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Editor’s Note: Disruptors is a new series powered by Oakley that identifies the thirty most groundbreaking moments in surf history. Check out more historic moments here.

Not a bad place to rest your head after a long day (surfing) at sea. Photo: Steve Fitzpatrick

Not a bad place to rest your head after a long day (surfing) at sea. Photo: Steve Fitzpatrick

Date: March, 1999

Place: Cairns, Australia

The Moment: The Quiksilver Crossing embarks on an ecology survey that circumnavigates the globe, forever changing the way surf engages and protects its cherished reefs.

“The Quiksilver Crossing is vitally important because not since Charles Darwin sailed around the world on the Beagle in the 1800s has there been such an unprecedented opportunity for marine scientists to study remote reefs and evaluate their health.” – Dr. Gregor Hodgson

The Quiksilver Crossing wasn’t you typical surf trip. Supported by the United Nations, the Reef Check program was arguably the most ambitious ecological survey ever undertaken by man, evolving from a 12-month journey to a seven year expedition that circumnavigated the globe. The marine biologist-led Crossing employed the helping hands of thousands of volunteer scuba divers in a massive effort to find surf, respectfully engage with local cultures, and, above all, determine the global health of coral reefs, contributing to the universal scientific knowledge of the oceanic life source.

The floating research station was a 72-foot exploratory vessel called the MV Indies Trader (available for personal charter now) whose top priority was ultimately to monitor the coral reefs — but Kelly Slater didn’t call it “The Greatest Surf Adventure Ever” for nothing. They were damn sure to surf, and in their travels that took them to 56 countries and 26 states and four territories, they discovered more than 115 new surfing breaks. Fellow world champion Tom Carroll furthered the wide-eyed sentiment, who likened its mission to the spirit of surfing the Australian grew up with.

When the Crossing completed its circumnavigation in Hawaii, it had traveled from Australia across the Pacific to Melanesia and Polynesia, through the Indian Ocean as far south as South Africa, through the Mediterranean to Europe, and across the Atlantic to South America, Central America and mainland United States before setting anchor in surfing’s birthplace. Unfortunately, the endless sets and barrel faces aside, the findings with regard to the global health of coral reefs were as dire as expected. The research and studies basically proved the scientists’ hypothesis right in showing that even the most remote reefs had been adversely affected by human activities. The biggest contributor was no surprise either: the team concluded that overfishing was the primary problem facing most of these reefs.

While coral reefs continue to suffer, the Crossing was successful in bringing our negligence to the surf community’s attention, which has, in turn, seen to extensive efforts worldwide to address the degradation in positive, forward-thinking ways that not only protect the reefs, but look to restore them as well.

Where are those “discovered” breaks? Most were kept quiet, left for future travelers to happen across themselves.

Read a reflective memo by Craig Shuman and Dr. Gregor Hodgson here.


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