Surfing Soapbox: Reflections from the center of the Atlantic

It seems nothing more than a dream now that I am back in the comfort of home. At times it wasn't a dream but a nightmare. I suspect I learned more in those six weeks away from home than in the last six years, being confined to a sailboat with 13 people that was continuously thrown around like a toothpick in rough seas for nearly 32 days.

It was interesting watching people change colors like a traffic signal and being face to face with your ultimate fate. I have never had more honest moments in my life to evaluate who I was and who I want to become — a man of fewer words whose actions speak for themselves, because I don't think I could ever, even in my best moment of writing, tell you what it was like.

One minute I was on a beautiful little island in Brazil and the next I was being swept across the deck by an 18-foot wave, scrambling to hold on until my clip finally snagged, jerking me back like I was holding onto a runaway train. Feeling imprisoned, I would sit up on deck looking out at the ocean as if it were my life's canvas. I had never seen so clearly before.

Recounting all of the good times and bad, I drew inspiration knowing how many schools were following my journey. Remembering my own childhood days, I would love nothing more than to visit those schools and share my life's journey with the kids.

I love knowing and hearing how invested the next generation is in our environment and how each generation can learn from the one before them. We live in a fantastic community that cares not only for one another but for its environment as well.

Being some 2,000 plus miles out to sea and seeing the harmful effects of plastic trash floating by was mind-numbing. There is no "out of sight, out of mind" because there will always be someone who sees it. It is real. It's a sad reality that our oceans and beaches need our help more than ever.

It's time to sound the sirens once again. It's time to participate in beach cleanups, educate and look for better solutions to our everyday usage of throwaway plastics that never entirely break down. Plastics are just broken down to confetti-size pieces that are now scattered throughout our oceans and into our marine life.

It is said that only 3% of plastics are recycled and it is known that everything on land leads directly to our oceans. I have seen it firsthand on our beaches and in the middle of the ocean — literally — between Brazil and South Africa. I live with it every day, having contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) while giving a surfing lesson at Doheney Beach.

Separately we can all make a difference in giving back to our oceans and beaches, and together we can make an even bigger difference. After all, what good is the beach if we can't enjoy the ocean?


JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha

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