Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seeking Solitude: Dirty Hippies in the Desert

The last few years I have found it harder to escape the insanity of the fast-moving human race, especially in Southern California. The overbuilding and swelling population is putting a big squeeze on the remaining open spaces and nature in general. Even in my cul-de-sac, which just a few years ago was quiet, has elevated noise levels these days, which, for someone who works at home, can be maddening.

My boyfriend and I try to escape all the noise when we can, such as camping or going for a hike in the mountains or desert. We avoid camping on Friday and Saturday nights and on holidays since the masses tend to flock to campgrounds during those times, stock full of alcohol and rowdy behavior. 

Recently,  we made the short two-hour drive to the Anza Borrego Desert for a day/overnight trip, knowing that most of the weekend warriors would be leaving for their 9-to-5 jobs and to get the kids to school the next day. The great thing about the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert is you can pretty much open camp anywhere, which means AWAY from people. Since our time was limited, however, we camped in the most convenient campground, which only had a handful of people. We even found a spot away from everyone. 
As soon as we got settled, we headed for the trail. Aside from the few passersby who we exchanged short pleasantries with, it was pretty quiet. I had found the solace I had been longing for. I even had to stop a few times on our hike to listen to the sound of “nothing.” It was glorious. We even enjoyed a rare sighting of one of the park’s big horn sheep. What an amazing sight. At the end of our trail we enjoyed the lush, tropical palm canyon and waterfall.

As the remarkable full moon rose over our campsite that night, the only sounds we heard were the howling of a ravenous pack of coyotes and the crackling of our fire. The stillness overnight was a Godsend.

I woke up to a beautiful and peaceful sunrise and was just getting our coffee ready when I heard the disruptive sounds of garbage trucks and beeping of construction equipment in the nearby town. My heart sunk and I began to cry. “I can’t even have peace and quiet for a full day,” I said.  My boyfriend suggested we pack up and move to a different part of the park. Instead, I toughed it out and several minutes later the commotion had subsided. We ate our breakfast and headed back out to the trail for one last short hike before hitting the road to the hustle and bustle of our hometown.
Once we hit the trail, I realized once again that silence really is golden.  Although I almost let the nearby construction noise ruin my morning, I was quickly reminded that there was a “quiet escape” nearby on the trail. The further we walked the further away from “civilization” we got and the more content I felt.
It reminded me of a quote I saw in the park’s visitor’s center: "Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it." ~Thomas Merton, monk

On our drive home, I thought about that quote and made a mental note to remind myself of that every time my stress and annoyance levels begin to rise due to all the “noise” around me. There are always “peaceful” places to escape – you just have to find them, or create them yourself, even if it means taking a sea salt bath with the windows closed and the fan on to block out any interruptions.  

I am thankful for the little solitude I did find in the desert and will hold onto that until I can go back for more.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kooks Only...A Beach Retrospective

My home break in Cardiff-by-the-Sea

If you are lucky enough to live by the sea you are lucky enough. This is something that I remind myself of every time I surf (which is almost every day). Due to the huge influx of people in the line-up these days, however, it is becoming harder and harder to find that solace that I once enjoyed in the sea.
While there are still small pockets of soul surfers scattered throughout the SoCal coastline, many breaks have been polluted by armies of novices and stand up paddle boarders, many of whom do not know the first thing about being a  true surfer or etiquette in the line-up.

During a debate about this, someone recently asked me, "Isn't the ocean for everyone?" Well, that's the way it was intended, but it has gotten way out of control. Many "new" surfers are aggravating veteran surfers, which is causing a lot of unwanted animosity and bad vibes in the water.  Let's take SUPs, for example: My experience has been that many of these people on SUPs are abusing their privileges by taking every outside wave, being a hazard in the water, and then having a bad attitude about it. They are taking ownership of "my" waves. Not cool.
It's just like texting and driving. Many people are abusing their cell phone privileges  by texting and driving, which has, at times, many grave consequences.

