State of the Union

“The great question… is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, our land, our water? Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of America.”

Richard M Nixon
State of the Union address, January 22, 1970

On January 28, 1969 one of America’s most significant environmental disasters to date occurred, a huge oil spill off of Santa Barbara California. Many believe that incident spurred President Nixon to take action, in turn he created the greatest environmental policy record in American history during which he presided over the development of:

The National Environmental Policy Act (1969)
The Environmental Protection Agency (1970)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1970)
The Clean Air Act (1970)
The Clean Water Act (1972)
Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972)
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (1972)
The Endangered Species Act (1973)
Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)


How can environmental policy be considered a partisan issue?


The Best Gear for Your Environment

One of the most intriguing dichotomies that outdoor athletes must address is gear. Great gear is awesome, don’t get me wrong. A wetsuit that keeps us toasty in 50 degree water is amazing. Mountain bikes that allow us to climb and descend with formerly unknown speed and control are breathtaking. Skis that excel in poor snow only make us crave our mountain time more. There are few arguments that the new gear is inferior to the older stuff. If we were to ask Shackleton if he’d like to trade up from the seal skin jacket and meal to a gore tex shell and some dehydrated beef stroganoff I reckon we know how he’d go. But the gear can also create a greater divide between us and the environment we love.


Nice bike, that’ll be 8500…hours?

    But why wouldn’t we jump in line at the register at the outdoor shop or fill the online cart at the website of our choice and have the latest and greatest delivered to our front door? Perhaps because we all love the planet. Some love the city and it’s trappings, some the wilderness, and most of us a blend of the two. And for the fortunate few of us getting folks out into the wilderness is our calling. My job is to get people to fall in love with the wilderness so they’ll develop a connection to it and want to defend it. Ya know, vote for it (come on people!), pay for it, or put in some old fashioned elbow grease for it. So try these on for you and the planet, three reasons to consider before buying the latest kit for your outdoor adventures.


    Reason one – New stuff needs to be built from raw material that is part of the planet. A good reason to love wooden boats and clay pottery eh? I recollect a statistic that stated that on average the new product that you hold in your hand represents only 10 percent of the raw material that went into creating it. Ow. My new bike tires left 10 times their weight in resources in a landfill, tailings pond, forest floor, or in the atmosphere. That’s a lot of bulldozer and co2 for my schralping.

    Two – Maintaining and repairing gear is good work and keeps your old stuff out of the landfill. Yup, the ding dude, sewing bro, and mechanic chick are saving your stuff and our planet. Right in your neighborhood. And probably getting more trail and water time than you. Support your local community and keep your gear alive.

   Three – Money is time. No, not the other way around. Buying the latest requires money, and that predicates office time. Productivity is what makes the world go ‘round, but that money/time equation reduces your outdoor time. And more importantly interpersonal time.  Family time, road trips with the girls, sessions with the bros. You know, the best of times.


OK, maybe not second hand helmets…

Please don’t think I don’t buy new though, there are bits I recognize as critical new parts. On my bikes it is new tires and drive trains. Second hand windsurf masts and wetsuits aren’t my preference. And nothing beats a fresh bar of wax. I’ll  take mine in a cardboard box over the plastic wrap, thank you very much. We don’t need to get monastic about this stuff, sometimes we just need to resist the marketing hype for another season. I can’t wait for my favorite new bike to be turned out of the rental fleet and secretly hope my buddies are upgrading their boards so I can score their hand-me-downs. A day or two of ding repair and they’ll ride as good as new. Is it really a clearer conscience if I buy their cast-off? At least I didn’t miss the last session because I was at the office working so I could afford the latest. We’ve all got our own challenges that we face but I hope you’ll take pause before going all in on the next big buy. I’ll take my queue from the happiest kid at the pumptrack!



Fat Tire Friendships

Recently I got a call from Tawn Kennedy of the local bike-advocacy group Greenways to School asking if I’d like to join the Mission Hill Bike Club for a Wednesday ride. Heck yeah!

