Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hippy Heroes

The Diaz family -- Lorenzo, his wife Patti and their three young kids -- has picked up roughly 500 pounds of trash over the last year-and-a-half. They are rubbish renegades, so-to-speak, who go around their hometown beaches and lagoons in North San Diego County scouting out plastics and other debris. Not only do they take the pollution out of the water, but they also pack it out, sort it, record the data, and recycle what they can to minimize the strain on the landfills.
“We started to notice how much trash was on the beach about 10 years ago when we would take our first baby to the beach and let her crawl in the sand,” Lorenzo says. “We were shocked every time she would pick up a bottle cap and aim it to her mouth. Now we always ask all three of our kids to pick up 10 pieces of trash each before we leave the beach. One day my daughter picked up 100 pieces of trash in 15 minutes. That’s when we realized we had to do something about it.”
And so, that’s how Lorenzo and Patti created H2O Trash Patrol in 2010. The non profit’s mission is to clean up those hard to reach places in and around the water by providing “custodial” services to the waterways for the benefit of the environment, public safety and health, and local businesses who utilize the nearby waterways as an added benefit to their local customers and tourists. The Diaz’s recently pulled 150 pounds of trash alone out of San Diego Harbor using their stand up paddle boards. You can check out the H2O Trash Patrol web site by clicking here.
One of the most alarming facts about all this garbage is the high toxicity of plastics, Lorenzo says.
“Plastics keep breaking down to what looks like plankton and krill and is ingested up the food chain,” he says. “Even at that size small pieces of plastic still leach out toxins. So if you eat fish, chances are high that it is tainted with PCB's and other toxic pollutants. Plastic water bottles and containers labeled BPA free have been found to be as bad or worse than non BPA plastics. Every bit of plastic that has been made is still around today in our landfills and oceans. The plastic debris floating in the 5 gyres  of the ocean  take up one-fourth of the planet’s surface; that’s a lot of trash! The only way to reduce the massive plastic dilemma is to refuse it, especially the ‘one-time use’ plastics.”
In recognition of the Diaz’s passion for preventing more plastics and other trash from tainting the eco system, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation in Carlsbad, Calif., recently awarded H2O Trash Patrol with its Environmental Hero Award.
And to think, it all started with Lorenzo's and Patti’s drive to teach their own kids environmental responsibility.
“In the hopes of making a small and easy contribution to society, we focus on teaching our kids the simple idea that you should always try to leave a place better than when you found it.”
Lorenzo, Patti and their kids are true stewards of the Earth. Thank you for your endless efforts and inspirations.
Below are some photos of H2O Trash Patrol in action, as well as an interview I did with H2O in 2010.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sea Solace

As a surfer, I'm not always a fan of stormy beach days, especially when the surf has been consistently blown out. But as I snapped this photo over the weekend at Churches I realized that I captured exactly what the sea gives me, and that's peace.  So until we have some glass love from the ocean, I'll learn to enjoy it in any condition.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stoked Sea Stories

The guys over at  always have amusing, inspiring and interesting stories/videos like the one below. It's a  good reminder that life really is beautiful and the ocean is everyone's playground. Let's take care of it and each other. Aloha Friday!

Subsistence Shredding - Sea Movies from on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Neon Hipster

It may be that I'm tired of  wearing a full suit -- since last summer -- but I think it's almost neon season --i.e, my  long john. Isn't it about time for the SoCal waters to warm up?  I'm not sure how long this so-called La Nina is going to last (our meteorologists really can't tell us), but I don't know much longer I can take it. Maybe I'll just bust out the neon anyway and shine a little brightness in the line up.

As for my 80s retro neon Hang Ten long john, I bought it a few years ago for $30 at the Longboard Grotto in Leucadia (now Surfy Surfy), and I love it! Here's to the 80s!
Thanks to my surf peep Jay Golien from Slider magazine for the photo.
See you in the surf!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Her Own Waves

Over the last decade or so of covering business as a journalist, I’ve come across many inspiring, creative and passionate entrepreneurs who have a strong conviction for what they are doing and have kept their nose to the grindstone to make the impossible happen.  Entrepreneurship – whether the economy is up or down – consists of a lot of passion, heartaches, failures, frustration and satisfaction.  One entrepreneur who has really made an impression on me is Sandra “Dee” DeLaRosa, who has, despite many road blocks, succeeded beyond expectations. Aside from her being my best friend, Sandra has proven that if you really believe in something and have the talent, you can make it happen.

