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Ambassadors for Marine Mammals

October 22nd 2011

By Chris Darimont

My two passions have united in an extraordinarily spectacular way this year.  I have steadfastly dedicated my professional career (and life) to protecting the Great Bear Rainforest, as a scientist and informed advocate.  I have also dedicated a good part of my life to surfing, an activity (or way or life, really) that immerses me – quite literally – along the Great Bear’s coastline.  What brought these loves together?  Well, I have this happy coupling (and only this) for which to thank Enbridge Inc.

Here’s why. At Raincoast, we aim for unique and compelling ways to inform the public about threats to the Great Bear as well as solutions to those conflicts and challenges.  Often, media plays a central role because it allows us to leverage a larger voice in our outreach.

One day while in the water, I was thinking about how we could alert more people about the threat from Enbridge’s desire to impose tar sands pipelines and super tankers on our coast.  How could we inform the people of California, in particular, for they are expected to be one of the primary recipients of what is becoming known internationally as the “world’s dirtiest oil”?  How could we tell them that marine mammals, salmon, bears, and a whole way of life for all on this coast was at risk? If only these animals could tell their story.

Yet, grizzlies are not renowned for their conversational skills. And surely, killer whales and other marine mammals – despite their intelligence – cannot mount a compelling dialogue. Or could they?  It hit me like an icy wave.  Why couldn’t surfers – the closest approximation of marine mammals among us humans – bring voice to this issue on behalf of whales, dolphins, porpoises and more at risk?  An idea for a documentary film and centrepiece for our new unspOILed campaign was born.

About a year of planning later, we set sail. Our research vessel, Achiever, was now equipped with a most unlikely rigging: a surfboard rack.  Members of Patagonia’s famous surf team were aboard, including accomplished film maker Chris Malloy, his talented brother Dan and new team member and artist, Trevor Gordon. So was Canada’s most gifted and humble surfer, Peter Devries.  Together, these athletic and media ambassadors, who have massive followings in California, Canada and beyond, were helping to bring forth an important story.

Caption: Surfs up, dudes. The Captain, crew and surfer-ambassadors after 10 days of Great Bear Rainforest magic. photo: Scott Soens

 

Capturing the magic was the surfing world’s most talented photographers and videographers, Dean Azim, Jeremy Koreski, and Scott Soens.  At the helm was Captain Brian Falconer, who has spent his life avoiding waves like the ones we sought on our trip.  Doug Brown, Raincoast team member from Bella Bella, lent us his local eyes as First Mate. Our jewel in the galley, Gem Salsberg, kept us nourished (and inspired by her artistic skill).

We were off to immerse ourselves in the water during this stormy October, learn from the Great Bear, and tell its story. What we experienced changed Canadian surfing.  It also changed each and every one of us aboard, creating or strengthening our resolve to stand by this priceless coast.

Stay tuned to learn how this film will become an important campaigning tool in California and beyond in the months to come.

 

 

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