As I reflect on this sad sea change, I wonder how our surfing forefathers would react to the Sport of Kings it once was. And furthermore, how do all the sea life feel about us humans taking over the ocean and claiming it as our own?
On a recent beach walk I came across this ironic sign spray painted on a sea wall:

Hmmm, maybe we are all just kooks?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ocean Inspirations

The great thing about being connected to the tight-knit surfing community in San Diego is I meet a lot of amazing and inspiring people. I was recently introduced to Craig McClain and Joe Sigurdson, who run a fantastic nonprofit called Boys to Men Mentoring Network, which provides critical guidance to fatherless teenage boys. When they asked me to help them promote their annual fundraiser, the 100 Wave Challenge, I jumped at the chance. After all, isn't this what responsible journalism and PR are all about?

Fifteen-year-old Lewis Castrejon doesn’t know how to surf, but he is learning how so he can participate in the Fourth Annual 100 Wave Challenge for Boys to Men to raise money for the organization that he says changed his life.  Castrejon is one of 14 boys mentored by Boys to Men who will be surfing in this year’s 100 Wave Challenge. These young men will be sponsored by “Surf Angels,” a new addition to the annual event.

The surf-a-thon, scheduled  for September 21, 2013 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Mission Beach, Calif., will include about 150 surfers who will attempt to ride 100 waves each in 12 hours. The goal for each surfer is to raise $1,000. All proceeds will go toward the San Diego-based non profit Boys to Men Mentoring Network, which is dedicated to mentoring fatherless teenage boys throughout the county. The goal for the 2013 100 Wave Challenge is $150,000, up from $110,000 in 2012
“Since being a part of Boys to Men my entire way of thinking has changed,” Castrejon said. “I am no longer that angry teenager who hurts other kids and mouths off all the time. I tolerate people better and treat them with the same kindness I know I want them to treat me with. Boys to Men has given me much more than a place of safety; they have given me a place of healing. When I go to the meetings I don't just see friends;  I see fathers, brothers and uncles I can trust.”

Visit Castrejon’s 100 Wave Challeneg web site here.

Boys to Men is also recruiting independent Surf Angels (non surfers) to create their own web page to help raise funds for the boys surfing in the event. One of them is Tammy Parry, a family therapist who has been involved with the organization for more than 18 years. So far, Parry has raised more than $3,700 for this year’s 100 Wave Challenge.

“In my practice, I have seen the devastation of children's lives due to lack of male (mentors) in our society,” she said. “Boys to Men has developed an amazing program that gives young men what they need to become good men.”
The main purpose of the new Surf Angels program is to give non-surfers a chance to participate in the 100 Wave Challenge.  To become a Surf Angel click here.

“The surf angels are not only raising funds to support our boys to surf in the event;  they are also investing in the future of these young men,” said Boys to Men cofounder and executive director Craig McClain.
Launched in San Diego in 1996, Boys to Men has become a thriving international organization, with chapters in 32 cities around the world. More than 6,000 teenage boys have been mentored through the organization since its inception.

The annual 100 Wave Challenge accounts for 60 percent of the Boys to Men’s annual budget, which has doubled since the first surf-a-thon event. The organization’s 2013 budget is $250,000.
“One of the great things about the 100 Wave Challenge is it promotes what we are doing to a  specific target audience of mentors that we otherwise wouldn’t reach,” said Joe Sigurdson, cofounder and community development director for Boys to Men. “This gives them a chance to blend their passion for surfing with helping the boys. We have recruited some great mentors from guys who have surfed with us, and then decided they wanted to become a mentor.”

While Boys to Men mentors boys ages 12 to 17, it has refocused its efforts on middle school- boys.  Boys are mentored all year through various programs, meetings and events, including the organization’s after school weekly mentoring program, in which dedicated mentors show up at middle schools, high schools and foster care facilities to give teenage boys a community of mentors who listen, encourage and believe in them.
Consider these facts:
* Since 1960, the number of American children without fathers in their lives has quadrupled, from 6 million to more than 24 million.

* Children without fathers in their lives are nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

*5% of the adult male population is in or has been in prison, costing taxpayers $75 billion a year.

* It costs $500 to give one boy a year in Boys to Men. It costs $47,102 a year to incarcerate one inmate in California.