Here is her story:

Sandra  “Dee” DeLaRosa  (yes that’s her real name) is elated when one of her employees at Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport calls her with the news that the shop made $2,000 in sales in one day. However, on another day, the quaint, colorfully-painted shop – which sits on the north end of Highway 101 in Carlsbad, Calif.– will make only $24. Sometimes, there isn’t a single sale.
And so it goes for the life and times of a small surf shop owner.
Despite the fickleness of the retail business, Sandra is not giving up.
“It’s a daily high and low in retail,” she says. “When sales are good you’re stoked. When sales are bad and you have a zero-dollar day, that’s the low. I’ve made it for almost eight years struggling with finances. What’s another couple of years to get through the tough economy?”
Sandra, who opened Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport in 2003, says the highest sales years for the privately held shop were 2003-2004.  The market was good back then – the surf industry was hitting its peak and surfboard sales were way up.  The tremendous influx of women hitting the waves has made a major contribution to the growth in retail sales in this industry.  According to a Surfing magazine reader study, women surfers now comprise 15 percent of America’s 1.8 million active participants in the sport. 
It’s a market that Sandra began to tap into back in 1997 when, using $3,000 from credit cards and family and friends, she created and launched her first line of Raw Skin rash guards for women and girls. Since then, her product line –which is sold in surf shops in Southern California and Florida – has expanded to wet suit jackets. (And I have to say that Sandra’s rash guards and wet suit jackets are the best I’ve ever shredded in). She was the first woman around the globe to design her own line of tailored fit rash guards for women.

Sandra opened her shop to help promote her Raw Skin product line.  She mentioned her plans to the owners of the shop -- which was then called Salty Sister -- who were thinking about selling.  Several months later, they called Sandra, and the rest is history. Sandra, who changed the name of the shop to Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport, thought it was the perfect opportunity to not only increase the visibility of her rash guards and jackets but to also further take advantage of the booming women’s surf market. Several studies have indicated that the female portion of the surfing population is the fastest growing demographic, increasing as much as 25 percent a year, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturing Association (SIMA).  
Despite these demographics, Sandra has yet to make a profit from Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport. To help keep her shop afloat, she has sought funding from several different sources, including SBA loans, only to be turned down. And so it goes for a woman/minority small business owner, especially one who is in an industry with a lot of multibillion-dollar big fish.
“Trying to find investors and convincing them of their payback is tough in this industry,” she says. “In this industry and market you’re turn-around for profit isn’t as fast as other industries. It has been very challenging.
“One of the most challenging things is having stock of everything you need at the right time and having the funding to do it. For the most part we’re covering our areas. It’s just borrowing and paying back—from my credit cards and my parents. I borrow money in the winter and pay it back in the summer. Hopefully the borrow-pay back ratio will come to an end some day.”
Since she doesn’t pay herself a salary from the shop, Sandra works part-time to pay her own bills as the chief financial officer of Just Surf, Inc., an Encinitas-based surf accessory and products distribution company, which subleases the back of her shop. Sandra, who has two part-time employees at Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport, says she tries to maintain a competitive edge by carrying different brands than other shops do. She has also diversified the products in her shop, which sells surf and skate-related clothes and accessories for women, men and kids. Surf lessons and surfboard rentals, as well as kayak and paddle board rentals, have also been added to the mix to help supplement the shop’s cash flow.
One of the ways Sandra has set Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport apart from the regular everyday surf shop is by renting bikes—from beach cruisers to mountain bikes and kids bikes. The shop, which started with only two bikes, now has a fleet of 30, and sells bike accessories.  Check out her web site by clicking  here. You can also check out:

“Any smart business owner should diversify,” she says. “That’s why I named my shop ‘Surf N’ Sport.’ I didn’t want to be stuck in one market. If one market goes soft there are other markets to tap into. Since I have added bike rentals and accessories it has helped me keep my sales up since the apparel side of the business is down.”
Sandra’s next set of plans include growing the shop’s skateboard section. The 38-year-old entrepreneur has another plan up her sleeve – she is currently seeking capital for a woman's wetsuit she designed. (I can’t wait for this one! Sandra is one of the best designers I know).

