Sands Beach was closed earlier in the week due to water toxicity. For surfers from southern California, this is not surprising – beaches down here usually close when it rains because of all the city filth that gets washed into the ocean.
Here in Isla Vista city filth is a factor, but the rains also bring a lot of fertilizer runoff from farms and golf courses. It is strange that we just regard it as normal that our ocean water is dirty when it rains. We accept that humans spew so many toxins into our environment that it is dangerous to go in the water after rain. But the stuff that ends up in the water isn’t good for us on land either; on land it is present in smaller amounts and so the effects are not as easily noticed.
However, recently the impact is starting to be felt. One in six women has enough mercury in her body to put her child at risk of brain damage. Breast milk around the world is growing increasingly toxic while sperm viability (the quality and quantity) is decreasing. Many researchers say that these trends are the result of our chemically contaminated world.
It was with these thoughts in mind that I headed out to Sands on Sunday morning for a surf. The one good thing about toxic water is that it keeps the crowds away. Sands was about four foot with only two people in the water. The rain had brought so much dirt into the water that the ocean looked like mud and I couldn’t see my board as I sat on it. Each time I came down the face of a wave it looked like I was surfing on something solid, like I was skateboarding down a dirt hill.
The waves were OK, but the water stunk and reeked of filth. I made an effort to keep my mouth closed and spat like a madman each time I got worked, but still water got in. After about an hour, I was done. A friend once told me that drinking a Diet Coke after surfing in dirty water would kill any bad bacteria in your stomach. Of course, this is the same friend that drinks a teaspoon of toxic ocean water whenever it rains in order to build up a tolerance to the stuff, so I was pretty skeptical about the whole Diet Coke thing. But being a hypochondriac, I downed two of them and spent the rest of the night convinced I was having hot flashes.
But what right do I have to bitch about dirty water? At least our ocean is only passively deadly – a few toxins are nothing compared to the 80-foot wall of water endured by those in southeast Asia. I still can’t comprehend the scale of that disaster: 150,000 dead, cities and towns destroyed, communities devastated, the whole island of Sumatra moved by 100 feet. I saw a video of an old woman angrily yelling at the ocean before collapsing in sobs onto the sand; a lot of people hate the ocean right now.
My heartfelt compassion goes out to those that have lost and suffered, but as a surfer I can’t hate the ocean. I can encourage you to help those that have suffered; the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation is holding a tsunami relief fundraiser benefit tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the I.V. Theater.
Daily Nexus surf columnist Mathis Riley is not concerned about ocean contamination leading to lowered sperm counts. As far as he is concerned it is a cheaper solution than the condoms at Student Health.