“These boys come in to Boys to Men with a lot of intrepidation and questions, and not a whole lot of faith and zero trust,” Sigurdson said. “After they become involved with Boys to Men, they start feeling safe. These boys are unburdening their souls; when they do that is has a compounding effect and it frees them.  Their grades and school attendance go up and their discipline problems go down. They can start redirecting their lives. They have role models who help them become the good men they all want to become.”

For more information about the 100 Wave Challenge please visit 100wave.org.
Check out the video:

Video for the Secret Life of Teenage Boys:

Monday, May 27, 2013

In the Sea I am Free

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came." ~John F. Kennedy

The sea constantly calls me, for it nourishes my body and soul. I am grateful for my freedom to skip down to the nearby beach and take a dip anytime I want. I am constantly reminded of and thankful for this freedom as the U.S. helicopters from a nearby Marine base frequently fly over my local surf break.
Memorial Day evokes the young soldier sweating on the filed in a far away place from his family and friends, not knowing if he will make it back. While we enjoy our BBQs and beach parties, the men and women who have and are currently serving our county are in my heart and thoughts. The below sea/surfing shots (taken with my GoPro Hero 3) are a tribute to all these men and women. Thank you.


The finest in wavecraft, courtesy of Michael Miller and John Cherry, two of the best surfboard shapers in San Diego and in the biz.

There's nothing like sharing your passion with your child. Thanks to my friend Val Reynolds for this fun photo of me and my son sharing some waves together.

In the sea I am free...thanks photographer Andrew Quinn for capturing me in my element.

The photo I found on the Internet says it all. Thank you!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Filmmaking and Fish Guts: A Conversation with Sustainability Advocate Courtney Hayes

Courtney Hayes with her sustainable shred stick shaped by Michael Emery
In her youth, Courtney Hayes spent a lot of time on the waterfront in Gloucester, Mass., America’s oldest fishing port. It is in this city on Massachusetts’ North Shore where Courtney grew her sea legs, so-to-speak, as the daughter of a fisherman.

Courtney, now an award-winning documentary producer and director (PBS, History Channel and Discovery Channel), is still inspired by the sea and the people who use it to create commerce and recreation. In 2010, she launched CetoSurf.com, a global community of more than 11,000 surfers and sea lovers dedicated to promoting ocean-friendly businesses and marine conservation efforts.
Below, Courtney talks about her film career, sustainability and her New England roots.
Age: 48

Hobbies: Surfing, SUPing, handplaning, sailing, and snorkeling.

What Fuels Me: The ocean, adventure, laughter, friendship, and salty people who have crazy ideas.

Favorite Quote: “Surf something!”

Growing up in Gloucester: Gloucester, Mass. was a magical place to grow up. As the daughter of a tuna fisherman, I spent a lot of time on the water. One of my first memories is being out on my father’s boat, racing alongside a giant school of blue fin tuna. Of course, those sort of peaceful moments were often punctuated by my dad screaming, “We’re hooked uuuup!”

Courtney practicing her moves on an early upcycled shortboard. Circa 1977

Sea Connection: My first job was “chum girl” on my dad’s tuna boat. Picture “Wicked Tuna,” but with an 8-year-old girl as second mate. I spent a good chunk of my formative years covered in fish guts!  In the summer, we were always in the ocean – swimming, sailing, and fishing. I started surfing six years ago and moved back to Gloucester recently. I love being in the ocean now more than ever.

New England Core: Winter surfing in New England is like nothing else. My favorite memories include surfing during a mid-January blizzard. Unlike some of the really hard core guys, I can only handle 38-degree water a few times a winter. The water finally got up to 47 last week and you’d think it was the Caribbean – one kid was out in a 3/2 suit sans hood, gloves and booties. New England surfers are classic!