Bike Club is amazing. It’s a chance for about 20 students to get together and pedal locally while interacting and challenging each other. I absolutely love riding with kids. The unbridled energy and lack of distraction ensures that everyone is going to have a good time. It takes me back to my days as a kid on a bike and the relatively carefree attitude that we all had before jobs, rents and relationships.

– See more at:

Watching Whales, Learning to Sail….

After checking the forecast for the day (wind variable, five knots or less) I headed down to the harbor with a good bit of concern. What could new sailors possibly gain from sailing lessons without wind? Little did I know that the ocean would come to our rescue, once again.

humpback whales

Two snoozing humpbacks blew fishy snores at us while we drifted around them.

 More here….

Trail(or) Trash

You may be starting to wonder what the weird photos are in the margin of this site. Looking closer they are, yes, trash. Trail trash. So…what’s the deal here?

I hate trash. I love trash. Trash tells us so much about who is directly impacting the environment beneath our feet. For the past seven years I’ve studied ocean trash, picking up refuse that is floating in the water and on beaches. Good money in it? Nope. I’ve been doing it to learn about who is polluting and where. Not so easy to sort out considering ocean currents, photo degradation, and marine organisms’ rapid population of anything in the water. But we’ve leveraged this information to help support Styrofoam and plastic bag bans, to help regional planners understand how their cities impact our ocean, and to educate the public. The end result? Marine debris collection and advocacy is at an all time high and densities of targeted waste are already declining. But why on land?

Marine Debris

I love trails. I love chasing the guy in front of me, I love nudging my buddies into the bushes as were blasting down the trail, I love the endorphins that come from a strenuous ride, and I love stewardship. I am a fan of nearly every activity that gets more people out into the wilderness. I firmly believe that if we want people to fight for the environment, they must first love it. But trash detracts from that love. Trash demonstrates a lack of respect for the environment and those that love it. Trash also demonstrates a misconception that has been held by too many for far too long, that the earth will take care of all our mistakes. The best way for me to demonstrate my love for the trail is to pick up after those idiots (and show up for trailwork days)!

Excuse me, did you drop something?

So what do the photos show? Too many people still use single use waterbottles. Cigarette butts…really! That’s how we enjoy the fresh air? Beer cans, check. Plastic packaging, of course. The bulk of what I pick up daily is packaging and plastic bags. But what are those tiny rectangular bits in the photos? The torn off tops from energy packets (Gu, no thank Yu!).* Who uses those? Cyclists and runners primarily. I see 10+ cyclists for every runner, so I think it’s mostly the cyclists. And students. My ride takes me through the UCSC campus, so I see the streets and trails twelve months a year. And there sure has been a whole lot more trash blowing around campus since September 22 this year….

How do you express your love of the trail? Pick up the trash. Come on people! Every time somebody sees you doing the right thing it triggers a significant pause. Why is he doing that? What is he picking up? Who dropped it there in the first place? Get your whole crew onboard, imagine the impact then!

Get your crew on the clean trail program!

Please join us in being part of the solution, and help spread the love known as environmental stewardship. Trashing our trails is counterintuitive…trail(or) trash, you can be the difference!

Clif’s Litter Leash

*Of note on litter leashes, Gu has made a point of arguing that they save 20-40% on packaging by not including a litter leash. Saves them cash and arguably saves the planet’s resources. But how many complete packets do you see in the photos? BTW, Clif Shots have the litter leash. Does big trash absolve some of the little trash challenges? You make that decision with every purchase you make.

Stop and Smell the Roses, er, DIRT (shut down your computer and help out this weekend)!

 “WHOOOAAAA!!”… the unmistakable, unabashed howl of getting airborne on my bike, flying through the crisp air and feeling like I suddenly grew wings the size of an albatross!  THUD.  That would be the jolting sound of my body slamming into the dirt and reality setting in as I realize neither my bike or I have wings of any sort and the log I was trying to huck over had attacked me and pitched me into the terra firma.  Dragging myself up from a rather pretzel-like position, I look up and catch the highly amused expression on my partner Dave’s face…and then the Geico reptile blows by us both on a tricycle.

