Perhaps it’s no shocker that Santa Barbarans like being in the ocean, even in October.
The crowd of surfers, locals, and eco-activists alike that gathered this weekend on Ledbetter Beach to celebrate the Surfrider Paddle for Clean Waves was undeterred by the chilly fall weather and pea soup fog. Dozens of participants followed Surfrider leaders out on boards and in kayaks to remember the importance of protecting our ocean.
Local nonprofits like the Santa Barbara High Dons Net Café and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper set up camp at the friendly picnic tables, but the star speaker was former pro surfer and local resident Shaun Tomson, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Surfrider Foundation.
“This is a wonderful community event, and we encourage people to paddle out for clean water,” he said. Tomson added that he was the first pro-surfer member of Surfrider, having been invited to join when the organization was founded in 1984.
Reggae band OneTwo Tree shared the stage with City Councilmember Das Williams and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Williams, who is currently making a bid for state assembly, stressed the importance of keeping the environment at the top of our politicians’ lists.
“We need to keep sending the message that we want to keep the ocean clean,” he said. Added Carbajal in his speech, “It doesn’t have to be the economy or the environment—they can both win.”
The group then paddled out and formed a healing circle in the water; in a surreal twist, a pod of dolphins arrived to surround them.
Among the Surfrider members present was Jared Lux, a 15-year-old sophomore at Santa Barbara High who helped organize the event. “I believed that this event had really good intentions and that it tried to do good things for the environment,” he said. A member of Surfrider since 7th grade, Lux joined other local youth ranging in age from preschool to high school.
The Surfrider Foundation is an international nonprofit that works to protect our oceans and beaches and has over 50,000 members. This is the fifth annual paddle-out in Santa Barbara.
The Santa Barbara Channel has long been loved by surfers, although it faces stress from environmental degradation. Surfrider is working locally to clean up our waters and improve the waves for our—and our children’s—futures. Said Williams, “The threats are not just what you can see—they’re what you can’t see too.”
Our water is hiding the damage of decades, but Surfrider has arrived to bring healing and hope to the surface.