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Over a couple of hoppy local gems, Rob, myself, and my wonderful other half Alessandra sit with our backs to the setting sun in a dimly lit, airy tap house in Encinitas, the Biergarten. The screen in front of us counts down the last half hour of the Bells Beach Final, Mick Fanning aka White Lightning, wraps blistering turns all the way to the beach to seal his victory on stop #2 of the World Tour. As we cash out with our bartender, our own stopwatch dwindles down and the real excitement begins to eat away at our hearts, daydreams of distance Chilean barrels begin to tingle our toes.
Two blocks away at the historically famed La Paloma Theatre, a staple venue in California spanning the better half of a century, we are about to stand side by side with Ramon Navarro in the face of looming industry that is quietly pushing ocean culture further and further out to sea.
As the room dims, a spotlight singes the curtains and we all crane our necks 360 degrees to see which of our legendary heroes lurks from beneath their brim amongst all of us mere mortals. Alas, one such legend, a right hardly earned by any other pre-30s surfer, emerges from backstage and takes the mic to center stage. No other big wave surfer of my generation as raised such an eyebrow as this seemingly normal man... He is Greg Long, a long-time XXL Big Wave winner and nominee at the forefront of the hunt for the biggest, baddest beast to show it's menacing face. He is here to honor one of his own heroes Ramon Navarro, a seemingly shy and modest surfer hailing from the faraway land of Chile.
We first saw Ramon in Chris Malloy's 180 South, a monumental film seared deep into our hearts and retinas, a first of it's kind, a film that would resinate with and unify members of many extreme lifestyles, most of all, climbing and surfing. At the time, he was a new name among Eddie invitees and would instantaneously climb the ranks of big wave surfing, cementing himself within a group of the most elite riders to ever set foot on this planet.
His portion of 180 South stepped away from the dreamy and inspirational journey skirting the Americas coast from California to Chile.
Enter "The fisherman's Son." The rest of the story.
As we looked on, eyes refusing to blink, this new film tapped into Ramon's rise to the top ranks with humorous and admirable interviews from his colleagues, the rest of the best. More than anything, each interview served to remind us that Ramon is still human, subject to mortality like the rest of us. Each perilous wave Ramon miraculously escaped sent shivers down our spin, found contagious hoots erupting every opportunity.
With the film moving on to it's rightful purpose, images of his father, mother, even grandparents reach into our hearts. Their intimate battle to hold on to the last scrap of century's-old ocean culture reach our tear ducts, reminding us who we are, where we come from and that, no matter what, we must honor what has been given to us, no matter how small, and our duty to uphold the values and practices of our own cultures.
For centuries, Ramon's ancestors have fished these local waters, bringing life to their families through modest and mindful living, making sure to take only what was needed, never more, certainly nothing less. That's beginning to really be a tall task this decade. The double edged sword of modern development has brought both progression and destruction to many developing countries of our world and it's quite evident in our own neighborhood, especially South America.
Punta de los Lobos is a modest stretch of coast that's immediately under fire along Chile's coast. A massive pulp mill is the subject of focus. One of Chile's largest paper production company's is attempting to purchase the land and use the ocean as both a cooling source, and more discretely, as a waste deposit for pulp production. The problem is not the pulp mill itself, it's the lack of federal regulation which would govern it, the worst byproduct of developing countries. The Punta de los Lobos case study is a model for development in building countries around the world. In this case, the pulp mill suggest the inevitable slippery slope that commercial development provides through the destruction of it's surrounding habitat. Further, Ramon's elders and his fellow villagers are a mere fraction of the actual ecosystem that exists all along each and every one of our coasts. Human beings are some of the quickest adapting species on the planet, we take the path of least resistance.
What's truly at stake here, in a small sample size, is mother nature, our planet, on a global scale. The nature that exists along these shores, has existed here for millions of years, in one heartbeat that is our existence, humans can come along, build for prosperity, and literally destroy this fragile ecosystem for thousands of years, taking any symbiotic culture, like Ramon's, with it.
Ramon's goal is partly to preserve a culture that exists in unison with nature, but mostly, to preserve the land as it has been for millions of years. And that's exactly what we felt when we watched this film.
What "The Fisherman's Son" really does is enlightens us on our own legacy as ocean-goers, our duty as the keepers of our seas. What we take as surfers, the waves, the beauty, the excitement, all of that, should not be taken for granted, and further, must be preserved if we want our future generations to experience what we've been so blessed to have.
It starts right here at home, one washed up trash bag at a time. One watershed at a time. One proposed commercial development plan at a time. Southern California has seen success in numbers in shutting down the foreseeable destruction of Trestles and it's cobblestone foundation. We've come together to do battle against big bad government multiple times to preserve our prized habitat and waves at Trestles. This is but one battle of many being fought by local inhabitants and their local ecosystems worldwide. Where power in numbers and voice have prevailed here, they have not been so lucky in other countries.
Ramon's voice is not enough. Punta de los Lobos locals are not enough. This film doesn't just enlist the voice of surfers, but the entire nation of Chile and it's youth. This film doesn't just enlist your voice for Punta de los Lobos, but all of the ecosystems under fire from modern development around the world. This film asks "What's your ocean worth to you?" The answer, he would hope, my own heart confirmed, is that your ocean is worth EVERYTHING. It doesn't matter if it's in my own neighborhood or across the planet, every one of these environments needs MY help. And I'm telling you, and you should be able to muster up your own convictions, that they all need YOUR help. They don't need your money, nor your quick read. They need your Voice. Your voice, joined with every other water-bound person who gives a lick about their wave, their food, their livelihood, you make a difference. If we all came together to protect our ocean, we'd live in a better place.
So here's your chance, again, the ocean doesn't need your money, it needs your voice. Take a moment and scan over the different projects SAVE THE WAVES has underway. You may find that they're actually fighting for you, in your own back yard. Take a stand and stand up for your ocean, otherwise, those after you will have nothing to know you by.
YOU HAVE A VOICE, be silent no more.