SUFB 128: Becoming an Eco Warrior with Pro Surfer James Pribram

Speak Up For Blue Podcast

“That’s when I became the Ecowarrior. I felt right at home, I felt like that is who I am. And I’m willing to cross that line.”

James Pribram is someone who lives in the extremes, pursuing a sense of fulfillment while ricocheting between elation and dejection. Following a calling like the North Star, James repeatedly pushes the boundaries of what the collective we can do. Whether its taking part in a Chilean protest to protect the country’s natural resources from pollution, paddling out to the Taiji Cove to protest Japan’s dolphin killings, or leading the fight against beach litter and plastic pollution in California, This “Eco-Warrior” has dedicated his life to speaking up for our environment.

Growing up surfing in Laguna Beach, James was taught at an early age to respect these natural systems. And while litter and debris may have been a common distraction on California beaches for much of his childhood, James doesn’t remember fully grasping the extent of the problem until later in life. When he was 22, James was invited to take part in the filming of ESPN’s “Hot Summer Nights,” a series that centered around extreme sports and the athletes who that master them. What James remembers most about this experience is something that never ended up on television: the vast stretches of garbage the crew encountered off the coast of Tahiti. To experience the epitome of human wastefulness in an area so remote inspired James to take action against pollution.

Returning home with a renewed purpose and a platform from which to inspire action, this pro-surfer turned Eco-Warrior gathered the help of his sponsors to transform how the world thinks about environmentalists. After all, speaking out against governments and national industries isn’t always as safe abroad as it is in the U.S. But that didn’t stop James from taking part in a march in Southern Chile protesting the rampant use of chlorine in a local river by a pulp mill. It also didn’t stop James from taking part in the paddle-out protests in Taiji to protect the dolphin populations whose slaughter was exposed to the world in the documentary “The Cove.” Throughout these experiences, James has faced criticism from local governments, praise from environmental groups, and at times has feared for his safety and his life.

This type of extreme action on behalf of our environment has led James to identify more with those on the front lines than those focused more on policy. “We’re boots on the ground, getting our hands dirty. We’re sort of like the second coming of Green Peace or Sea Shepherd, really.” And now that James is back stateside leading beach clean ups in his hometown of Laguna Beach, he sees the needless obstacles and bureaucracy that can stifle great things from happening. “Big foundations don’t work with other foundations. And that’s what’s bothersome. Listen, when it comes to our ocean, our beach, our waterways, it’s not mine, it’s not yours, it’s collectively all of ours. And if you’re really in this for the betterment of our environment, you should be willing to work with everybody.”

James and his Eco-Warrior foundation have taken these philosophies of blue-collar, boots on the ground work and the importance boundless cooperation to heart. With a team of four board members and two staff, James’ organization leverages the power of social media and digital communication to get their message across to every single person throughout the world who feels that we have abused our aquatic habitats. And while alone James’ fame can help bring awareness to the issues of pollution and habitat degradation, he cannot solve these problems without the help of both local and international communities.

“I’ve always believed that I can make a difference; together, collectively, we can all make an ever bigger difference. That’s what’s important here and that’s what we need to keep in mind, that we need to start working together more. Do your part, take action.”

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