‘Reel’ Inspirations: My documentary filmmaking career began at Frontline/PBS in 1991. In 2000, I started working on an independent film about the New English fishery called “A Fish Story” - a tale of two women who lead their communities in a battle for control of the ocean. I’ve always loved the adventure that comes along with the job; every new film feels like a free pass to a world filled with amazing people and places.
Ceto Surf: A few years ago, I got really interested in new media and the power of collective action and I wanted to do something to connect surfers and promote ocean health. Ceto seeks to foster a healthy ocean and a more sustainable surf industry by making it fun and easy to share information about ocean friendly innovators, artists and activists.
*I originally wrote this piece for the San Diego Surf Film Festival blog.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Making Progress With Noah Johnson


Noah Johnson is part of a growing cadre of eco-conscious entrepreneurs who are trying to change the way consumer goods and global commerce are produced. He is an eco warrior of sorts, collecting anything from used banners to billboards for his Encinitas, Calif.-based company The Progress Project.  Noah launched the company in 2010 with his wife Jolene. Using recycled materials, The Progress Project makes everything from messenger bags to laptop sleeves, iPad wallets, surfboard bags, tote bags, and even custom orders. Below, Noah talks about the passion behind The Progress Project and how the family-run business is moving full-speed ahead.

Background Check: I grew up in La Mesa, Calif. As a kid, I was very passionate about athletics, including surfing, soccer and baseball. After high school, I served an apprenticeship with a commercial electrician and since have sold women’s shoes, waited tables, partied pretty hard, bartended, managed hotel food and beverage departments, and been an auditor/consultant for bar and  restaurant owners and their managers.
Age: 35 (Turns 36 in June)

Hobbies: Work, painting, ocean, and family.

What Fuels Me: Having a unique vision / idea and committing to do whatever necessary for the result.

 Favorite Quote: Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” ~Albert Einstein

Jolene & Noah Johnson

Picking a Passion: As I went through the process of deciding what to do, I noticed repeatedly that there was (and still is) a clear difference between many of the products on the market being labeled as “green” and actually being green.  I thought then that if I could get my hands on materials that had been used, but not recycled yet and make legit products with them, that would be the rad.

Fulltime Family Affair: Up until now, my wife and I have run The Progress Project. It’s just been the two of us doing literally everything unless one of our awesome neighbors lends a hand, which does happen (you know who you are and we love you).

 Materials Matter: We get our materials for The Progress Project from all over. We are grateful to have partnerships with Revolt in Style magazine, which has been donating its RSSS banners from the very beginning. Also a great relationship continues to be with Sustainable Surf, which has produced tens of thousands of square feet of signage from companies such as Rip Curl, REEF and Hurley. The list of businesses that donate their old signage is long. We also purchase used billboards. I  buy the rest of the materials from a distributor that carries American made products.

The Big Challenge: Because we are still pretty small, our many challenges have been mainly about fueling growth. It has always been our goal to compete with other brands that bring similar products to market. Finding resources to grow a business/brand that is well outside the mainstream is seemingly nearly impossible.  No rich uncles or trust funds here, so the main thing has just been staying focused, persistent and really stubborn long enough for the right opportunity for growth to come along.

Fueling & Inspiring Eco-Conscious Consumers: In some ways, I think it can be hard to educate people on the importance of buying organic, green products. In one bag, you’ve got a percentage of consumers that are already on the same eco page – they’re just a very small percentage of the total consumer population, and that’s where it becomes challenging. In a society riddled with thought processes holding cost and popularity as a higher priorities than quality and where a product was made, it’s a tough sell trying to convince Joe and Sally that spending three times as much money for an item that will last five times as long and was made by your neighbor (I’m still not sure why that’s a tough sell, but it is).

Eco Education: Unfortunately, I know there’s still a lot of green washing going on, so while consumers are becoming more conscious, it is becoming more challenging to decipher which products are actually eco-friendly, and even more, businesses that are actually owned and run by people who are eco-friendly themselves. For example, some companies promote themselves and their products as being eco-friendly, but unfortunately, it’s just marketing.

Making Progress: After three  years, on May 1, 2013, The Progress Project is evolving into Progress Brand Mfg. and moving into a space with our eco warrior pals *enjoy handplanes (congrats to them as well). We’ll have more than a dozen sewing machines along with other rad machines, and consequently it will increase our production capabilities by, well, 12. Also, look for lots of fun stuff like a new website, video series, eco blog and much more with our newest partner Album Agency. The Progress Project will live on; I just can’t say how in this moment. I can promise you that it’s going to be pretty epic.

