Editor’s Note: This article is brought to you by our partners at Vans.
The theme for this year’s US Open of Surfing is all about sustainability and as such, Vans has stepped up to highlight several key organizations working to protect our coastlines – both in Orange County and across the globe. Those partners include organizations like the Surfrider Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, WSL’s We Are One Ocean, and Orange County Coastkeeper. As a part of the on-the-sand action, each of these organizations have a booth you can visit to learn more about who they are and what they do.
At the Surfrider booth you can enter a raffle for a brand-new Firewire eco-board, sign up for a membership and get some swag, or just chat and learn about the work they’re doing “to protect and surf.”
Sustainable Coastlines have some pretty sweet experiential opportunities in their corner of the event site too, including an interactive exhibit on microplastics and a pledge wall to take a stance against plastic pollution. “Cleaning up beaches is only part of the solution,” says Executive Director Raphael Bergstrom. “We also need to ‘turn off the tap on plastic,’ make better choices, and work to stop producing more of it.”
Orange County Coastkeeper also took the experiential route for its booth. At first glance, OCCK almost seems like a tech company rather than an organization working to keep the waters of Orange County swimmable, drinkable, and fishable for years to come. In the picture below, visitors to the booth sit in camp chairs hooked up to VR goggles. They’re taking a virtual dive to check out the ecosystems thriving on the “artificial reefs” formed by the pilings below drilling platforms off the coast of Huntington Beach.
One of Orange County Coastkeeper’s main initiatives is working to stop future drilling projects and to decommission the platforms that currently dot the coastline. As evidenced by the 2021 Amplify oil spill, these aging rigs not only continue our reliance on fossil fuels but also present the continual risk of spills. However, they don’t want to tear the rigs out completely. As highlighted by the virtual dive, some rigs have proven to be great habitats for marine life with lots of different species finding homes there. The “Rigs to Reef” program seeks to decommission rigs but keep parts of the undersea pilings intact if they are proven to provide a positive environmental impact.
If you’re here at the US Open, check out the VR experience for yourself. And if you’re reading from home, learn more at Coastkeeper.org.