For many of us, surfing is an escape from reality, a brief time to forget about the troubles of the world. Unfortunately, reality is inescapable. You can try to dull it out, you can try to ignore it, you can even deny it, but it’s not going away. Reality just keeps on, well, being real. That’s why we’ve devoted this year’s Big Issue to the biggest issue facing surfers (and indeed the entire planet): the health of our oceans.
I know—I can hear the collective groan, even from way up here on my high horse. I know you don’t want to hear it. But you have to. We all have to. Climate change is happening. According to published reports, 97 percent of climate scientists agree global warming is happening. Ninety-five percent of those scientists believe that humans are the dominant cause. To put that in context, that’s the same percentage of doctors who believe that cigarette smoking contributes to lung cancer.
In the case of ocean pollution, we shouldn’t need climate scientists to tell us something is horribly wrong. As surfers, we’re on the front lines, floating around in the soup. When surfing after a rainstorm can—and does—cause us to become so sick that we can’t surf for days, sometimes weeks, alarm bells should be ringing.
Those bells are ringing here at the SURFER offices. But frankly, surfing should be the least of our worries. Surfing is a luxury. The implications for the planet and humanity are far more severe than not being able to paddle out tomorrow morning at your local beachbreak.
But this is a surf magazine, and the area where the ocean meets the land is our point of contact, a place that, by default, we should care about, even if it is in the most selfish of ways. Which is why we’ve devoted every facet of this issue—our largest and most widely read—to looking at these global, far-reaching, and seemingly unsolvable problems through the prism of surfing and the people who ride waves. The results are simultaneously compelling, inspiring, and, at times, utterly terrifying.
Climate change is not a debate. It’s not some political talking point. Our oceans are under siege. Simply choosing not to believe it won’t make it go away. Sticking our heads in the sand (or going surfing) won’t make the oceans less toxic or our lineups less polluted. In some cases, it will have the opposite effect (“The Hypocritical Oath,” pg. 72). I’m not trying to win your vote. I don’t have a hidden agenda, except my own survival and the hope that my child and his friends will be able to surf and enjoy the ocean in the same way I do. But that seems increasingly unlikely. On our current path, surfers are on the endangered-species list—just like everything else on the planet.
Brendon Thomas, Editor. Surfer Magazine.