Haakenson: Pribram on his way to Tijuana for a great cause

Human InterestKelly SlaterQuiksilver IncorporatedConverse, Inc.

Right now, there's a good chance Laguna Beach's James Pribram is on a standup paddleboard, off the Southern California coast probably in North San Diego County.

Whether or not he's having fun is debatable, but there is no doubt Pribram is doing something good.

Pribram, who has come to be known as the "Eco-Warrior" for his advocacy work for clean oceans and beaches, accepted an invitation to join the guys at Below the Surface, a non-profit organization that promotes water conservation and improving water quality in rivers and oceans.

Kristian Gustavson and Jared Robinson Criscuolo of Below the Surface invited Pribram to get on a stand-up paddleboard and participate with them in the "Trestles to TJ" project. That's right – paddleboard from Trestles to Tijuana.

The project is part of their Clean Water Initiative to raise awareness of sewage spills, plastic pollution and urban run-off at the watersheds of South Orange County and San Diego County.

The paddle also will help raise money for the development of SickSurf, a new smartphone app and online database that will allow users to report when and where they got sick after being in the water.

Pribram started the paddle by himself last Friday, getting on his paddleboard in Laguna and paddling south to the San Mateo River Mouth at Trestles, where he'd meet up with Gustavson and Criscuolo.

Also joining the fellas was Jodie Nelson, a former pro surfer who runs Paddle with a Purpose and provided the SUP boards for the trek. The plan is to paddle about 10 to 15 miles a day, camp out on the beach overnight, and reach the Tijuana river mouth near the border by Saturday.

It's no coincidence the paddle ends there, as it's the most polluted river mouth in the country.

"They called me up a couple of days before it was going to start and it was, you know, they're great guys, it's a great cause, let's do it," Pribram said.

By now, the paddlers certainly are feeling the burn in their shoulders, but they're otherwise prepared, equipped with wet-dry backpacks, hydration packs and a flotation pack.

"With all that gear it starts weighing you down," Pribram said. "It definitely makes paddling difficult, but luckily Quiksilver (Pribram's new sponsor) has the most outstanding technical equipment. I'm outfitted with all the most technical gear, so it definitely makes it a lot easier and safer. And besides, if it gets that bad, you just come into the beach and wait it out a while."

In fact, Pribram says this project is a walk in the park compared to the last time he met up with Gustavson and Criscuolo.

"I was with them when we took a canoe down the Atchafalaya River two years ago," he said. "That was an insane trip. We paddled a canoe 85 miles down the river in Mississippi. It was snowing on us, and raining the whole time. But it was such a great group of adventurers."

*

The 2012 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing gets underway Saturday and continues through Aug. 5, with 750,000 fans expected to show up for the surf, skate and music party.

There's always excitement surrounding 11-time Assn. of Surfing Professionals world champion Kelly Slater, wondering if — at age 40 — this will be the final time he competes in Huntington Beach.

The women's competition in this year's Open though lost a little luster with the crowning of Stephanie Gilmore as the ASP women's world champion on July 14. Gilmore clinched the points championship when she won the Roxy Pro Biarritz in France, making the Open — the final event in the seven-event women's series — a little less dramatic, although the $15,000 first-place prize money is certainly worth shooting for.

Courtney Conlogue, a Santa Ana native who attended Sage Hill School in Newport Coast, has been in the thick of the women's world championship race the whole way. She placed fifth in France and is in fifth place overall. She's also a former U.S. Open women's champion, so it would have been cool to see her compete for the world title at her home break.

Still, the U.S. Open is the biggest surfing event in the world, even if the waves don't always cooperate. The men's draw is always loaded, even though it's not one of the events on the ASP World Tour schedule. It's considered an ASP Prime Event, but the prize money doesn't get any bigger — $100,000 to the victor.

Besides the surfing, the Open will also have Converse Coastal Carnage, a pro/am skateboarding competition that will feature some of the world's best skateboarders competing in a state-of-the-art skate bowl for $90,000 in prize money.

"The U.S. Open of Surfing is the epicenter for action sports culture," Sandy Bodecker, the VP of Nike Action Sports, said in a statement. "This year we will introduce the biggest stadium in surf and largest skate contest on the beach as the top action sports athletes, art and music talent hit the sand in Huntington."

JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Human InterestKelly SlaterQuiksilver IncorporatedConverse, Inc.
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