All true with the exception of actually seeing the famous car insurance critter on wheels.  That’s only partially true because it happened in a dream I had last night.  I woke up from this unique reverie with an intense desire to head out for a long, grueling ride on the trails (sans the Geico charger), and it couldn’t happen fast enough.  Oh wait!  This little thing called ‘LIFE’ with its day to day responsibilities, challenges, and ceaseless to-do lists must take precedence over my insatiable thirst to pedal myself silly for several hours.

I opened the bedroom curtains and saw another beautiful day had begun in Santa Cruz with cerulean blue skies, the temperature hovering around 65 degrees, and a refreshing light breeze carrying a mildly salty scent from the nearby sea.  Despite the fact that I had budgets, resumes, chores, and the always harrowing task of figuring how to stretch one paycheck to the next on my mind, all I wanted to do was RIDE.  My mind drifted to the last time I embarked upon a major pedal that literally left me writhing on the pavement  with every muscle in my body on fire; the Demo Forest in Aptos, CA.

At the top of Demo with friends, anticipating the descent!

Demo is brutal.  Elevation Gain/Loss +4,568/-4,439…sweet single-track trails and some epic technical sections but the climbing is truly diabolical in my humble opinion.  Dave was preparing me for this ride for weeks, and I worked for it though in the end I realized I could have pushed myself a bit harder.  No, I am not a masochist.  Anyway…it’s incredibly beautiful up there (literally in the middle of nowhere), almost otherworldly.  The color green played itself out in a million personalities, from neon to lush and darkly mysterious.  How I noticed this while I was dripping with sweat, mumbling incoherently to myself, and questioning what I did to deserve such suffering, I’m not sure.

The agonizing ascension was well worth it.  Pedaling downhill, carving through epic berms, and hauling my bike into the air beneath me made me forget about the trials and tribulations of everyday life.  I was in the thick of it, enjoying the total mind-body-spirit connection with nature that’s unlike anything else.

My daydreaming ceased right there when my cell phone began to vibrate annoyingly against my leg.  I knew I didn’t have the time to do a Demo-type ride so I handled my necessary tasks, hopped on my bike, and rode a couple miles out from my house to West Cliff Drive (one of the most visually stunning roads in northern California, with ocean views that humble your heart and calm your soul).

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

My point?  Getting out of the proverbial box and enjoying the fresh air is a necessity.  You don’t always have to show your appreciation for nature by zooming at breakneck speed down a steep trail (or surfing a wave big enough to topple the Empire State Building) because sometimes mixing it up and slowing down allows you time to really notice the beauty that surrounds you.   When you take time to notice it, you begin to love it, and when you love it you conserve and protect it.

This Saturday is Make A Difference Day.  If you can’t make it Saturday join us Sunday at Nisene Marks State park (on the south side of Demo Forest) from 9:30 to 2 pm. Think about what you love about nature, and sign up for a project this weekend.  “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill

Contributed by Shawna Peak


“Everyone I know loves the ocean.  I mean the capital “L” kind of LOVE, the Love that’s unfathomable and ineffable, a fusion of respect, understanding, awe, sensuality and mystery”.  His words are profoundly moving, and I remembered them immediately as I spotted him walking up to our table during the orientation phase of the International Annual Coastal Cleanup Day.  Dave and I were serving as volunteer co-captains for Davenport Main Beach, it was early though certainly not ‘bright’ (the famous California coastal fog had clearly decided to park itself directly on top of us before dissipating a few hours later to reveal another glorious day), and of the 36 wonderful volunteers, there stood Dr. Wallace J Nichols.  J is one of the world’s most recognized marine biologists with a passion for sea turtles and he leads marine conservation efforts globally, so it was a real honor to have him join our team, and what a team it turned out to be!  J was accompanied by his beautiful daughters Grayce and Julia, and his lovely niece Ruby Hoy (she came all the way from Martha’s Vineyard just in time to help clean up the big mess on our beloved beach!).

