By Matt Walker
Photos by DJ Struntz
Surfing by Sterling Spencer
Oily seabirds. Spewing drill pipes. Unscrupulous oil execs.
If any of those sickening Gulf Coast images haven't got you screaming yet, look down into the selfish, most surf-obsessed recesses of your heart and consider this: remember all those killer shots that came out of the Panhandle a couple years back? When dudes got spit out of tubes from Alabama Point to Pensacola Pier? Well, you will never score a single one. Neither will the local surfers who live there. Not this hurricane season. Not since BP shit the seafloor 50 days ago, blotting out any hope of a blue-wave barrel garden and leaving a dirty smear of oil sheen and tar balls for the foreseeable future. In fact, that future is already here.
"Yeah, we're screwed," says Sterling Spencer, who posted the first tarball session on his website yesterday (see below). "They're not sure exactly when the sheen's gonna hit, but it's coming. The oil is still flowing. And if the hurricane season kicks in…oh, gosh."
Oh gosh indeed.
Of course, much of the Gulf's been choking on this fuming mess for more than a month. But Pensacola marks the first super surf-infested real estate to feel the impact. Too bad it won't be the last. A single storm could send the slick across Western Florida — or Eastern Texas. And if the loop current models are right, the mess could make its way around the Keys, up the East Coast and off Hatteras inside of three months — smack dab in the tropical high season. (In fact, there's a chance we could go from flat spell to fuel dump without a single fun session.)
How horrifying it gets all depends on the weather, but with thousands of miles of coast to consider and limited resources, the reaction will be same everywhere: some folks will get help; some folks won't.
"All the booms are out protecting the sound and bays and bayous," Spencer continues. "The beaches can be cleaned, they say."
In other words, "F—k you, surfers." Well that's why surfers need to say, "F—k you" back , to Big Oil and the government officials who let them play fast and loose with our way of life.
Start by attending one or both of the nationwide protests being held to push the US to stop drilling offshore entirely. (Move On is holding a vigil today, June 8, to mark the 50th day of the spill; and, on June 26, Surfrider and Sierra Club are backing a Hands Across the Sand gathering at surfspots across the country.)
In between, tell your legislators you will hold them responsible for prosecuting the offending parties and securing your coastline's future. And nobody should be giving BP a single penny to keep fueling its PR machine.
But ranting is easy. Reforming is hard. And before surfers can expect to hold others accountable, we need to attack our own wasteful habits. If we didn't consume so much petroleum, we wouldn't need to look for risky oil deposits. So preserve that quiver. Save that wax comb. Most of all, don't burn so much friggin' gas. (One of the more interesting finds from our soon-to-be published Surf-First survey is that American surfers almost never carpool — the Gulf being the ironic exception.)
In other words, don't just do something. Do everything. Whatever it takes to make sure this never happens again. And in the meantime? Well, if you live East of Encino, you better go surfing.
"That's kinda what that video is about," says Spencer. "Yeah, it's small, but we're out there enjoying it — while we can."