A profile of shaper Chris Jones: If you surf sooner or later you’ll end up at Chris Jones’ door. Who else can offer you fifty years of shaping experience? Who else was there at the beginning? CJ, legendary shaper/surfer, rugby fanatic, pasty connoisseur is this morning sanding down a vintage Tiki for restoration.

Cyrus Sutton made an impression on the international film circuit with his 2003 breakthrough movie 'Riding Waves'. Now the EMMY award-winning documentary maker has turned his attention to the divergent surf scenes of Australia's Gold Coast and Byron Bay. Words: Tommy Leitch Photos: Courtesy of Cyrus Sutton

Stephen Jones, director of triple-award-winning surf film El Mar Mi Alma, shares his vision of the surf-blessed land of Chile, its people, and the ocean that defines it.

Chris Burkard's photographs are about more than barrels, perfect point breaks, and carving radical lines – they capture a moment in which the surfer is a mere player and the real star is the scenery. Words: Dan Hamlin Photos: Chris Burkard

Mark Sankey and Alexa Poppe discover Autumn's aquatic gifts in a late September road trip spanning France and Spain. Words: Mark Sankey. Photos and Design: Alexa Poppe

A tale of surfing reefs in South Africa, but not knowing what you get yourself into. Drift contributor Tim Conibear points a finger at localism and finds three more pointing right back. Photos: Mike Reich

Luciano Burin catches up with Junior Faria, a pro surfer breaking the Brazilian mould, whose atmospheric photographs capture the happiness and freedom of surfing.

A sign on the 130-year-old pier at Saltburn-by-the-Sea warns people not to jump off it. On a big surf day surfers make their way to the end of the sturdy 206 metre structure and jump like lemmings into the cold, murky North Sea. Words: Simon Palmer Photos: Ian Forsyth

Tyler Warren's star is burning bright; his images feature prominently in magazines and his name's on everyone's lips right now, yet he pilots a steady course through the hype. Words: Chris Preston Photos: Kyle MacLennan

Rob Lion of Royal Surfboards and Paul Smith of Glide Surfboards in Cork, Ireland meet with Zephaniah Carrigg, purveyor of functional and beautiful surf craft, on a recent visit to the island. Photos: Danny O'Callaghan

Tucked away at the top of a hill near Gwenver beach in Cornwall, Skewjacks was the definitive 1970s surf camp. Drift took four of its founding fathers - Dicky, Harvey, Jamo and Mickey - to the pub and reminisced about good times gone by. Words: Jamie Bott Credit & thanks to Graham Shephard & Mel Sedgwick


Biofilters wash up on Atlantic beaches


October 12, 2010 | Words By: Howard

The beaches of the Atlantic are sprinkled with small plastic wheels: this new phenomenon sparked the suspicions of Surfrider Europe, who launched an investigation that is still underway. A brief interview with François Verdet, manager of Surfrider’s Chapter 64 and lead investigator into the mysterious bio-filters, provides an update on the situation. Elodie Melenec asks the questions.


SFE: How long has the Surfrider Foundation been aware of this form of pollution?

François Verdet: Living on the Basque Coast since July in 2007, I recall seeing these little pieces of plastic on the beaches since my arrival. But in November of 2009, the numbers spiked and the Surfrider Chapter of the Basque Coast took the decision to launch an investigation. Initially, it was challenging because nobody was interested in this type of pollution. We heard rumours that they were packing material for large cargo aboard freighters or even wastes from patrolling submarines! The answer arrived from Corsica. The local Surfrider Chapter, responding to an invitation from the city of Ajaccio for a presentation on a new waste water treatment plant, recognized the little plastic bio-filters on the cover of some printed documents. We could finally put a name and a purpose to the mystery objects that were populating Atlantic beaches in their thousands.

SFE: Can you explain what the bio-filters are and how they wound up on the beaches?

F.V.: These bio-filters, or bio-carriers (médias filtrants or biomédias in French and biosoportes in Spanish) are actually substrate for micro-organisms used in waste water treatment plants and also in certain industries. It’s very simple: generally speaking, wastes are screened through progressively finer mesh to retain suspended particles. They are then treated chemically or with UV light and the final stage is a biological filtration to eliminate micro-residues. It’s in this final stage that bacteria are at work to break down the wastes. Researchers noticed that this process was more effective if they had some kind of support to attach to. This is why, starting in around 2000, more and more waste water treatment plants as well as industrial plants, were filling their biological ponds with millions the plastic wheels for the bacteria to attach to. Unfortunately, some of the ponds containing the bio-filters overflowed and the filters washed into nearby streams, and then into the ocean. For example, we found instances where this occurred in the Seine in Paris, the Oria River in the Basque Country, and the Minho River in Portugal. In each instance, hundreds of thousands, even millions of the bio-filters, were released into the environment.

Credit: Antenne 64 Surfrider

SFE: What specific demands and what goals are you targeting with this project?

F.V.: Our objective is obviously to get this new form of pollution to stop. It’s so paradoxical to pollute the environment while trying to clean it! Today, a half-dozen people at Surfrider are working on this via several angles:
1. Fieldwork to gather more information and eyewitness accounts for confirmed cases of bio-filter pollution to lodge formal complaints against the emitters.
2. Exposure and media campaigns to raise awareness and improve alert response and also inform responsible authorities and lobby for improved standards for waste water treatment plants. As well, work with the manufacturers and the consultants who recommend the product to clients with the goal to encourage them to improve the process. Overall, we are putting a lot of energy into this bio-filter project because it’s representative of the core principles of Surfrider: the campaign against water pollution. If the concept of providing bacteria with substrate to improve efficiency (we’re talking about a 30% gain in efficiency), the idea isn’t new. For some time now, some wastewater treatment plants have used volcanic rocks as bacterial substrate. It’s of little consequence to see this material escaping into streams and oceans. Unfortunately, for economic and production reasons, plastic has been favoured over natural rock – but the plastic isn’t biodegradable and will incrementally pollute the aquatic environment.

SFE: So how it going today? How is the project going?

F.V.: For the media, information and lobbying efforts, we have contacted all the relevant French departments and the elected representatives responsible for coastal management, like the Minister of the Environment, nature-based and aquatic sports organizations. The campaign is part of our Brussels program and we are working on awareness raising in Spain. The 45 Surfrider Chapters in Europe are on alert to react swiftly in case of a new pollution event. Case in point, the Chapter in Picarde has recently encountered this situation. In any case, we are pursuing our investigation into the situation of greatest concern; the coastal Atlantic from Cantabrie (Spain) to the Vendée (France). We have received more than 50 reports on this situation. Unfortunately, several clues lead us to believe that the releases are from one or two entities located on a waterway in northern Spain near the French border. Assuming we’re confident that we’ve identified the responsible parties and the dates of the events, we’re now trying to get information on the quantity of the spill. This could unfortunately reach the tens of millions of individual pieces of plastic!

Translation: Dan McDonald

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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Revue de presse “médias filtrants” « Surfrider Foundation Europe – Antenne Côte Basque 06 11 10
  2. Browsing the French beaches for all kinds of treasures…. | Explore The Shore Blog 18 06 11

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