J and I in tidier times

Folks of every age, gender, and background arrived as the sun was rising behind the veil of fog, ready to make a difference, folks that feel what J calls that capital “L” kind of love for the sea.  A large group of enthusiastic boy scouts showed up first and not a one of those young men considered picking up trash to be ‘gross’ or without merit.  Their excitement was palpable and even though they were all quite young, they appeared fully cognizant of the fact that volunteers are truly the glue that binds a community together and that their mission that misty morning was of monumental importance.  Everyone jumped into action and the results were disturbing in terms of how much trash littered our iconic coastline, yet we all came away with the feeling that we made a real difference for the denizens of the sea that we all have come to “Love”.  Let us also remember what the ocean gives back to us, over 50% of the oxygen we breathe (thank you, phytoplankton…the beautiful plants of the sea)!

Most of our volunteers were Scouts!

Davenport Main Beach – 233 lbs of trash; 141 lbs of recyclables

Cell phone!?

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – 16,800 total lbs of pollution

3,500 volunteers!

I once heard somebody say that volunteers don’t get paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.  I believe volunteers are paid in 6 figures: S-M-I-L-E-S!!   Dave and I met many amazing people and we were all stoked to be a part of the largest volunteer effort in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of sea birds, marine mammals, sea turtles, and other species that call the ocean home will benefit from these efforts.  Each and every one of us can make a significant difference.  As Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is but a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

Our beach, our motivation

850 sites were cleaned, California’s largest volunteer effort to date!  Looking at the bigger picture, it really is about so much more than picking up trash.  It’s a chance for Californians to join like-minded people everywhere in expressing that “Love” for our oceans and waterways.  It’s a few hours to share with our families, neighbors, sporting pals, and fellow inspired stewards from all walks of life, coming together to accomplish something paramount and noble on behalf of our environment.

Dave and I, in situ…

Contributed by Shawna Peak – Naturalist

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.

Inspired Stewardship

Launching something new is always a bit intimidating, and getting the first few lines down is a bit daunting, but here’s my shot at it.  Welcome to the start of something new that we hope will get people to think about the planet a little differently and start treating it with the respect that it deserves.

Shawna, disappointed with Monterey’s plastic shopping bags

Inspired stewardship is about gaining a new appreciation for the planet.  It is a new lens through which to see the planet, a new community that is already engaged with the planet and looking for a bit of your juice to re-energize the effort.  It is a place to check in, to see what new ideas are helping others get a new perspective on why the health of the earth is so important to all of us.  It is pretty pictures.  It’s a place to meet others to rally a team effort.  It’s a place to find someone to share a bike ride in the woods or a place to post thoughts about your solo walk through the woods.

Dave, enjoying the fruits of his labor!

Shawna and I worked with one of the biggest conservation efforts on Monterey Bay and one of the smallest.  We saw how size can tremendously benefit efforts yet hinder them as well.  We saw how passion can thrive, and how it can be drowned.  What we hope to accomplish here is a bit more open-sourced, so to speak.

Inspired Stewardship is about turning love into action.  Shawna and I are both active outdoor enthusiasts and recognized the chance to help others find opportunities to engage in conservation efforts.  One example for mountain bikers, join your local community for a trailwork morning or simply make a point of picking up the trash you see on the trail.  Our windsurf friends will join us at Davenport for Coastal Cleanup Day on September 15 this year.  This is about empowerment and hope. It’s not too late to be part of the solution.  What is even more exciting, you immediately reap the rewards of your efforts, surrounded by your friends and family.


So please check our blog regularly, and share your ideas with us.  We’ve got huge aspirations for this effort and we hope that you’ll join us!