Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seismic testing and oil drilling off the EC. Are the benefits worth the risks

I was extremely disappointed last week to hear that the government has decided to allow seismic testing off of the east coast to determine if there are enough deposits of oil to make drilling feasible.

Lets say for argument sakes that I agree with the oil companies that in the long term many jobs will be created and that oil production off our coasts will bring us oil independence and prosperity. Sure jobs are important and so is economic security but at what cost.

In the case of seismic testing and oil drilling off our coasts is concerned I'm not at all convinced it is worth the cost for a number of reasons:

First of all I think we are best served by looking for cleaner and more environmentally friendly sources of energy than by continuing to depend largely on oil as a main source of energy I feel we are only putting off the inevitable and pushing back the development of other energy sources.

In addition, whatever oil is found and put into production is years off and the financial impact is limited considering the number of jobs produced and I am concerned that what dollars do flow into the economy will not answer our economic problems to any great degree.

So when I consider the potential risks associated with the process I really don't see the value. It is estimated by the government that over 150,000 marine mammals will die from the seismic testing
activities alone. The deaths to those creatures especially the dolphins, whales and turtle will most likely be extremely painful ones. And while 150,000 deaths is the governments estimate the numbers suggested by experts suggest the number could be double that.

People especially children get freaked out when the see a single one of those creatures washed up on shore dead so imagine how they will feel when they wash up in great numbers. Hopefully they will be horrified and cry for a stop to the process.

I spent most of me career within the insurance industry and I fully buy into the theory of Murphy's law that suggests that despite our best efforts accidents will happen. I have seen cases and cases of it over the years that have created both small and large disasters. Take for example the Exxon Valdese and the BP disaster in the Gulf. As such, If we produce oil in the Atlantic we surely can expect a disaster at some point in time even if everyone is following all of the rules which as we know doesn't always happen.

My daughter is a zoologist and has been asked by the zoo she works at to be their representative for an emergency response team to be trained to handle the injuries to animals should a disaster take place. The fact that they are setting up such a team, which by the way is responsible, suggests that they are expecting a disaster could occur.

Lastly, the cities along our coastlines depend on tourism to keep their economies strong. We have seen how the BP Horizon spill effected the Gulf region in terms of tourism, health and fishing as well as the subsequent economic impact. Generally, families vacation at the same local year after year and if a disaster occurs and they are forced to vacation someplace else they generally don't return to their original spot.

So for me, I can't support Seismic testing and will let my voice be heard in opposition and if you agree then I suggest you let your voice be heard. Conversely, if you don't agree with me then that is your right but I just ask that you also consider all of the pro's and con's before you speak out in favor of it.

Thanks for checking in and hearing me out. Aloha, Paul

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting a spot wired and working things out

I'm sure everyone has been given a mathematical equation that is difficult to work out. Often finding the answer can take a great deal of time and effort and sometimes the answer is very apparent and is solved quickly.
From my years of surfing I have found that getting a place wired and figuring things out is much the same as figuring out an equation only if may take a greater physical effort to do so.
Sometime the conditions and the wave itself presents themselves with easy answers. The wave is just the right size and shape and has just the right power to easily launch me into the wave at just the right time and place to work it as best I can. Also, when riding at the same spot a lot it is easier to figure out what the wave is going to do and where it is going to break.
Fortunately/unfortunately it doesn't always work like that. I say fortunately because it would soon become boring if the wave did just the right thing all of the time and we wouldn't have the chance to call upon all of our skills and mental fortitude. I say unfortunately as often it becomes a frustrating endeavor to work things out.
There are times during a nor'easter or sloppy, big or strong off-shore days where it seems to take me forever to get the place wired and work things out to get even one good ride. While those sessions can become frustrating, finally working it out can be very rewarding. That is one of the reasons why I surf in almost any conditions including cold slop and often on one of my boards that isn't the best suited for the conditions at hand. I figure if I can somehow work things out on those days then it will make the good ones all the more pleasurable and easier to get wired.
I have some friends that only surf when the conditions "are right". While I understand their thought process to a point, I believe they are cheating themselves out of a lot of potential fun. Sure it's a bummer to have a bad session but after all at least it can be a good workout.
So I guess what I'm saying is don't let bad or difficult conditions keep you out of the water or from surfing a place you're not familiar with just out of fear of getting shut out. You just might surprise yourself and find mental and physical resources you didn't think you had.
Thanks for dropping in and see you again next week. Aloha, Paul