Sandra and her shop have become ingrained into the Carlsbad community culture. She attends business owners’ gatherings, fought to help beautify her shop and the surrounding areas and volunteers for community events.  That must be why Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport  was named as the U.S. Commerce Association’s 2009 Best of Carlsbad Award in the Sporting Goods category.
“Sandra is just overall a really nice person and that shows through at her shop. She is also willing to help anyone,” says friend Brian Seibert, also a professional photographer.

Aside from the daily struggles of not knowing whether she will be able to pay all of her bills (personally and for the shop), Sandra says there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing (well maybe surfing or snowboarding, but that’s also part of the job)
“It has to payoff. Sometimes it seems like it’s not going to,” she says. “I stay strong because I do what I love.  I love doing business; I love negotiating. It’s in my blood. It keeps me going. I like the freedom of being able to do what I want when I want. I can go surfing during lunch breaks. Sometimes I even make a detour to the beach before going into work.
I truly believe you need to do something you enjoy doing to be a happy person,” adds Sandra, a Southern California native who grew up in Simi Valley. “I could be making lots of money, but I could be miserable at another job. That’s why I stick with it. My ocean view from the shop is not that bad either.”

Below are some more  photos of Sandra’s rashies, shop and her ripping and chillin’ in Mainland Mexico. (Yes even busy entrepreneurs  find time for some R&R). If you're ever  in Carlsbad, stop by the shop and say hi to Sandra. Tell her Dre sent you. 

Thanks Sandra for your passion, zest for life, inspirations and for being my best friend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love Letters From Hawaii

It’s been about a year-and-a-half since I made my first “virtual” acquaintance with Daniel Partch. What started out as a digital romance (yes, we met on Facebook via mutual friends) has blossomed into a kind of love I have never experienced. The common bond between us was and still is a deep love of the ocean and surfing. But over our three-month correspondence and his courtship – which included emails, phone calls, handwritten letters and even a couple of surprise packages via snail mail – I found out a lot more about Daniel. A former marine who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after serving in Desert Storm, Daniel moved to Hawaii’s Big Island a year prior to our “meeting” to get away from the hectic SoCal life he grew up with. I also discovered that Daniel is one of the best wood fin makers in the surfboard industry. (Daniel trained with and learned from the best, legendary fin maker Larry Gephart). Daniel is not only a master fin maker, he also does amazing wood burn art (on his fins and on pieces of wood) , shapes surfboards and paints.  I was intrigued. And apparently so was he. After that three months of getting to know each other, Daniel decided to hop on a plane from the Big Island back to SoCal to meet me. That was on Valentine’s weekend 2010. He hasn’t left since. He now lives with  me and my son and  has been a welcome addition to our family. In between shaping fins, surfboards and painting, he grooms both yards, takes care of the dogs, does the dishes and the laundry (should I pinch myself now?).  Daniel is as strong as an ox but has a heart and soul of pure gold.
Below is an excerpt from a story I wrote last year on Daniel for my friend Robert Wald’s Ocean magazine:

San Diego’s cadre of revolutionary and underground surf board craftsman has remained a tight knit circle – Steve Lis,  Rich Pavel, Steve Pendaris, Jeff McCallum and Many Caro to name a few. This eclectic bunch has had a great influence on surfing, creating novel wave riding tools such as the fish and the Min Sim.
Among this elite group of fiber glass and foam inventors is Daniel Partch, whose handcrafted marine plywood fins have helped propel these highly in demand boards.
From slant back keel fins to tri fins, quads, asymmetrical, cut-aways and single fins, Partch’s peers have continuously required him to push the envelope on one of the most important functions of a surfboard.

