The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: baja

A Little Tribute to my Late, Great Friend Sean Collins – via NPR’s Science Friday

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Sean Collins with one of his early hand-drawn maps of swell, reef and bathymetry.
Photo: Chris Dixon

It’s damned difficult for me to believe, but it’s been four years since surf forecaster Sean Collins died of a heart attack. He wasn’t surfing some off-the-grid Baja point break, but simply enjoying a game of tennis. Sean was a buddy, a competitor and a colleague since I first met him back in 1995 when we were working on the respective launches of Surfline.com and Surfermag.com(here’s a Wayback Machine link to one of the site’s first home pages, built using raw HTML). Collins’ Surfline.com would become the world’s first definitive online surf forecasting service. And though Collins kept some cards very close to his chest, he and I talked technology and where this new thing called the World Wide Web was heading at least once a week. Like any competitors, we butted heads occasionally, but I constantly marveled at his discipline and the technology Sean managed to pioneer; live surf cameras, wave models and cellular modems to broadcast big wave contests from a boat off Todos Santos. Without his early warnings of swells, I never would have had some of my surf stories published in The New York Timesand it’s arguable that my book Ghost Wave would never have seen a printing press.

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William Finnegan: Surf for Love, Not for Gold

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THE New England missionaries who began arriving in Hawaii in 1820 were horrified to find, as they sailed in, people surfing. “Some of our number, with gushing tears, turned away from the spectacle,” wrote Hiram Bingham, the missionaries’ leader. This devastating display of half-nude “barbarism” — really, it was the ancient practice of he’e nalu, which was rich in traditional religious meaning — clearly had to be stamped out. Twenty-seven years later, with Hawaiian culture being destroyed by changes that the missionaries helped set in motion, Bingham wrote with satisfaction of the “decline and discontinuance of the surfboard.”

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Life In Salt. Talking Story with Barbarian Days Author William Finnegan, Part I. Joaquin and the Indefensible Lust for Hurricane Surf.

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William Finnegan. Portrait of the author as a young man. Photo from Barbarian Days, courtesy: William Finnegan.

Editor’s Note. Last week, I fired up Skype for a chat with author and longtime New Yorker reporter William Finnegan. Finnegan, 62, is a personal hero. He’s a Manhattan-based, hard-nosed, badass, no-bullshit, journalist’s journalist, and surfing’s most accomplished wordsmith. In his recently released New York Times bestselling memoir Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life, Finnegan has written a sweeping, engrossing narrative that literally took six decades to write.

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Barbarian Days. Well worth 1926 pennies.

Finnegan and I planned to spend fifteen, maybe twenty minutes talking about the book. But by the time we wrapped it up, we’d had a two hour long discussion on the the state of the world, climate armageddon, fatherhood, surfing, relationships, youthful selfishness, growing older and hopefully wiser, and, oh yeah, the book.

Over the next several days, I’ll run excerpts from our talk in installments. First, the glory, frustration and indefensible immorality of lusting after, and chasing hurricane waves.

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How to Farm Fish Without Killing the Planet

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Photo: Ocean Farm Technologies.

Aquaculture has been the world’s fastest-growing food sector for several decades, and some argue it is the only feasible answer to the predicament of trying to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

And they have a point. Since the 1970s, roughly half of the world’s fish and seafood harvested for human consumption has been farmed, and in 2011, aquaculture exceeded global beef production for the first time in history.

But how can it be done without introducing pathogens (as well has hormones and potential toxins, like antibiotics) and depleting the ocean of precious oxygen and nutrients?

While there appears to be plenty of space in the ocean for the industry to expand, many, if not most of these farms lie in lakes and near-coastal waterways where, if not properly managed, they pose a serious threat to the surrounding environment.

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Graphic: Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis.

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Here’s What You Should Know About the Littlest Porpoise and What You Can Do to Help Them.

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Above: The vaquita (Phocoena sinus). Photo: Flip Nicklin, Minden Pictures/Corbis.

The vaquita is a tiny endangered porpoise that exists within a narrow 1,500-square-mile patch of the Pacific Ocean around Baja, California with a dwindling population of less than 100 as of late 2014.