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Man/Women can not live on surfing alone

I have to admit that I love surfing a LOT. Even at my advanced age I still am a gremmie at heart and get excited before every paddle out. For a good chunk of my life, except growing up on Long Island and since moving to Jacksonville nine years ago, I did not live on the coast and did not get the opportunity to surf as much as I'd like to have. Having to do the nine to five bit for thirty plus years also cut into my surf time.

As such I suppose I'd have every right to surf every chance I could. Well I do get the opportunity to surf a great deal now which is great but I have to admit I'm glad I have other interests, that I like to occupy my time with like writing, painting, playing tennis and volunteering, that I believe make my life a great deal more enriched.

The fall before last we experienced two straight weeks of epic surfing conditions which were the result of two tropical storms churning off our coast for the duration. I ended up surfing for all but three of those days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed every minute of those sessions and surfed well but I was actually relieved when the swell dropped so I could get on to thinking about something else (And that wasn't just because I was surfed out and spent)

I guess in many regards It's good to live in an area where we get our flat spells between good surf events. Not only does it make those epic days even more special but it also gives us a chance to pursue other avenues that enrich us and others.

It must be even harder to stay balanced in an area that gets consistent waves all year long. That good surf would be beckoning and it would be tough to pass on yet one single day of ripable surf.

One Sunday a few years ago I went to a mass in Venice Florida and in his sermon the priest got on the retirees in attendance that spent every day golfing or sitting around playing cards or watching TV. he reminded them that there was a reason they were still alive and that it wasn't just to fulfill their own self gratification. He suggested instead that especially with all of their maturity and life experiences that they consider volunteering some of their time and sharing their talents with others.

I always try to keep that in kind when considering my own life. I would like to leave this world knowing I made a difference and made the best use of my time and talents. Having done so would make the memories of my surfing sessions all the more sweet.

Thanks for listening and I will catch you again next week. Aloha, Paul

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What makes a great surf spot

When I think about what makes for a great surf spot so many variables come to mind. Certainly the wave itself is a large contributing factor. Whether it be the size of the wave, the length of ride, shape, consistency and power all come to mind and certainly have a great bearing on how good a surf locale is.
While this is obvious there are other factors that for me help to determine how much I like a given spot that may not be as obvious. Some of those factors are my history with the spot, the beauty of the area, the climate, crowds, the vibe in the water (localism vs. acceptance), who surfs there (my buds), what lurks in the waters, bottom conditions and not least of which the cleanliness/health of the waters.
Thinking of the last item health of the waters Huntington Beach comes to mind. I have surfed the spot a handful of times and found it to be a great place to surf and a fun wave to ride. Unfortunately, at times, especially after heavy rains it has been closed for a period of time often enough due to water quality issues to be a concern.
From the standpoint of beauty and history I have to say my session at Steamer Lane about fifteen years ago was most memorable for me. The wave itself is a beauty, the rides are long, the challenge great and the scenery is awesome. I also found it a bit intimidating with all of the kelp, sea creatures and the difficulty of trying to get out onto the rocky cliff after the session. The wave itself however made all of that irrelevant in the final analysis.
I have to admit that I have never really encountered any serious localism in my forty years plus of surfing. Maybe it is the way I have of getting along with people or just have been due to being at the right place at the right time. Who knows. I know localism exists but I do believe is one is respectful and kind that it is less likely to affect them.
Crowded spots by and of themselves can create that feel however. I have always loved surfing at the VA Beach jetty but on a crowded day with good surf it is a dog-eat-dog as it gets. I usually can hold my own in any lineup but I must admit I will generally prefer a less crowded surf spot even if the break is not so good than fight for less waves at an out of control crowded spot.
One year I finally got to surf in Hawaii on the Big Island. It was an absolute dream of a lifetime for me to do so. Even though I would have loved to surf the North Shore of Oahu it was still Hawaii to me. One day I got to surf at a break in Hilo and the waves were good. The only issue I had with it was getting used to the coral/rock/sea urchin bottom. Being largely used to sandy bottom beaches it really got into my head at first.
As far as consistent breaks go I have to put the Outer Banks of NC at the top of my list. There are countless quality spots there and if one is willing to drive a bit then a surfable spot can be found on almost any given day.
Having grown up and learning to surf on Long Island at Gilgo and other beaches I always enjoy getting back there to surf. The waves are a well kept secret but most of all it just holds so many memories for me.
I have fond memories of surfing at York Beach Maine while living in NH but I must admit it takes a special person to brave those frigid waters on a year round basis.
In the final analysis while surfing epic waves and hurricane swells is a huge rush especially when I have a great session, I suppose the best times had and my most fond memories are of getting to surf with friends. My main spot is 30th Ave S, Jax Beach. There is a great crew there and a good vibe. Several weeks ago we experienced a day of solid chest + waves that were super long and clean. I have an awesome session but most of all enjoyed sharing it with my friends. In the final analysis I guess that I would prefer sharing marginal waves with them than great waves by myself.
So I guess as they say, beauty and fun are in the eyes/mind of the beholder.
Thanks again for checking in and catch you next week. Thanks and Aloha, Paul

