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Surfing Soapbox: Personal sacrifice on the way to the gyre

January 20, 2011|By James Pribram

There's no better feeling than the anticipation you get the night before a big trip. My last trip I could not even fathom what life at sea for a month would be like. To say I went into that trip blind would be a gross understatement. But since the beginning of the ECO-Warrior project, when I was on my way to the south of Chile to report on a pulp mill that was polluting the Rio Itata with chlorinated water, my strategy has changed.

Before that trip I had to study everything I could find on what was happening there only to find out that everything I had read was completely off. A great lesson indeed; however, now I tend to enjoy learning everything firsthand and in the moment. That way I go into the experience with no misconceptions, which is vital when one is reporting on anything — especially our precious environment.

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Most, if not all, of my friends thought I was crazy to want to sail from Brazil to South Africa.

Believe me, I had my reservations. I simply could not fathom what life at sea would be like, let alone sailing with my girlfriend — who is now my ex-girlfriend. It was just something I had to do. Half of me was compelled to be one of 13 people to be the first to actually see the South Atlantic Gyre in person. The other part of me couldn't walk away from the challenge of sailing one of the most dangerous crossings in the world on a 72-foot sailboat.

What I learned is that the phenomenon known as the South Atlantic garbage patch is not accurate, but it's worse, since it is tiny little confetti-sized particles of plastics and other trash scattered throughout miles and miles of ocean. Because the size of these particles is so small, it is an impossibility to clean. If it were a huge floating island of trash, perhaps one could find a way to scoop it up. However, for now the South Atlantic Gyre sits beneath the surface of the ocean (with bigger pieces of trash floating by) like needles hidden in the largest haystack one could imagine.

It was an incredible experience learning firsthand about the South Atlantic Gyre but also being able to sail from Brazil to South Africa. I look forward to the next voyage with open arms. However, this time I will leave my love interest at home.

Peace.

JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com and ECOWarriorSurf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@AlohaSchoolofSurfing.com.

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