If you surf, you’ve noticed any swell that has managed to develop has completely missed Santa Barbara this year. Campus Point, Devereux, Poles, Depressions and Sands are some local breaks that have proved to be hopeless this past winter. Oddly, this is usually the best time of year for surf in the Santa Barbara area. Snowboarders will also have experienced the weak snowfall in the mountains this year, which left rocks and open land exposed. Thank god for skateboards, or boarders might have left town in search for winter elsewhere. It seems like California as a whole decided to skip winter this season, and frightening facts support this conclusion.

In the past, winter in California brought the joy of swells to the coast, fresh snow to the Sierras and smiles to the faces of surf and snowboarders alike. It is always sad to watch summer fade, but the hope that winter brings helps us all make it through Fall Quarter.

This has been a record-breaking winter in terms of its lack of storm activity – a shocking reality to all of us. Despite a depressing lack of waves, this winter has opened the eyes of locals as they witness firsthand the effects of global warming on our own turf. Surfers, first and foremost, have questioned, “Where are the waves? When is that ‘swell’ going to hit? What is this lake of an ocean?”

Though Santa Barbara sits in a small window for swell, we aren’t the only ones this time of year who have been praying for surf and seeing no change. The regular, expected storm activity that takes place in the equatorial region and eventually brings swells to the continental coasts is not acting as it usually does. Gradual alterations in our environment have been affecting our planet since the beginning of human civilization and our generation is finally seeing the major effects of these changes in our own lives.

This change in waves has allowed surfers’ lifestyles and attitudes to be affected, inspiring efforts to protect Mother Earth. Environmental organizations are popping up left and right to help fight the global warming that is affecting their surf. Without waves, a surfer doesn’t surf and his or her lifestyle is interrupted, causing bummed attitudes and dour outlooks on the once-great outdoors. Instead of grabbing the old board as soon as one gets home from class, a surfer simply gets frustrated by a buddy even asking, “Have you checked the surf?” That question has not been valid for months, and we are losing focus on what the root of it all means.

We must remember why that question now seems absurd. It has not always been this way, even in Santa Barbara, and we cannot let go without a fight. Each of our environmental choices makes a difference. As strange as it sounds, how we choose to live affects our waves. The cycle is slow, but it twists and winds faster than we can fathom. Instead of taking life day by day, looking out the window to once again find the bare shore break, think of the bigger picture. If you can believe it, there is a bigger picture that we are all a part of, each holding a paintbrush that can change the entire outcome. If you want to find waves, check out that picture. Instead of getting frustrated with the lack thereof, figure out why, where and when this happened. Grab a brush and stroke in your own imprint on the rapid changes that are taking place and affecting us all. Skipping winter this year was a bummer. Remember why we are able to surf and why we do it, and you’ll find exactly how you can help keep the sport alive.