A Trophy Worth Winning

Rob Caughlan

Posiedon statue ©Don Montgomery

A Trophy Worth Winning

- Edited Version of this article appears in Surfers Journal May 2010

The ten-foot tiger shark was coming right at them. The surfers watched it come with wide-eyed dread.

Out of the blue, a dolphin surfaced next to the surfers and broadsided the shark at ramming speed. That was the very day when Australian professional surfer Dave Rastovich decided to dedicate a large part of the rest of his life to the protection of dolphins.

Dave and his pal weren’t the first to be rescued by dolphins. There are many stories about dolphins saving humans that go back 2700 years. The Greek Sea God Poseidon (the Romans called him Neptune) sent a dolphin to rescue his son Taras.

Along with a couple of other Australian surfers, including Howie Cooke an activist/artist, they named the group Surfers for Cetaceans*.

They started organizing protests and demonstrations to put some heat on Japan for allowing the slaughter 25,000 dolphins every year. What makes it even worse is that the locals don’t even eat the dolphin meat anymore. It is too polluted by mercury. A powerful documentary film, “The Cove”, was so vivid in it’s telling of the terrible story of this senseless slaughter that the Japanese gangsters (the Yakuza) threatened the filmmakers. The film features and applauds Rastovich’s daring participation in the protests.

7,408 miles away and just south of San Francisco at Pedro Point, Robert Leonelli, who has been surfing there for forty years, was inspired by Rastovich’s effort. Although Leonelli has never been saved by a dolphin, he has had the thrill of surfing with them several times. Leonelli liked Rastovich’s activist example. So he told Shaun Rhodes, the owner of the NorCal surf shop, all about it and Shaun was motivated enough to sponsor a benefit surf contest. He also commissioned movie set designer and surfer/artist Kevin Ancell to produce one of his fabulous sculptures for a trophy.

Ancell is a one man artistic armada and has been profiled in Surfers Journal. He grew up surfing around Venice. He was one of the guys surfing amidst the burned pilings at Pacific Ocean Park. He is kind of humble about having been kicked out of China for being a “cultural pollutant.” He has a museum quality, classic style of painting.

Ancell’s Traveling Exhibition of 25 hula girl robots with machine guns and needle tracks caused a stir in several countries. And, he helped design and create a lot of visuals in many of the Hollywood movies we’ve all seen.

So this is just a true little tale about how one dolphin and a couple of surfers in Australia and California are teaming up to protect some other dolphins way up in Japan. It’s a great example of thinking globally and acting locally.

Every surfer should want to help protect dolphins. The web address for Surfers for Cetaceans is www.s4cglobal.org. In addition to their own efforts, they are wisely trying coordinate their actions with other ocean saving groups. Their web site has a number of links to them. Join one. Join more than one! Mother ocean is in big, big trouble. Solving problems like acidification, the collapse of fisheries, or cleaning up the 5 gyres (which are filling with tons of evil plastic) will require multiple and massive effective actions.

And then in July, come on up to Pedro Point. Surf in a Surfers for Cetaceans benefit contest and try to snag a fabulous trophy that really means something.

* The biological order Cetacea includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The Latin word "cetus" is from the Greek word "ketos" – a general term for "sea monster" in Ancient Greece.

- Robert “Birdlegs” Caughlan is a lifelong surfer and political activist.