The Surfrider Foundation is an excellent resource for learning about the lifestyle and needs of surfers in terms of Ocean protection. I myself, am not a surfer, but I marine scientist. I would like to be, but the thought of looking like a Sea Turtle or Seal at the surface to a Shark just scares the hell out of me. I know that this might be a serious stereotype, but unfortunately, my fear outweighs my adventurous side. Plus, I don’t have any balance, a prerequisite for surfing. Perhaps one day I will try. But I digress. Surfers are very well connected to the ocean both physically and spiritually. Surfing tends to bring together a tight nit community that often long for large waves and…CLEAN WATER!
Now, you must be thinking clean water in the Ocean is pretty much guaranteed as it is so big so any substance released in the Ocean is diluted right away. This thought could not be more untrue. Ask any surfer who has suffered skin infections after surfing. The truth of the matter is water pollution, especially along coastal areas where surfing is best, is a major problem around the world. The average beach goer may not feel the effects when compared to surfers. There are several reasons for this in which Surfrider blogs about five of them. After reading these reasons, it is no wonder why surfers would like more protection in popular surfing areas. Here are some of the reasons why surfers are more exposed to water pollutants than beach goers:
1. Surfers go to the beach & go in the ocean more than other beach goers
According to the 2001 Current Participation Patterns in Marine Recreation study, beach goers average 14 visits per year; in the same study surfers averaged 23 visits per year (Leeworthy and Wiley 2001).
Other studies in Oregon, California, and a national survey suggest surfer avidity is much higher. In Oregon, the average avidity was 77 visits/year (Stone et al. 2008). At Trestles, we found an average avidity of 109 visits/year (Nelsen et al. 2007). A pending Surf-First study found a average national avidity of 108 visits (unpublished).
2. Surfers recreate year round
Studies and common knowledge show that beach going is highly seasonal. Most visit occur during the summer months. Often more than half of the total visits occur during the 3 months of summer. In contrast, surfers tend to visit beaches and enter the water year round. In some places, surfers are the predominant beach visitor during winter months. This is significant because in the northern latitudes, winters tend to be more rainy than summer months, which increases the exposure to storm water runoff.
3. Every visit to the beach to surf results in full immersion in the ocean
According to Dwight et al. (2007) less than half of Southern California beach goers are exposed to ocean waters. And of those that are, many are not fully immersed in the water. Surfers, on the other hand, are fully immersed while surfing (see photo). This increases their exposure to pathogens if the water is polluted.