Adding Fuel To The Fires

You knew it was going to be much worse than the initial reports: a little over a week ago, the Chinese-owned container ship Cosco Busan struck at tower of the Bay Bridge, damaging the ship and releasing approximately 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the San Francisco Bay. Official cleanup efforts were slow (some say too many of the Coast Guard resources had been repurposed to "homeland security"), and as the muck crept into the most popular spots from Marin to Maverick's, it became clear that a "little human error" and a big cargo ship can go a long way in destroying our precious beaches.

As many as 20 beaches have been closed, including Ocean Beach. Police will stop you if you try to paddle out. Organizations like Surfrider and Save the Waves are organizing their own cleanups and crisis committees to address the situation, but if longtime Ocean Beach surfer and Maverick's charger Grant Washburn's assessment is any indication, NorCal locals will be feeling the effects of this disaster for a long time. "We’re buried in bunker fuel here," said Washburn as the stuff hit Ocean Beach late last week. "It's a very nasty spill of very stinky goo. OB is trashed, huge slicks are adrift at sea, and it looks like the globs will easily make it from Maverick’s to Point Arena. There is no plan to clean up most of it. Bring an old wetty and shave your head, because you can’t get it off of anything."

Just yesterday, Washburn's dire predictions came true after he went down to check a borderline swell at Maverick's. "Maverick’s is now contaminated," he said. "Dead birds have been washing up. The main thing surfers should know is that this is not your grannies motor oil. This is toxic waste. Bunker fuel is nothing like the little tar balls surfers have been frolicking in for decades. This stuff is the nastiest of the nasty, and several doctors have told me they believe the substances being sown into our shore are responsible for things like Parkinsons and other nerve disorders — even in trace amounts. It is sucked up by human tissue, traveling right through cell walls. Looking at Mav's from shore, my front line experience has me shocked. I could not believe how bad the goo really is; the vapors are eye-watering and the ocean is covered in an ultra-fine film. This is no small deal. It will definitely put the Maverick’s event and the surfers at risk."

Since the officials don't seem to be rallying around this tragedy, it's up to us surfers. Check the links below and do what you can.


Volunteers wishing to get involved in the Bay, Marin, or general oil spill cleanups should head down to the Fort Mason Command Center, corner of Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, in San Francisco.

The environmental group Baykeeper is soliciting volunteers at

More info:
More information on how to volunteer eventually will be posted online by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at

Oil slicks:
Help track the spill by reporting oil slicks. Call (985) 781-0804.

Report oiled wildlife at (877) 823-6926. (Do not call this number to volunteer.)

Submit claims for damaged property at (888) {{{850}}}-8486.

SF Surfrider members are also planning coastal hikes to find and report oiled wildlife. Register for SF Surfrider updates here:

Online Resources:
California Coastal Commission –
US Coast Guard –
Oiled Wildlife Care Network –
International Bird Rescue Research Center –
Marine Mammal Center –
Zuna Surf –
San Francisco Surfrider –