Surfing Imperial is an exercise in forgetting that the break is a
convecting tub of chemicals. Imperial - one of California's best
big wave spots - also boasts the state's most sickening stretch of
sand, fouled by 25 million gallons a day of unfiltered human and
industrial mierda draining from the Tijuana River into the
After a session there, I've often felt a little weird, like I'm coming down with an earache or a cold - but these days, I worry about contracting a GI infection, hepatitis, or worse.
Even when I know I'm paddling out through a coliform chowder, it's hard for me to pass up big surf. And it's not just because I'd miss a day. Like the industrial magnates who spew waste into open water and insist that it will all "wash out to sea," I'm waist-deep in denial. I have a hard time admitting to myself how pathetically degraded many of my own favorite spots on the coast have become.
Recently, environmental groups, including Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club, have had to resort to litigation to force governments to even consider more efficient sewage treatment. At the Sloughs, this means that the powers-that-be are pondering the creation of giant ponds where the fouled runoff of the Tijuana River can be cleaned and recycled.
I'll believe it when I see it - or smell it. When I surf, I know the risks. I accept that I may have to get a few stitches or swallow a few mouthfuls of brine, and that's a price I'm willing to pay.
After a day of wallowing in the Sloughs - peeling off my suit and
noticing again how it stinks - I think about the "Bambi Syndrome."
Zoologists explain that degradation of habitats kills off whole
ecosystems if the species at home in them aren't cute enough to draw
the necessary publicity required to "save" them. Is there anything
swimming in the Sloughs cute enough to inspire a worldwide movement to
clean up the Tijuana River?
Story by Matt Margolin
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