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The TransparentSea voyage is well underway and it’s hard to comprehend the many elements that work together to keep this well-oiled machine running like clockwork.

Not only do the ground crew keep the camp fed, watered, moving and stationed… there’s the logistics of coordinating a team of 20 plus people, 5 kayaks, 2 RVs plus numerous surfboards around swell, rocks, tides, private harbors, naval bases, fog, wind and rain whilst in the land of rules; California has a lot of rules!

The other crucial aspects to TransparentSea are the music and art creations inspired by the voyage. With talented musicians onboard – Will Connor and Band of Frequencies – the “Song a day” encapsulates all the trials and tribulations, highs and lows, the agony and ecstasy of life on the campaign trail.

Actress Isabel Lucas and her partner Angus Stone really add to this creative vibe and during the few days they join the crew help to create a beautiful Women for Whales/S4C/TransparentSea dolphin mural on a perfect sea wall – narrowly avoiding getting busted by park rangers…

On day 2 I’m very lucky to be joining Lauren Lindsey Hill on her Hobie kayak to sail from El Capitan to Hammonds. From the kayak perspective things are so calm and clear – the Californian coast majestic and powerful, basking in the abundance mother ocean provides.

Lauren Hill & Natalie Fox

Lauren is such an inspiring woman to be around; she is passionate about issues such as gender roles within the surf industry and being the only female sailor is living up to her role as an ecofeminist. After studying environmental science and then embarking on TransparentSea, it’s clear she has a true drive to make a difference, when most people are just content to just go to the beach and catch a wave. I learn about the issues affecting this region – how Surf Rider foundation has been protecting the Gaviota coastline for years so that it is now the last undeveloped stretch in Southern California, a jewel that will only remain that way with constant pressure from SurfRider and locals. The fact that all of California was once like this will become significantly clear as we travel down into more and more populated areas surrounding Los Angeles.

The Santa Barbara channel is also a migratory path for many large cetaceans including gray whales, humpbacks and the mighty blue whales. With LA harbour being the 5th largest working harbour in the world, a spate of blue whale fatalities due to cargo ship strikes in 2007 led the Environmental Defence Centre to tackle the huge problem of ship speeds, lobbying for a deduction in ship speed from 22 knots to 10. I can only hope and dream that we get to meet one of these creatures further along our journey, and that they have safe passage in these waters for the future.
Soon the wind picks up and the rolling swells send us into shore with whoops of joy and a heightened awareness and awe for our oceanic playground.

A certain songwriter by the name of Jack Johnson is there to greet us as we land, but tired and exhausted I opt out of the sleepover with beach bonfire, instead heading back to the campsite for a shower, Jacuzzi, red wine, tent and deep, deep sleep.

We move onto a fabulous state park called Leo Carrillo, in a canyon overlooking a right-hand pointbreak. We’re getting closer and closer to the infamous Malibu surf break and the waves have started to pick up. Leo’s right-hander is a bit of a mission with a tiny take off spot and crazy kelp intent on latching onto you, holding you back from any peelers that make it through the crowd unridden – so the next day we check out Malibu. And with only 30 or so people out it’s a quiet afternoon for the ‘Bu.
It is also the anticipated event at Malibu Inn, so we race to scrub up after our sunset glass session and enjoy music by “the freq’s”, Will Connor and special guest Catherine Clarke, art auction/exhibition and Minds in the Water screening. A few high profile celebs also add to the Malibu mix in the form of rock legends Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) and Rob Trujillo (Metallica). Highlights of the evening included learning of two oceanic issues in the local area and being introduced to organisations dealing with these issues.

Rasta & Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters on Malibu Awareness Night

The Marine mammal care centre is the only hospital in Los Angeles County that cares for sick, injured and orphaned marine mammals, primarily seals and sea lions. Not only does the Care Center provide treatment for Los Angeles County’s marine mammals, but it also has a multi faceted educational program, teaching the community about local marine life and the ecosystem.
Why they do what they do: “Rehabilitating these animals is the humane thing to do…however there is also a lot to be learned from treating these animals. By treating these patients, we are able to learn more about marine life and other endangered species. Our team is also ‘oil spill certified’ so we are able to handle oil spill treatment should we need to.

