The evolution of stand up paddle is creating the worlds next environmental advocates. As more paddlers explore their own local waters more is being uncovered on what is polluting our liquid playgrounds. Did you know the United States has 13 National Marine Sanctuaries? Four of which are located on the California Coast. These protected waters are the underwater versions of our US national parks.
Most would think these ocean nirvanas wouldn’t be challenged by plastics, chemicals, and even cruise ships. The truth is they are. There are definitely visual elements involved with our oceans, once plastics and trash are pulled in they go out of sight, out of mind. The thing is, stand up paddling has created a new view on how we see water and what is polluting it. The majority of trash that ends up in our oceans, lakes and rivers comes from a land based location.
The primary area I paddle is the Monterey Bay and Carmel Bay. These locations are part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I visualize the Monterey Bay as the heart and the network of rivers and sloughs that feed into the Bay it’s arteries. The more rain we get the more trash flows into this marine habitat. Many tourists from around the world come to see this beautiful location and many tourists don’t understand that littering in these areas is actually killing the Marine life. Plastic is being ingested throughout the food chain: fish, seabirds, seals, dolphins, whales, sharks and humans.
Brent Allen cleaning up in Monterey, CA. | Photo Courtesy: Brent Allen
Get involved with your areas coastal stewardship groups and get educated. These are a few organizations that have helped me understand the problems at hand:
Learn your water at a new level and what lives in it. Over the years I have picked up coastal maps for preparation in doing longer adventure paddles. I have paddled the Monterey Peninsula and sections south into Big Sur. As a waterman, understanding the annual cycles of surf, beach erosion, currents, underwater topography, marine life habitats, beach locations, and water safety is invaluable.
Attend meetings open to the public on specific issues being addressed at city council meetings, meet with your congressman or woman. There are many great documentaries that incapsulate all aspects of ocean advocacy. You can find a good mix posted on my website www.brentallenoutside.com under the education tab. Pick a specific area you paddle and lead by example.
There are several core things everyone can do that will help turn the tide. Start at home with reducing your use of single use plastics. Transition to using more stainless bottles, coffee tumblers, and cutlery. Simple things to reduce or stop buying: straws, plastic lids, plastic to go cutlery, and single use plastic water bottles. We are filling our oceans with an indestructible product that is growing like cancer.
Start your own stand up paddle clean up in your local areas rivers and tributaries that flow to the ocean. Data collection is critical in creating change. There are several apps available to log what you are picking up. These are the three I have used: litterati.org, the oceanconservancy.org offers one called clean swell, and specific to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary www.saveourshores.org offers an app.
Collaborative work with local businesses, non profits, state parks, watersheds, Marine monuments, Marine sanctuary’s, local colleges and universities. Invite people to go paddle and let them see things first hand.
Use your social media to bring awareness and educate.
“You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world.“ - The Beatles
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
Protect our oceans. Organize a beach cleanup! | Photo: Brent Allen
Brent Allen has been in the lifestyle sports industry for over 20 years .His business Brent Allen Outside includes hosting endurance sport events , ocean advocacy initiatives, paddleboard instruction/guide services , consulting in the outdoor sports industry , and adventurer. Ocean stewardship in the Monterey Bay National Marine sanctuary is becoming my top priority.Website: www.brentallenoutside.com