Noah in The Progress Project workshop

The Progress Project Assistants-Noah and Jolene's twins

The Progress Project keeps it in the family (Noah & Jolene's teenage daughter)

*I originally wrote this article for the San Diego Surf Film Festival blog.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Hippy (Family)Tree

"Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
-- J.K. Rowling

The recent passing of my grandmother has brought a renewed longing for strong family ties. I did not have the opportunity (mainly due to distance) to spend a lot of time with my grandma Louise, but I was always inspired by her tenacity and zest for life. I can still hear her soft laughter as she tried to teach me how to square dance during a visit last year (she was 89 then!). (She and my late grandpa John were avid square dancers).
Louise was my last living blood-related grandmother, and during her last days, most of her eight children and some of their children came to her to pay respect to the root of their lineage.
My 11-year-old son never had a chance to meet his great grandma Louise, but I am so thankful that my parents have been a big and important part of his life. My mom and step dad have given my son a rich and nurturing family experience, one that only grandparents can provide.
My son has also had the blessing of spending time with his step, great grandma Margaret, who has also been an inspiration to me. Although she is 90 and has Alzheimer's, Margaret is as spritely and lively as ever.
I want my son to learn to appreciate his strong and loving family. As I hear the clicking of his computer keyboard in his room, I know that it is time to forget about the electronics for awhile and go outside to enjoy nature and each other.  He keeps me young and active, just the way I want to be as long as I can.

My late grandmother Louise and I (2012)

My dad and son on a nature walk (2013)

Four generations (2013)

My son and his grandma splashing around (2012) 

My son and I lounging by the pool during spring break (2013)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Aloha Friday

From the sea to the lagoon trails, North San Diego County is bursting with "natural" activities and opportunities. Although I am a native  San Diegan there are still so many trails, beaches and nature pockets that I have yet to discover and enjoy.
As Albert Einstein said, "We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us."

May your sense of adventure continue....


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Save the Wild Mustangs

I am sharing this from a good friend and horse advocate Kathy Klossner:
Just found out my favorite herd of Mustangs that I have been photographing for the last 5 years is being rounded up today. I was told there are only two horses left in the wild and the BLM is adamant in getti...ng them all. I called the BLM Field Manager, Leon Thomas, and told him my concern of all the wild horses being rounded up and that these horses were not a threat to anyone. Unfortunately, five lame folks complained and the BLM doesn't want to deal with the horses any more. I think the public needs to speak up and tell the BLM that the horses are suppose to be protected in the wild. Government Holding pens are already filled up to the max with wild horses that are up for adoption. Guess what? A number of these horses that do not get adopted are then sold to slaughter houses.

Please call Leon Thomas and tell him you don't approve the removal of Deer Run wild mustangs - direct phone 775-885-6118.
We can't save this herd, but we can voice our opinion on watching the horses in the wild dwindle to nothing.
Pictured below is the herd back in Oct 2012. The black foal staring at me is the sweetest thing I called Marley:

Today,  many of these wild horses are running in fear -- in fear of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which continues to round up and relocate them. The BLM’s reason is that the nation’s wild horse population is expanding so much that theses Mustangs must be relocated in order to prevent the exhaustion of land resources.
These senseless round-ups have caused many Mustang deaths, and wild horse advocates continue to fight to stop them. More than half of all Mustangs in North America are found in Nevada. Since the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, the focus of wild horse policies has shifted from ensuring their survival from exploitation to determining how many and where they should remain. Currently, there are more wild horses living in government holding facilities than there are left wild on the range. Besides Nevada, these horses can be found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Six states have already lost their entire wild horse populations. 
Here is a blog post I wrote last year on this topic and about one of Kathy's incredible wild mustang experiences:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Daily Dose of Vitamin "Sea"

Living in a Southern California coastal city affords me the time and luxury of daily trips to the beach -- to surf, walk or to just breath in some salty air. I'm aware of my daily sea fortune and I wouldn't trade it for anything. The ocean is my solace and inspiration.
In her book, "Gift from the Sea" Anne Morrow Lindbergh tells us how the sea can teach us many life lessons:
 “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” 
Every time I go to the beach, I try to dump any expectations and just go with the flow. But the one thing that is the same is the pure stoke, peace, giddiness and gratefulness I feel once my feet hit the sand.

Here is the beach through my eyes (or in this case, through my Android phone camera/Instagram). Every day is a different experience. Enjoy!