Monday, June 16, 2014

Old Guys DON"T rule but......

Despite what the t-shirts say, and what we senior surfers would like to think, old guy's/gal's don't rule (unless you're Kelly Slater who will probably still be winning titles when he's sixty). The truth is, most sports are made for and performed best by the young. But just because that's the case, it doesn't mean you can't still perform, advance and rip when we get older.
When I started surfing in the sixties there really weren't many old dudes in the water. First of all it just wasn't around long enough and secondly it was thought to be only for the young. As time went by many fellow surfers dropped by the wayside thinking they were in fact too old to surf and it was time to grow up.
I didn't start competing until I was in my thirties and thought it would be  piece of cake to win in my division for the very reason that I thought most surfers my age had long since given it up. Boy was I wrong. It seemed like the ones who kept surfing were the good ones.
That's all changed as more older surfers are still out there and have found you can surf (if you are dedicated) for a very long time. What I have found however that many my age have either continued to ride longboards only or are content to do what they always have done on a board and don't challenge themselves. Fortunately there are the exceptions, guys and gals who continue to ride both short and longboards and let their bodies tell them what they can and can't do and not their minds.
I'm now in my sixties and my primary board is a 5'11" modified twin fin (actually quite light and performance orientated). I also ride a 6'2" baked potato model I shaped, a 6'4" thruster, a 6'8" mini gun and a 9' longboard I use on those days where it is the right thing to use.
When I asked my shaper Tony at COS to shape me a twin fin like I saw in the shop his first response was "there's no way you can handle that board. You're at least in your fifties and don't have the quickness nor enough upper body strength needed". I could have listened to Tony (after all I trust him and he knows his stuff) but somehow my mind still told me I could ride the thing..
I'm glad I went with my gut because I not only was able to ride the board in all conditions from small to overhead surf but it has enabled me to do things on a board I never thought I could.
I am fortunate in that most of my surfing buddies are WAY younger than me and they push me to keep up with them. As I don't want to look bad in their eyes I generally go for about as many waves as they do and also for the bigger sets.
There are times I forget just how old I am and as such set high expectations and am always trying something new. I think that more than anything keeps me young at heart. I'm no idiot (at least no doctor has told me so) and I know that one day the wheels will fall off and my old body just won't be able to perform the way I'd like but in the interim I'm going to be thankful for every session I'm fortunate enough to have and I hope when that day comes I will be OK with it.
I guess the crux of what I'm trying to say is just because we might be getting older, we shouldn't put mental limitations on ourselves and that we can always learn something new. After all, what's the worse that could happen?