The Malibu Lagoon is an ongoing local issue with opposing sides to the future of this natural habitat, home to many birds and fish including an endangered species – the Goby fish – it also has a build up of stagnant water and renovations have been ongoing for about 30 years.

The Malibu Lagoon is the terminus of the Malibu Creek Watershed, the second largest watershed draining into Santa Monica Bay. Receiving approximately 1.5 million visitors each year, Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon are iconic both within surfing culture and beach culture at large. Previously used as a construction dump, then transformed into a baseball field, Malibu Lagoon is finally receiving the attention it deserves as an intrinsically valuable space.

However, controversy surrounds differing approaches of restoring, maintaining and maximizing biological health of the lagoon. Although opinions abound, two dominant management approaches emerge.
After meeting with representatives from Save Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider Foundation and Heal the Bay, it seems as though the management of Malibu Lagoon boils down to a matter of philosophical difference. Both camps are doing the best work they can with the information they have, but are operating from fundamentally differing philosophical positions of environmental science. The Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, of Heal the Bay and Surfrider Foundation among others, was drafted with the underlying assumption that through scientific understanding, with maps, models and machines, we can renovate and rebuild entire ecosystems to improve their biological health. Groups like Save Malibu Lagoon, on the other hand, advocate a less heavy-handed (and slower) approach.

We have a special chance to visit the lagoon; learning more about its controversial restoration plans and later on, participating in a SurfRider beach clean leads us even closer to the realities of the lagoon – discovering a dead peli and pollution in the area first hand. Once the beach is thoroughly swept and karma points are in the bag it’s such joy to spend the rest of the day surfing, hanging out at Malibu and enjoying the iconic surroundings!

We have a day or so left at Leo Carrillo and the team are feeling strong energies within the canyon with deer herds running through the campsite, talk of mountain lions and strange dreams infiltrating many people’s sleep. We are invited to visit the local Chumash village, feeling it is an integral part of any journey to honour the ancesters of the land we are visiting.
After calling in the whales atop the canyon ridge overlooking the vast ocean, the time has come to move on. With the full moon and the Chumash blessing, the kayak convoy decides to attempt the next leg in the night. Setting off at midnight is a risk indeed, but the sailors have clear skies and mother nature on their side.

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  • Andy Lyon

    I’m really bummed that you guys caved to Heal the Bay and Surfrider foundation on the Malibu Lagoon restoration issue. SOOOO NOT COOL !!!
    That’s a real sell out in my book.
    I’ll be sure to send you some pics of the mass destruction if we aren’t successful in stopping this.
    Please be sure NOT to stop by and have a surf on your way back through.

    DUDE>>>>> I really thought you had some scruples.

    to hell with surfrider and heal the bay !!

  • wendi werner

    This dose not sound like the “we’re going to keep neutral on this position” to me. But, I guess that when you are working with the heavy handed “scientists” (who are not taking all of the upstream pollution into consideration because they could not get the bond $$$$$ for that) I guess you have to do what they say.

    Too bad.:(

    Wendi Werner

  • Natalie

    Andy, great to have your opinion on this, with you being a local surfer it’s what really counts.
    The TransparentSea voyage is about shedding light on issues affecting coastal areas and it’s clear the Malibu Lagoon is a complex and controversial subject very difficult to sum up in one short paragraph.
    This article is not in away way taking sides, but relaying just some of the information which was taken through meeting both sides in an attempt to learn more and go on to raise awareness of the plans and controversy surrounding them.
    Hopefully this will inspire more people to speak up about what is going on there and how they feel about it, because it is really down to the local community taking action. I have my own personal opinion, but still there is more I need to learn about the situation before making and expressing an informed decision. I cannot speak for any of the Surfers for Cetaceans crew, but they do not take this issue lightly and are definitely not siding with anyone publicly for now.
    It sounds like you are pretty passionate about this subject so I hope you find a way to channel that passion into creating something productive – especially if it is towards the conservation of the animals in lagoon and retaining the natural habitat.