As is the case with many cetaceans that find themselves fouled in fishing nets, they’re not the target species. Oriental interest in the swim bladder of another endangered specimen, the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), has fishermen in Mexico setting nets in waters shared by the vaquita.

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Life in Salt: Professional Surfer and Filmmaker Cyrus Sutton on Living in a Van Down by the Sea, and Giving up His Iconic Surfmobile

Editor’s Note: 

About a week ago, I learned that #vanlife icon Cyrus Sutton was seriously considering selling his iconic wood-roofed, high-top Ford Econoline van. I suggested to my nomadic maritime scribe Owen Burke, who has been strongly considering a #vanlife shift since moving to New Zealand, that he reach out to Sutton and write up a piece on the possible sale of VanHalen. The conversation between the two nomads (Sutton’s wandering somewhere near San Diego), took a decidedly more interesting turn, when Owen began hitting up Sutton for wisdom on vans, while Sutton began to seriously query Owen on life in New Zealand. In the end, it seems Owen will indeed end up in a van, while Sutton will also end up a Kiwi. To top it off, Sutton’s good buddy, Scuttlefish friend and #vanlife founder Foster Huntington, just ended up on the homepage of the New York Times. Strange days indeed. — Chris Dixon

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“It’s scary, giving up a traditional roof over your head. You’re giving up a lot of security, but what you’re getting is reality. Cut down your expenses and you can live the new American Dream.” Photo courtesy: Cyrus Sutton.

10 years ago, professional surfer and filmmaker Cyrus Sutton was sick of paying rent and being confined to his Southern Californian residence because of it. Free, single, and disengaged, he bought a used Ford Econoline–an electrician’s van.

He stripped it, extended the roof, installed a bunk, storage, a workspace and a kitchen area, and called it home. Since then, he and his surf-chariot/film-studio have roamed north as far as the Washington Straits, and south to Oaxaca, Mexico where he spent months surfing and making films.

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“VanHalen” in Baja, Mexico, before the makeover. Photo courtesy: Cyrus Sutton.

Now, because he’s been given an offer he couldn’t refuse, his dream home on wheels “VanHalen” is soon to be looking for a new pilot. There’s only one condition: if you decide to buy her, you’ll have to allow Cyrus to come by once a year so he can drive around the block to reminisce.


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VanHalen somewhere in Mexico, blending right in. Photo courtesy: Cyrus Sutton.

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How Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo Is Paving the Way for Marine Conservation

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Thousands upon thousands of bigeye jacks, now worth more dead than alive, swarm David Castro, whose father spearheaded the conservation project. Photo: Dr. Octavio Aburto Oropeza.

Two decades ago, the fishing industry–and ecosystem–of Baja, Mexico’s remote seaside village of Cabo Pulmo was on the verge of collapse. A local took initiative, scoured the oceanography world and grassroots activists (from near and far) to bring the bay back to what it once was.

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Did Mark Healey Just Attempt the Biggest Beach Break Wave Ever?

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Mark Healey drops into history. Screen Grab from Jon Aspuru. 

On Sunday, May 3, swells from a tremendous southern hemisphere storm – a cyclone that produced a thousand mile field of fifty foot seas – funneled into the submarine canyon just off Puerto Escondido, in mainland Mexico. Fresh off the plane from the Quiksilver Punta De Lobos Ceremonial big wave contest in Chile, Hawaiian charger Mark Healey paddled into a titanic lefthander on his 9’8″ Ron Meeks big wave gun, made the drop, somehow tucked in under the lip, was absolutely annihilated and then miraculously survived an epic pounding. It was a beast that local legend Edwin Morales called the biggest Puerto wave ever paddled into. Puerto is generally considered to be one of the biggest surfable sand-bottomed beach breaks there is, thus, this is probably the biggest beach break wave ever attempted.

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Mark Healey. Going down. Screen Grab from Jon Aspuru. 

On his Instagram feed @donkeyshow, Healey, who is no stranger to fear, wrote: “It was really scary out there this morning. Glad everyone is OK. Managed to be in the right place for a solid one on my @meeksboards / @wrv1967 9’8.”

Check out the incredible video from John Aspuru – complete with audio from awestruck onlookers.

And the unbelievable pull back of the action from Clive Richter and a horrendous wipeout are below.

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