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    The Sea, My Soul - Surfers for Cetaceans Chile Tour

    _mg_4360 Patagonia ambassador Crystal Thornburg is currently down in Chile with the founders of Surfers for Cetaceans (S4C): professional surfer Dave Rastovich and artist/marine conservationist Howie Cooke. S4C is currently asking folks like you and I to send in a Visual Petition for them to present at the International Whale Commission's 60th annual meeting in Santiago during the week of June 21. Crystal and the gang have been traveling the country during the weeks leading up to the IWC meeting. We're stoked to present her first report from the road:

    [Photo: Crystal Thornburg shares a smile at one of the schools she and the Surfers for Cetaceans visited during their tour of Chile. All photos courtesy of Surfers for Cetaceans]

    El Mar, Mi Alma meaning The Sea, My Soul is not just the name of the Surfers for Cetaceans Chile Tour, it is the root for the passion behind the project. Surfers for Cetaceans are seeking increased protection of other marine mammals and marine life, of reefs and of the whole ocean ecology. Being part of Surfers for Cetaceans is an honor, and a great way to engage locals to promote sustainable industries to a developing Chile in which surfing can be both a positive and leading part of the accruing change. In 2004, Surfers for Cetaceans was founded outside of the International Whale Commission (IWC) conference in Italy by world-renowned surfer Dave Rastovich, and famous artist Howie Cooke.

    Our journey through Chile started in the arid northern town of Arica, where just last week we launched our tour in the community center greeted by Arica’s Chief of Tourism, and the Mayor's Representative, as well as, an outstanding number of towns people. We collected Visual Petitions at the launch that we can now add to the 11,000 and will continue to do so heading down the coast. We are presenting these important petitions at the International Whale Commission (IWC) conference at the end June hosted in Santiago. At our tour launch we also displayed a tipi covered with hand painted whales and dolphins by Howie Cooke.

    Arica is a small port town, filled with enthusiastic surfers ready to exchange stories of the sea. Even though my Spanish speaking abilities are not so great, I was still able to exchange the common language of “surf stoke.”

    _mg_4278 In Arica we were able to visit our first school called Escula Tucapel-Arica to host a short presentation and films to the “Environmental Studies” class that relate to environmental degradation along coastlines and oceans worldwide. Some of the students at the school prepared a traditional dance for us in full costume. The school children were eager to learn about our cause and were thrilled to be part of the Visual Petition.

    _mg_4516 Our next stop on the tour was Iquique which was a days drive following sand dunes south which featured statues of historical indigenous cultural significance. On our drive we stopped on the side of the road to draw a massive Whale in the sandy cliff. Howie drew the Whale, I was in charge of drawing “El Mar,” and Andy mastered the “Mi Alma.” The sand drawing was complete in less than an hour with the help of our crew at the base of the slope guiding our every move. The sand mural finished at about 200 feet wide! It was a sight to see from the road. 

    Arriving at night into Iquique we were stopped by the recent trucker strike that is in full effect throughout the country. The roadside was filled with a glowing haze from burning tires. We sat in amazement while strikers hit passing busses and taxies with rocks and sticks. We were finally able to pass though the mess, with Dave Homcy trying to capture the action on film while driving, and I was taking photos from the front seat trying not to display our equipment with the worry of being attacked while driving through.

    We made it to the populated city of Iquique anxious about the upcoming swell that was due to hit the following day. The swell was expected to reach heights of twenty feet with talk of only tow-ins, but when the swell made it to Iquique it reached only about twelve feet. The waves were massive and right on the rocks. Dave Rastovich and surfer Dane Ward paddled out with a local eco-surfer to enjoy the large waves.

    Our first tour of duty in Iquique is to meet the Mayor, Myrta Dubost, to discuss oceanic environmental issues and propose Iquique be the first town in Chile to support a Chilean version of the Humpback Icon Project (HIP). The Humpback Icon Project (HIP) was design to bring about cetacean awareness by getting local towns to 'Adopt a Whale,' and was created by Howie Cooke, in Australia. Mayor Myrta Dubost was excited to learn more about the project and was eager to connect with the local University and Iquique surf community to participate in the project.

    _mg_4702 Right after we met with Mayor Myrta Dubost we made our way to meet students and professors of the Marine Science School at the local university, Universidad de Arturo Prat. Due to students protesting because of raised tuition and faulty promises, classes were not in session but a few students attended our presentation in hope of learning about our campaign, and becoming involved in the Humpback Icon Project (HIP) in Chile.

    We are continuing on from Iquique to Isla Grande de Atacama where we will be meeting with local Marine Park Authorities and experience the diverse marine habitats in the area. We also plan to present and exchange the Humpback Icon Project information as well as jumping in for a surf session or two. We also hope to continue with our collection of Visual Petitions to present in Santiago.

    _mg_4076 On our tour throughout Chile we will be exploring Chile’s long and diverse coastline, visiting communities from north to south to meet fellow surfers, artists, environmental groups, artisan fisherman, school kids, university groups, governmental agencies, indigenous people and the wider community to share knowledge and stories to promote whale and marine conservation.

    To check out more info and blogs about our trip visit www.chiletour08.com.

    To upload your VISUAL PETITION, visit www.visualpetition.com.

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    Hannah Fraser and Dave Rastovich in the town of Arica.

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    Hannah and Crystal

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    Photographer/cinematographer Dave Homcy gets the shot.

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    Which path will we choose?

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    Crystal y perro.

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    Hannah dances for the whales!

    Our thanks go out to Crystal for keeping us in the loop, and to Rasta and Howie for all of their great work on behalf of cetaceans around the globe. Hopefully we'll hear from Crystal again before the trip is over.

    On a related note, local artist, surfer and former Z-Boys (as in Dog Town) skater Peggy Oki came by Patagonia Ventura a few weeks ago to help take pictures of employees for the Surfers for Cetaceans Visual Petition. Peggy has been a passionate whale and dolphin activist for most of her life. She's constantly donating her time and artwork to benefit local causes around the Santa Barbara/Ventura area. I'd like to personally thank Peggy for all of her hard work and dedication over the years. You can check out some of Peggy's beautiful watercolor artwork on her Web site.

    Free

    [Free participates in the Visual Petition holding the Peggy Oki watercolor "Dive at Dawn." Photo: Peggy Oki]

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