Living in California, I'm proud of our state and the community of people living in it, for really pushing awareness and action about single-use plastics. We've enforced laws throughout the state about reusable bags in grocery stores and encourage use of reusable water bottles in our airports, restaurants and more. But, the problem is long from being solved so when I heard about Plastic Tides, I knew it was something to be shared.
Plastic Tides is a non-profit comprised of four dedicated adventure conservationists with the common goal of exposing our society's plastic problem. Their adventure began when co-founders, Christian Shaw and Gordon Middleton joined forces to address this major issue. Their passion for adventure and extreme sports only fueled their passion to keep their playgrounds clean. Living solely on stand-up paddleboards, the Plastic Tides team venture into remote locations around the world to raise awareness through novel means. Their expeditions give a unique opportunity for the documentation of our planet's beauty and the rampant plastic pollution that threatens it. Combining adventure and hard science, their approach brings fresh awareness to this serious problem.
"Our throw-away culture depends on single-use plastics. Stop reading this and look up: Is there any plastic around you? Water bottles, plastic utensils, yogurt containers, the infamous six pack rings.. these are just a few of many plastic products. Much of this plastic waste doesn’t make it to the recycling center, or even to the landfill. Plastic pollution is carried by rivers, animals, and the wind, eventually finding its way into the sea."
"In the ocean, indigestible plastic waste resembles dinner for many marine organisms. Working its way up the food chain, plastic may even end up on your plate next time you order the Fish of the Day. Its tendency to host a variety of toxic chemicals like BPA and PCBs, leads to bioaccumalation farther up the food chain, meaning that we are potentially poisoning ourselves."
Plastic Tides: Bermuda
The team recently returned from their first expedition that took Christian, Gordon, Celine and Julian around the beautiful island of Bermuda, via stand-up paddleboards, over the course of 11 days. They successfully collected surface plastic samples and microplastic samples to analyze the samples to see what concentrations were found. On a macro level, the team was saddened to report an immense concentration of plastic debris. It is clear that the problem is knocking at our doorstep and it's important to raise awareness to the public to come together to make a change.
We asked the team to recall one of their days traveling along the shores of Bermuda. This is what they had to share:
DAY IN THE LIFE
7:00 — Captain Williams Bay. The team is sound asleep in their tents.
7:15 — Gordon's alarm goes off. He wakes up and proceeds to sing pirate shanties at Christian and Celine until they wake up. We start getting coffee and breakfast ready which means firing up the denatured alcohol cat-food-can stove (an invention of Gordon's father, one gallon of denature alcohol lasted 4 people 11 days with extra!) to boil water. We boiled extra water to have in our Klean Kanteen insulated thermos's for making food throughout the day. Julian is still asleep.
7:30 — Julian is still asleep
7:45 — Julian is still asleep and snoring in wildebeest mode.
8:30-9:30 — We all change out of our Buddha Pants and into our expedition clothes for the day then pack our things into various dry bags and cases. Packing was always a chore because of the sheer quantity of gear. It was typically an hour or more before all the gear was strapped down to the boards.
10:00 — Before launching we used an old glass bottle we found on the beach to take a water sample from the bay. It will be analyzed by Abbey Barrows of MERI in Blue Hole, ME for the presence of micro-plastics as part of a program through Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.
10:30 — We push off on a rising tide as to avoid shallow jagged rocks that line the bay. We have a southwest tailwind and are looking to cover a lot of ground. The plan is to make the rest of the south coast with the wind and camp on Charles Island.
11:30 — After over an hour of dodging through the patchy reef line that guards the south shore we paddled over a mile offshore to take lunch well away form the treacherous coast. Lunch on the ocean isn't too hard when you have dehydrated food, hot water, and a strong tailwind to keep you moving in the right direction whilst eating.
12:30-16:30 — An hour of drifting gave us a good lead, but we got back to paddling as we were pushed towards shore. During the next few hours we took advantage of the tailwind to pull a trawl to sample for surface plastics. Our custom trawl was built for us by our collaborators at the Plastic Ocean Project and was specially designed for use behind a paddleboard.
17:00 — We near the north end of Bermuda and the Islands that occupy the entrance to castle harbor come into view. This end of the island is know for wrecks, most of which are marked with big white mooring balls. At this time, Celine decides she is too tired to keep paddling and she wants to try out her ENO hammock as a sail. Let's just say it was quite a spectacle that did not involve much sailing!
17:30 - Paddling into Castle Harbor is amazing as Castle Island, aptly named for it's 18th Century ruins, comes into view.
18:30 - After a swim and some cliff jumping off Castle Island we make berth on Charles Island for the night.
19:00 - There is a lot to do as we set camp and get down to preparing dinner for a hungry crew. The evening was always a time for taking care of gear, especially getting the cameras ready to go for the next day. We use solar power throughout the day to charge our batteries and keep our memory cards on rotation.
23:00 - After eagerly exploring the island and getting some amazing photos in the moonlight the team is off to bed for the night, except for Gordon, who is always up doing social media way past his bed-time.
Images by Gordon Middleton and Julian Rodriguez
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lindsay Vacek has a passion for style, details and design. As a Fashion Editorial Photographer, she's worked in the Entertainment Industry for over 10 years and has a love for adventure and travel. She spends her spare time globe-trotting her way through foreign countries and loves new cultures, food, music and the arts.
Being a California Native, Lindsay loves meeting new people and sharing her version of life with others. With an infinite list of things-to-do, places-to-go and sights-to-see - she believe everyone can have a little more California in their own lives.