Strange and fascinating things surfers encounter

In part one I talked about surfing with fascinating water world creatures. Sharing the waves with them is a breathtaking experience that brings us back to nature.

We learned that dolphins and whales like to surf just as much as us. You also found out that you’re more likely to get struck by lightening then you are to be attacked by a shark.

Make sure you read More Than Surfers In The Sea: Part One, if you haven’t already.

Part Two

Surfing In A Sea of Shit

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

 – Jacques Cousteau

Creatures like dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles, stingrays, starfish, and countless others aren’t the only things sharing the water with surfers. The waves are officially contaminated, and it’s a serious problem.

Beaches are closing, marine life is dwindling, and our oceans actually have spots we call dead-zones. Surfers can even get sick and die from bacteria and viruses that thrive in heavily polluted areas.

In part two, we’re going to talk about things like surfing barrels of trash in Indonesia, the health risks of contaminated waters, facts about marine pollution, and what we can do to help address the problem.

Surfing Barrels of Trash

The disposable age has produced consumer convenience, but it has also filled our world with trash. Plastics such as bags, straws, and bottles make up about 90 percent of all floating trash in the oceans.

In places like Los Angeles, at least 10 tons of plastic contaminate the ocean every day. Every piece of plastic we’ve ever made still exists in some form, and half of our plastic is used just once and thrown away.

Here’s some info about the problem:

  • The US throws away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year.
  • 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  • There is an island of garbage twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean containing billions of pounds of plastic.
  • Until the 1970’s, the ocean was a legal trash dump for anything and everything, including radioactive waste.
  • The Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico have giant dead zones devoid of sea life.

In 2013, Zak Noyle blew up the Internet with a viral photo of Indonesian surfer Dede Surinaya. Zak

Dede’s trash barrel. Java 2012. Mandatory photo credit: Noyle/A-Frame
Links: @zaknoyle @aframephoto

filmed Dede in a perfect tube. Perfect, except for the wave being entirely made of trash.

The sick wave was in Java, Indonesia. As with most islands in the world, they have a huge trash disposal problem. With little to no access to recycling and a “use-once-throw-away” society, things aren’t getting much better.

Pollution, Drugs, and Deadly Diseases

If you go surfing in the wrong place, you could die. Not just from getting smashed against rocks or drowning, but from bacterial or viral infections, especially after it rains.

Surfers beware! An epidemiological study in Santa Monica Bay found that there is an increased health risk when swimming within 400 yards of a flowing storm drain. This is due to toxic urban runoff from waste, sewage, and industrial pollution sources.

Untreated wastewater is teeming with infectious diseases and enteric pathogens. Trash, plastics, and sewage all mix together to make urban runoff. One of the largest components of the deadly cocktail is chemical contamination.

Soil filled with toxic fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture mix with chemical runoff from the mining, fracking, and petroleum industries, contaminating the water supply.

All that combines with sewage, and we all know what’s in that stuff. Drugs … Yep. Pharmaceutical drugs enter the water cycle through bodily waste and direct contamination.

Antibiotics, painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, hormones, contraceptives, and steroids have all been found in the ocean and drinking water

Sick Waves Literally

If you surf near a city, or a coastline that’s potentially contaminated, you should wait at least 3 days after a storm to get in the water, if you get in at all. Especially, if you have any cuts or open wounds.

Toxic sewage and pollution that we create find their way into our ocean’s through leaching, leaking, or through drain pipes that we installed.

Chemicals and heavy metals kill off marine life in contaminated beaches. This creates a void of healthy bacteria and organisms in the ecosystem. Sewage and pollution in chemically contaminated waters create a breeding ground for deadly pathogens that causes surfers to get sick.

What are the most common surf sicknesses you can catch from contaminated beaches?

1.MRSA – “Staph” A superbug that is resistant to most antibiotics. Pro surfer Timmy Turner nearly died from staph infection when it attacked his brain.

2. Hepatitis A – Viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver that causes fever, rash, malaise, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, followed by jaundice.

3. Encephalitis and Meningitis – Deadly condition that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal chord. Bacterium and viruses from animal and human waste are typically the cause.

4. Gastroenteritis – If surfing near cities with no water treatment whose sewage goes directly into the ocean, or any city really, stay out of the water after the rain. Diarrhea, vomiting, and fever are caused by enteric pathogens from polluted and contaminated water.

5. Vibrio Vulnificus – A deadly saltwater bacteria especially dangerous to those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and horrible inflammation and skin lesions. Mike Funk died from VV infection after swimming with an open leg sore in Assawoman Bay Ocean City, Maryland.

6. Leptospirosis – A deadly bacteria from the urine of infected livestock. It causes high fevers, severe headaches, chills, vomiting, and can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, breathing problems, and even death.

Dont Shit Where You Surf

Don’t do your business from the surfboard. If you find your digestive system speaking to you, get out of the water. No one wants to catch a wave with a “floater” featuring last night’s corn casserole.

Cities and towns all over the world are dealing with pollution and sewage contamination. A lot of beaches are literally full of shit. There’s really no nice way to say that is there?

From Canada, to Brazil, to the Mediterranean. From Gaza to the Caribbean, we all have issues with contaminated water ways. Beaches are closing, sea life is dying, and we can no longer safely enjoy the surf.

We have to take responsibility for pollution and contamination now. It’s not just about cleaning it up, and It’s not an isolated problem either. It’s intimately tied in with widespread systemic unsustainability and corruption, and nobody is being held accountable.

Solutions and Conclusions

Here are a few tips that can help you change the way you and humanity as a whole affects the oceans, marine life, and the planet.

Reduce, Re-use, & Recycle

Reduce your use of toxic chemicals and pollutants like plastics and cleaning products. Please don’t let them get into the water supply.

Recycle as much as you can, and if you can’t, find a way to re-use materials. And please, don’t buy one-time-use disposable plastic products.

Eco-Friendly Cleaners and Bath Products

Household cleaners and bath products like shampoos, lotions, soaps, etc. can contain chemicals that are biologically hazardous to life. Use eco-friendly cleaners and beauty products that are safe for the environment such as:

  • Hair Products
  • Soaps, lotions, creams, etc.
  • Perfumes, colognes
  • Toothpaste
  • Kitchen & Bathroom Cleaners
  • Floor, Wood, and Glass Cleaners
  • Laundry Detergents

Awareness & Activism

Pollution and contamination are large scale, multi-layered plagues affecting humanity economically, medically, and socially. Furthermore, beyond damaging our own health, our activities are having disastrous impacts on marine life ecosystems and the environment.

If we all start at the individual level by doing what we can, it will make way for larger movements that can change the course of humanity. It’s going to take a collective effort to address all the issues of ocean pollution.

Talk with your friends and foster healthy discussions to raise awareness about the destruction of our sacred surf spots.

Become active in organizations involved in cleaning up the oceans. Support policies that hold industrially contaminators legally responsible for their pollution.  There are a number of organizations locally and globally that are aimed at caring for the ocean.  Many, such as Surfrider, are surfers who are protecting the coastlines and oceans.

Most of all give thanks and respect to mother earth and the oceans. It’s from her that life emerged, and it’s there that we return to ride the waves of the world.

Join The Discussion

Have you ever surfed in contaminated waters? Ever suffered the affects of toxic chemicals or diseases from polluted surf spots?

Do you surf near city or town after the rain? What do you think we should do about marine pollution problems?

Join the discussion and share with us your thoughts, experiences, and opinions on the topic by commenting below. Stay stoked!