International Surfing Day
See who showed up for the 5th annual event
Sylvia Bybee looked in her plastic bag, listing the discoveries found on the sand at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
A rusty nail. A pair of tweezers. Plastic straws and lids. Oh, and a crusty dead fish.
"I was like, what is that?" she said of the barely recognizable fish skeleton. "Just nasty stuff."
Bybee's bag was one of many filled up on Saturday, as surfers came in from the water to clean up the coast for International Surfing Day, which was started five years ago by San Clemente-based Surfing Magazine and the Surfrider Foundation.
"We all use the beach, we all use the water," said Tony Soriano, treasurer for the Huntington Beach/Seal Beach Surfrider chapter. "We should take care of it."
The day started when a group of co-workers took a day off early from work to grab a surf session and brainstormed about how they could give back.
"It's a day to consciously think about the lifestyle we get to live. It's a day to celebrate the sport," said Surfing Magazine Editor-in-Chief Travis Ferre.
Surfers have a natural connection to the environment, spending hours on any given day sitting in the water and waiting for waves. Often, plastic bags or trash float right next to them in the ocean.
"Everyone has the same interest - clean beaches and clean water," said Brad Nadell, of surf supply shop Foam E-Z, which had a booth at the event in Huntington Beach. "I think people just want to get more involved these days."
Johnny Ray Flores, 7, pulled a large, rusted street maintenance stand as big as him from the sand. Johnny and his sister, Natalie, dug it up from the Santa Ana River.
It read "City of Los Angeles."
"That must have been washed up from the ocean," said their father, John. "I was very surprised."
The Flores family - all dressed in wetsuits - resumed their hunt for junk throughout the morning.
"Look at her, she's determined," John said of Natalie, who was pulling hard on a blanket buried deep and stuck in the sand.
"Be careful, there might be something in there!" he called out to her.
International Surfing Day had a slow start, with 18 organized cleanups the first year it was held. By 2006, there were 40, and this year more than 100 beach cleanups were held around the world from as far away as South Africa and Europe.
Here in Orange County, three major gathering sites were at Bolsa Chica and Huntington state beaches and Salt Creek in Dana Point.
More major surf brands are getting involved with International Surfing Day as they have become more environmentally conscious. This year Quiksilver sponsored the cleanup at Bolsa Chica, Vans gave away bags of goodies down at the Santa Ana River mouth, and many smaller surf shops set up booths.
"I think it's cool that in five short years we're seeing more companies that are being a part of it," said pro surfer Matt Beacham. "It's something I think needed to happen for a long time."
Although the surf was lackluster and many surfers who showed up didn't even bother getting into the water, it wasn't a wasted day.
"We're all here for the right reasons - to raise awareness for the ocean, waves and beaches," said Vipe Desai, creator of Project Blue, a company that focuses on eco-friendly surf wear.
Despite drizzly weather, cloudy skies and wind-chopped waves, thousands of surfers turned up to do their part and pay respect to Mother Nature.
"Unfortunately, the weather isn't greatest, but the turnout is great. We're not going to let the rain stop us," said Alexis Henry, spokeswoman for the Surfrider Foundation.