey, founder of Help Blue Water, knows that the easiest way to get people involved is to show them a good time. That’s why the work he’s done to clean up Orange County beaches and waterways has usually been linked to concerts and art festivals. One of Help Blue Water’s most successful programs has been the Clean Beach Station. The program gives supplies for cleaning trash off the beach to convenience stores and surf shops who will then hand them over (for free) to interested beach-goers. The program makes it easy for people to clean up the beach without having to organize a more formal effort. The program has been particularly successful with teens, who can take part in the program on their own schedule and pick up community service hours.

The Defender
Longtime activist and Orange County resident Kurt Leiber has made it his mission to protect California’s Coasts from “ghost gear” — discarded commercial fishing equipment that continues to pose a threat to marine life. His nonprofit organization Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) has two boats outfitted to clean up the bottom of the ocean, decreasing the unnecessary risks for sea animals while also helping monitor the activities of fishermen. :: oceandefenders.org

The Learning Vacation
With the goal of creating a new generation of environmental activists, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has partnered with world-famous aquatic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau to introduce his Ambassadors of the Environment program to Orange County. Ritz-Carlton’s Dana Point property now features a learning center and 15 different classes and activities, many of which are ocean based, in order to teach their guests about the importance of natural habitats and local culture. Each class is taught by expert naturalists and the weekly schedule features snorkeling through the local kelp beds and lessons on organic gardening. Cousteau hopes the program will have a lasting effect. “We expect everyone, by learning more about our natural world and their place within it, to return to their communities as environmental stewards," he says.

The Advocates
Oceana, the world’s largest ocean-based nonprofit organization, is clearly good at what it does. Over the course of the past decade it has had a string of incredible successes in helping to affect ocean-related policy change worldwide. It has also built a reputation for accountability to its donors — recently Kiplinger Magazine named the organization one of the nation’s top 20 most effective environmental groups. But ocean advocacy isn’t Oceana’s only strength... it also knows how to throw a great party. In September, Oceana is hosting its third-annual SeaChange Summer Party in Laguna Beach. Local resident and event co-chair Valarie Whiting describes the event as a chance “for Orange County residents to be part of the collective solutions to challenges facing the ocean.”

Founded in part by actor Ted Danson, the nonprofit has always been savvy at using high-profile friends to help spread its message. This year’s event will be attended by special guests Pierce and Keely Brosnan as well as Jeff Bridges. Their attendance won’t be superfluous either. Like other past SeaChange guests, the Brosnans and Bridges are true champions for the environment, and sincerely interested in protecting the state of oceans around the world. “They help bring awareness to the issues through media, excitement and buzz,” Whiting says, “but the fact is they wouldn’t come to the event if they didn’t have a passion for our cause. They are genuinely interested in the work we do.”

Though the celebrities are a nice touch, the real stars of the evening will be the kids. The event’s theme is “A healthy ocean is every child’s rightful inheritance.” Money raised throughout the evening — complete with a live auction, dinner and dancing — will go toward funding Oceana’s goals of securing the ocean’s safety for future generations. “More than anything, our efforts are about what legacy we’re passing along to our children,” Whiting continues. “Do we want to leave them an imperiled ocean? Or do we change the direction things are heading and take steps to bring back the ocean’s abundance?”

It’s no surprise to find that Oceana has joined the effort to carefully examine the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In August 2010, Oceana Latitude was dispatched to the gulf on an exploratory mission to investigate how the spill has affected life below the ocean’s surface. The organization’s Senior VP for North America Dr. Michael Hirshfield, is aboard the Latitude heading up a team of scientists, divers and videographers.

“Most of the public’s attention has been on the visible oil on the surface of the gulf and the beaches and marshes,” Hirshfield says. “Oceana wants the public to understand the impacts of the unseen, underwater oil that is damaging marine wildlife and habitats in the gulf and will likely continue to do so for years to come.”

The research of Oceana’s team will be used to help encourage congress to ban new off-shore drilling sites and continue to push for clean energy alternatives. :: oceana.org

The Exhibition
The Ecology Center, in a collaborative project with Hurley’s H20 Initiative, will open Splash! How Good Water Works, a free interactive exhibition which just launched at the end of August 2010 and will run for a year to bring attention to the more than 1,800 gallons of water the average Southern Californian uses each day. Visitors are greeted by a 13-foot-tall “Juggernaut monster,” a sculpture made of 365 five-gallon water bottles, standing in front of the entrance to emphasize our average daily water usage. Splash! also features interactive, family-friendly exhibits throughout The Ecology Center’s campus, demonstrating how water relates to everything we do – the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the lifestyle we live. The exhibition highlights 10 solutions to reduce our water footprint, including reusable water bottles and buying local and seasonal foods, among other daily behavior changes. “The world’s poorest survive on less than five gallons of water a day, and yet we continue to feed the Juggernaut monster,” said Evan Marks, executive director of The Ecology Center. “A daily water footprint of 950 gallons is a sustainable global standard. I’m confident that we can win this war on water scarcity, and The Ecology Center is committed to providing our community with solutions to decrease our water footprint.”

The Monitors
The biggest two problems Miocean has recognized with water quality testing in Orange County have been 1) the lag time between tests and their publication 2) the difficulty in getting that information to the public. Recently, the locally based organization has made incredible progress on both counts. New systems developed for testing allow results to be uploaded the same day as they are taken and monitors placed at beaches relay this information immediately to visitors. So far, Miocean has set up water quality monitors at Newport Pier, Corona Del Mar, Doheny, and Huntington State Beach. :: miocean.org

The Report Card
Over the past 25 years, Heal the Bay has developed into the best, most easily accessible source of information on California beach quality. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card ranks beaches across the state on a weekly basis. They also publish an annual report that aggregates data to show which beaches are at the top of the class and which ones flunk. For Orange County aquaphiles, checking Heal the Bay’s website on the way out the door has become as vital as remembering to put on sunscreen (and just as easy). Not convinced that staying updated on the current grade of your favorite beach is worth the effort? You should know that the grades are based on sampling fecal bacteria levels in the surf zone. So, yeah — if you want to stay healthy and are tired of sinus and ear infections, it’s important. :: healthebay.org/brcv2

The Photographer
Beverly Factor spends her life crisscrossing the planet, taking photos of the world below the surface of the ocean. Check out her exhibit Seaduction (also a coffee table book) on display in Laguna Beach at the Endangered Planet Gallery, 384 Forest Avenue Ste. 13 (upstairs in the Lumber Yard) through September 15.

The Artist
Most Orange County residents know Wyland for his paintings of lush seascapes – ocean ecosystems teeming with life. Less publicized is the incredible work that the artist does to preserve those same delicate underwater environments. His foundation, which is partnered with the Scripps Ocean Institute, focuses on education and fusing art and science to foster a new generation of environmentalists. The Wyland Clean Water Mobile Learning Center is a moveable classroom that goes to schools in order to teach kids the importance of protecting the ocean. Kids have the chance to investigate problems with water quality and take part in hands-on science activities. :: wylandfoundation.org

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