Some of the best surfboard shapers in the business have used  Daniel’s fins – such as Skip Frye, Josh Hall, Tyler Warren, Many Caro, Michael Miller and Michele Junod. He has also shaped fins for  boards created through the Swift movement, a collaboration of influential top shapers, surfers, designers and film makers in San Diego and Australia such as Hank Warner, Larry Mabile, Andrew Kidman, Rich Pavel, Bob Mitzven and Wayne Lynch. 
“He has a unique gift,” says friend and legendary surfer/shaper Skip Frye. “The whole surfboard process is an art form, so adding that to your board enhances the whole art characteristic of the board. “They also function well. Function is the first order of business.”
Daniel, who often listens to jazz and ‘70s disco while foiling fins, now uses our garage and backyard as his shop.
“It’s amazing how Daniel can pour such soul into something that is going to bring so much joy to someone’s life – sliding waves on a  custom board with a custom art fin,” says friend and shaper Josh Hall. “More important for me is that Daniel’s fins are a connection to a small group of hard core underground locals that I am very fortunate and proud to be linked with. Daniel embodies every aspect of a true craftsman, and it shows in every fin. He’s in a category that few people are in and who is highly sought after.”

You can also check out an interview Liquid Salt did with Daniel by clicking here.

Below are some of Daniel’s amazing fins/artwork. The photo of Kelly Slater holding a Tyler Warren Mini Simmons with Daniel Partch fins was taken by Steen Barnes. The radical 70s surfboard is one that Daniel shaped for a dear friend of ours. I've also included a photo of Daniel during his Desert Storm tour. Thank you for serving!

 *Thank you Daniel for your unconditional love, talent and daily inspirations.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smart Surf Car?

The other day I passed by a “smart” car with a surfboard on top, and I thought to myself “Only in Southern California.”
Sign of the times? Or is it a reflection of the wave of trendy “eco” conscious inhabitants who have flooded the coast in the last few years? Perhaps it’s both.
Outrageous gas prices, combined with a deteriorating environment, have us all in a quandary of how we are going to breathe better. Alternative fuel vehicles may be one of the many solutions.  The “smart” car may not be the best way to curb our insidious appetite for  Middle East oil,  but it’s a start. Originally the brainchild of Lebanese-born entrepreneur/inventor Nicolas Hayek of Swatch watch fame, smart cars are designed to be small, fuel-efficient, environmentally responsible and easy to park.
For example, the Smart ForTwo is the most fuel-efficient gasoline-engined car for sale in the United States. The car – which is a little over eight feet long and less than five feet wide – gets about  33 miles per gallon (mpg) for city driving and 41 mpg on the highway.
Every time my 9-year-old son sees a smart car he says, “I don’t think they are very smart. They look dangerous.” Good point. As for safety, the ForTwo did well enough in crash tests by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to earn five stars – the group’s highest rating. The mini car has a steel racecar-style frame and high-tech front and side airbags. Despite such good safety performance for a small car, IIHS testers caution that larger, heavier cars are inherently safer than smaller ones.  Duh!
Is the smart car a smart choice for drivers who are concerned about the environment as well as their wallet? Judge for yourself: The price tag can range from about $12,000 to $17,000 (minus the surf racks).
Then there’s Nissan’s new 100-percent electric vehicle the Leaf (I actually saw one today in front of me as I was getting on the freeway).  San Diego, my hometown, is among a handful of cities chosen for the roll-out of the Leaf. Other regions include Seattle, Portland, Phoenix/Tucson, and Chattanooga/Knoxville, Tennessee. Late last year,  San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced it will work with Electric Transportation Engineering Corp. (eTec) and others on the roll-out of 1,500 public and commercial and  1,000 home base electric charging stations across the county to help support the Leaf and other electric vehicles.
The Leaf is  far cry  the early electric vehicles, such as the 1902 Wood's Phaeton, which was basically an electrified horseless carriage and surrey. The Phaeton had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000.
Today, as the industry and we as a society define new alternatives in transportation and make a true passionate statement on conservation and environmental awareness, I hope that the same mistakes won’t be made as in the 1990s. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the 2006 documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car?,  which explores the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the  battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 in the mid 1990s. The film brilliantly depicts the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the U.S. government, California government, batteries, and  consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology. Check out the web site here. Below is a You Tube trailer of the film. 

As I zip around town in my Honda Element (which, until gas prices soared above $4 a gallon, I thought had decent gas mileage), I think about what my vehicle of choice would be  if I could only have one. And, of course, it would be one of the most eco sound of them all, one that requires no fuel, and that’s a surfboard.
Just for kicks, here's a photo of a pimped out “woody’ smart car  I found on the Internet.