Huntington Beach is more than just the name of its founder or its famous moniker "Surf City." Known as Lukup to the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians/Acjachemen Nation, and as Lukupangma to the Gabrielino-Tongva people, this part of the California coast has been home to these communities since time immemorial. Still here, the Indigenous people maintain their ancient relationships to the lands and waters while more recent populations foster their own connections.
With millions of people inhabiting today's Southern California coastline, challenges to protect the ocean from a variety of dangers are formidable, from pollution to erosion and sea level rise, and more. A myriad of organizations work to enact solutions to various problems, and the World Surf League is doing their part to contribute to those efforts, bringing together athletes, partners, conservationists and Indigenous people in Orange County through its We Are One Ocean initiative. This year WSL collaborated with partners Vans, OC Coastkeeper, WILDCOAST, Native Like Water and SHISEIDO to bring several important conservation-oriented activities to the Vans US Open of Surfing. They involved WSL athletes, WSL PURE grantees, and community partners.
Opening the contest window again this year was a blessing ceremony led by Acjachemen tribal elder Adelia Sandoval. Adelia brings a wealth of tribal cultural knowledge and a generous, engaging spirit reflecting that of the Original People of our shared coastline. Adelia was joined by Mariah Doyle Sandoval, April O'Brien, Sydney O'Brien, and Nova O'Brien.
Near the Vans US Open of Surfing event site, the Mesa of Bolsa Chica at Huntington Beach is home to a 9,500 years old Acjachemen and Tongva village site. As detailed on the Acjachemen Tongva Land Conservancy (ATLC) website, this is a sacred site which is considered a place of knowledge as well as a major conduit between Pimu/Pipimar (Catalina) and the river people of the villages inland.
In partnership with We Are One Ocean, Orange County Coastkeeper led an oyster restoration effort as part of its ongoing work in the region. A local nonprofit organization, OC Coastkeeper is dedicated to protecting the region's fresh and saltwater resources. Working with a diversity of groups in the public and private sectors, they implement innovative programs to promote advocacy, education, restoration, research, enforcement and conservation to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources in the region.
OC Coastkeeper has created an array of projects designed to assure resilient marine ecosystems. One of its most important restoration projects involves a particular variety of oyster in local ocean biomes where they have become all but extinct.
Commonly known as the Olympia oyster (Ostrea Lurida), these mollusks were an important food source for the Acjachemen, Tongva, and other coastal tribal communities. Once prolific throughout the entire west coast of North America, it is one of the few oyster species indigenous to this part of the globe. These oysters provide amazing benefits to ocean environments. A full grown oyster is capable of filtering as much as 50 gallons of water a day. They can also stabilize shorelines, creating a structure that retains sediment and reduces erosion. This can potentially translate to protection for coastal homes as sea level rises. Additionally, oysters provide habitat for other species, enhancing biodiversity.
"90% of our native Olympia Oyster populations have disappeared, and we are glad to be here together, building shell strings, aka oyster habitat, to hopefully stop the decline and start the rebound. Oysters filter water, stabilize shorelines, provide food and habitat for ocean animals as well as humans, and really are needed to protect our coast and keep our waters clean. This activation event is going to have a direct positive impact on our waterways in Southern California, and we are thankful to have all of these participants here to help us restore our native oysters," said Claire Arre, Marine Restoration Director at Orange County Coastkeeper.
On Saturday July 30, volunteers worked with WSL, Shiseido, and OC Coastkeeper to create oyster strings which OC Coastkeeper will plant in a nearby restoration site.
As we all know, beach cleanups have become mainstay activities for those who care about their ocean environments. On August 3rd, WSL joined WILDCOAST and SHISEIDO to lead a beach cleanup alongside surfers, celebrities, and community members.
"WILDCOAST is stoked to partner with WSL PURE and Shiseido Blue Project to hold a cleanup at the upcoming U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. Beach cleanups do more than just clean the beach. They connect people to their coastal spaces and educate through action," says WILDCOAST Conservation Director Angela Kemsley.
"Pollution knows no borders, which is why WILDCOAST is working in the U.S. and Mexico to stop a tsunami of plastics from entering our oceans. In the U.S., WILDCOAST is thrilled to partner with Bureo, Inc. on an innovative effort to collect derelict fishing nets and give them a new life as material for consumer products such as sunglasses, skateboards, and board shorts. In Mexico, WILDCOAST installed the first ever solid waste retention system (trash boom) in Los Laureles Canyon, a tributary stream of the Tijuana River in Tijuana, B.C. that has already prevented 100,000 pounds of solid waste from entering the Tijuana River and the Pacific Ocean," Kemsley said.
In addition, WSL PURE grantee, Native Like Water (NLW), joined the US Open on August 3rd and 4th for the Vans Surf camp. NLW prepares and integrates teens and adults of under-represented populations into ocean recreation, conservation, wellness, and inter-generational cultural exploration. The program focuses on a sacred relationship to water from an Indigenous perspective. Through curated cultural conservation experiences and travel, NLW creates scholarships and support for endangered Indigenous communities both internationally and in California. The WSL PURE grant will create an Indigenous Narrative Ocean Stewardship Program that reintegrates youth and adults into ocean recreation and conservation.
"Indigenous coastal recreation has a large spectrum and is vital to survival. This is a great opportunity to be included in the collective shift from destructive invasive species to the restoration of native species and habitat. Indigenous coastal recreation and way of life is a large spectrum along the coast. Our inclusion is vital to survival and to a thriving ecosystem. Healthy regeneration is slowly on the rebound and I am content Native Like Water is part of this," said Marc Chavez, Executive Director of Native Like Water.
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As surfers, the ocean is our playground and our stadium. Getting involved in protecting and conserving the ocean is critical for us today and for future generations. Tell us what you are doing us by posting on social media with the hashtag #WeAreOneOcean and tagging @wsl and @wslpure in your posts. You can learn more and get involved at WeAreOneOcean.org.