The Eco-Effective Enviro-Athlete

The WHAT??  Imagine being on your mountain bike, navigating a burly single-track at breakneck speeds throughout a beautiful redwood forest with one of your fellow nature/cycling enthusiasts.  You both carve through several big berms, huck over a few logs, and heckle each other incessantly when one comes off and executes a hilariously epic faceplant.  Halfway through your breathless ride through one of the earth’s most astoundingly glorious environments, you both encounter something that makes you slam on the brakes and come to a dead stop…THWACK!  That’s the sound of both jaws hitting the ground when you both see the ridiculously gargantuan pile of plastic bottles, garbage bags, plastic candy wrappers, and those ubiquitous red party cups heaped directly in the middle of the trail.

Unfortunately, this is a true story.   Last year Dave and I happened upon a mountainous pile of what was mostly single-use plastic while riding a very popular Santa Cruz trail.  We both felt initial despair because we simply didn’t have the capacity to haul it all away with us on our bikes, not to mention the sadness we both felt at encountering such a ghastly sight in such a stunning natural environment.  What would the eco-effective enviro-athlete do?  We both took out our phones and took pictures which we later loaded up on the computer and we formulated a plan as to how to address this issue and prevent it from happening again.  Whenever we see trash on the trails, we pick it up.  I’ve seen Dave, who pedals like the Tasmanian devil on crank, screech to rapidly scary stops mid-ride simply to grab that plastic bottle somebody thoughtlessly tossed on the ground and stuff it in his backpack.  THAT, my friends, is an eco-effective enviro-athlete!  He’ll do the same thing while windsurfing (honestly, if he saw a plastic water bottle floating by the dorsal fin of a white shark I still think he’d sail right on over and pluck it out of the water while deadpanning  “hey dude, this doesn’t belong here” to the curious toothy creature).  Ok, perhaps I am getting a bit carried away here but my point is that being an enviro-athlete takes dedication and a genuine passion not only for the sports that we love, but for the health and productivity of the natural world that we are engaging with.

Shawna after a muddy spill on the bike!

What’s encouraging is that this movement is catching on.  Pro volleyball players, surfers, cyclists, runners, swimmers, etc are speaking up by the thousands in support of local beach clean-ups, trail maintenance, and numerous conservation efforts all over the world.  If we are going to enjoy the bounty of nature as athletes, it’s our personal responsibility to make sure we take care not to contribute to the global pollution problem.  Our actions can also have a profound effect on the up and coming generation of young athletes, and we have a wonderful opportunity at this pivotal point to serve as their mentors.

Some people ask “why should I care”?  Imagine a philosophical crab, perched on its several hundred million year track record of success, disdainfully reviewing our history…and thinking the same of us.

The power of one is potent.  Every superlative idea started with one individual and turned into a vast collective effort.  Next time you are leaping over obstacles on your bike, paddling out into the sea on your board, or hiking through the woods, stop and take a moment to breathe deeply and relish in the gift we have been given.  After that moment of silence if you happen to look around and spot something like the infamous plastic bottle, pick it up and take it with you for proper disposal.  It doesn’t belong there.  YOU do.    “The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Scott’s Creek Late Session Anyone?

Every day that we have the opportunity to get on the water is a gift.  The farther we travel the more we realize how fortunate we are in America to be surrounded by clean seas. But they need our help. Our rivers and seas are filling with trash at an ever increasing rate. Plastic packaging, cigarette butts, plastic shopping bags, the list goes on. What kind of person would accept the challenge of stemming this onslaught?

Join the team for International Coastal Cleanup

Last year nearly 600,000 visionaries picked up 9 million pounds of trash from beaches and rivers in 153 countries on International Coastal Cleanup Day. This year we are faced with a daunting new challenge, the first signs of debris from the Japanese Tsunami are starting to reach US shores. NOAA estimates that of the 5 million tons of debris that entered the sea off Japan, 1.5 million tons remained afloat and entered the Pacific Gyre. This spring the first signs of that debris started landing on the west coast of North America. Now, more than ever, the ocean needs our help.

Your effort can prevent this!

Saturday September 15th marks the 27th year of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. This is the opportunity that you’ve been waiting for, a chance to spend the morning with your friends at the beach, pitching in to help the earth’s greatest natural resource. The sea not only feeds us and provides the bulk of the oxygen that we breathe, it also provides endless recreational opportunity. It gives us the chance to take a deep breath and take stock of all that we are so fortunate to have. A chance to realign our priorities of health, family, and friends. So please join me and your friends for a few hours beginning around 9 am on Saturday and join the largest volunteer conservation effort on the planet. And start paying back our ocean for the bounty that she provides us every day. For a list of your local sites visit Ocean Conservancy’s website here, or simply head to the coast and pitch in!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Making A Difference, One Shovel-Full at a Time

If you are like most people, there comes a time when you start asking yourself “Am I really making a difference?” The office might be wearing on you, the traffic might be getting to you, the family might just seem a bit too demanding. The end result is we start wondering if we are making a difference during our time on this planet.

Now as mountainbikers we can count ourselves more fortunate than most. We have one of the best releases of stress, energy, and endorphins, at our disposal, a ride in the woods. But what have we done to earn this gift? I’m not talking about going to work or supporting our local bike shop with our disposable income, I’m talking about paying real dues. Supporting our resource can be done in three primary ways, your money (contributing to MBOSCC or Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks), your vote (keep the parks funded with our tax dollars), or your time. Your own personal situation will help you determine which way is best for you.


Epic Queenstown NZ Singletrack

I’ve come across the Trailworkers volunteer crew working in Wilder twice in my twenty years of riding. I was impressed that my friend Dan Chen was there both times. It turns out Dan has been donating a half day of his time on the first Sunday of each month since the mid eighties. Talk about dedication! So it was with no lack of guilt that I joined him and 18 others this past Sunday at Wilder to learn more about trail maintenance and to swing some tools. Two of the three Wilder Ranch Crew leaders were on hand (thanks Chuck and Harvey for your work), a bunch of regulars from over the years, a high school teacher an a half dozen of her students, and Chris Pereira, the Park Maintenance Supervisor for trail programs in the Santa Cruz district (the guru). Chris’ experience and knowledge about trail work and his great leadership inspired every one of us.


Chris Pereira – Trail Guru

We spent a total of four hours together on Twin Oaks trail learning about maintenance and how to do it correctly. Chris is a wealth of information and is responsible for some of the best trails in Wilder, most of the reroutes (trail changes to improve ride quality and drainage) that you have admired were the result of his effort. It was great working alongside people of  wildly varied experience and ages who all shared the same belief, we are the good that we want to see in the environment. There is no challenge in our local hills that we can’t overcome with the right mix of knowledge, effort, and a few bucks.

I can’t think back on a day of public service that I have enjoyed more than this past Sunday. To be outside, working on the trails I love, surrounded by inspired individuals of all ages on a warm Sunday is an experience I will not soon forget. Or miss again. The list of reasons to be out there is a long one, we need to invest in the resource to prove ownership, we need to exhibit to the state agencies that parks are critical and we are invested in them, and we need to battle the indoor trap and break away from the computer and playstation. But the best reason to engage the resource, to become stewards of the land, is that it needs us and we need it. The payback comes back everyday we pedal that trail, and with every thank you that we harvest as the trail users stop and applaud the efforts of our crew.


Wilder volunteer Trail Crew, where are you?

Sign up here so you don’t miss the next trail day, the first Sunday of the month at 9:45am in the upper Wilder Ranch parking lot or at one of our other priceless parks. You can make the difference!