As a parting note that kind of addresses the above, last Saturday I helped coach at the Florida Surfing Associations Wave (Wounded) Warriors event. I have been fortunate to have been involved with this for the past three years. All of the 70 or so participants certainly had a valid excuse for not participating but did so. It should be noted that every WW got their rides and went away feeling stoked and better for the experience. Paul West, who runs FSA and the program was told by the WW heads that the surfing events are the most enjoyed events of all by the vets. So I guess if they refuse to put ;imitations on them selves then so can we.
Thanks for dropping in and see you next week. Aloha, Paul

Friday, June 13, 2014

What do you love and how do you show your love

Certainly people (well at least hopefully they do) love their families, friends and possessions and would do almost anything for them even to the point of risking their lives for them. That's natural and expected but what about showing our love for other things like animals, nature, the environment and strangers.
Unfortunately we don't always feel the same way about those things and often take them for granted.
Talking about the environment and our oceans, lakes and rivers in particular, we often don't treat them with the love we should even though they and the creatures that live in them give us so much pleasure.
We have left trash, plastics and cigarette butts on the beach which end up in them causing pollution and harm to them and the creatures that dwell within them. We dump tons of chemicals on our lawns that end up running into our lakes, rivers and oceans making them sick.
Recently the Five Gyres group surveyed ever nook and cranny of our oceans and no matter when/where they dipped their nets they always found plastics. Toxic Runoff has caused sickness to both animals and people and caused numerous beach closures, and things like red tide.
If you're like me you've spent a lot of time either, boating fishing and/or surfing and have gotten great pleasure from those activities. And like me you've probably noticed changes in those things that are troubling.
For years those things troubled me but I didn't know what I could do about it. Fortunately in recent years especially since joining the Surfrider Foundation and the Native Plant Society and getting better educated on the issues I now feel like I can make a positive difference and give back to the environment and the things that have given me so much pleasure.
Whether it be joining in on a beach or lake/river clean-up, learning how Ocean/River Friendly Gardening can cut down on runoff and reduced use of chemicals and water, or learning how native plants can help with the above or simply using the principals of reduce, reuse and recycling we can make a difference.
All it takes is getting involved and showing our environment the love it deserves.
Thanks for caring and for tuning into my posts. Mahalo and Aloha, Paul
P.S. I promise next weeks post will be a fun one.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Passing on the stoke of surfing

This morning I was thinking about why we were put here on earth by God. I'd like to think it wasn't just for our own benefit and that we are here to love others, help make this world a better place and to be happy.

This weekend I will be teaching surfing to a large group of youngsters the Super Grom event sponsored by the Florida Surfing Association. The event is run three times each summer and generally is attended by around 150 kids eager to learn how to surf. The event is free to all of the kids and they get lessons, lunch and a goodie bag. To say the least they love it and go away stoked.

I have volunteered as an instructor at the event as well as others for Wounded Warriors, Silent Surfers, Life Rolls On and other such events every year. Instructing at the event where each instructor has at least ten sessions in the water is grueling to say the least for all of the volunteers especially one as old as me. But despite all of that I always come away from it with the awesome feeling that I helped make someone's day and that they will get to enjoy the sport for years to come.

Seeing the smiles on the kids faces is great in and of itself but when I get a comment like "you make me smile" or " I came back again this year hoping to have you as an instructor" is awesome and makes me feel like I am making a little bit of a difference and the world a better place.

Surfing on it's own is a most gratifying sport but as with any endeavor it is a bit hollow if not shared with others. I have had great sessions on my own in epic surf but find it much more gratifying when shared with my friends even if the surf is marginal.

As I've said many times before I believe surfing has contributed immensely to my mental, physical and spiritual well being and based on discussions with others I know it has done the same for them. It means so much to me in fact that I am a bit of a Pied Piper of surfing in that even though I am a private surfing instructor I end up teaching the sport for free most of the time and that is fine with me.

So if you haven't ever done so find a way to use your gifts and pass them along to others. You'd be surprised at how good you'll feel. And if you already do then keep up the good work.

Thanks for dropping in. Mahalo and Aloha. Paul