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Eco Warrior shares love for the ocean

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

James Pribram has spent the past few years traveling the world as an activist for the ocean, taking up various causes in places as far away as New Zealand, Japan and Chili.

But an e-mail he got from Maira Khan, a woman he saved from drowning two years ago off the coast of Laguna Beach, had him thinking. It read: "I love all the work you do around the world, but what about your hometown? I'm sure everyone would love if you did something there."

"Honestly, that e-mail changed my life and how I do things," Pribram said. "It stopped me in my tracks. She is so right."

That's when Pribram decided he was going to try to implement more programs in his hometown, and with news recently that he's teamed up with the California Coastal Commission to head the Adopt-A-Beach program in Laguna, we caught up with Pribram to talk about initiatives in the works for the Eco Warrior Foundation.

Tell us how you got started as the Eco Warrior?

It was back in 2006, the Eco Warrior project started as a collaboration between Ocean Pacific and the Surfers' Path. OP had signed a deal with me as an eco-conscious surfer traveling around the world to regions of coastline that were being threatened by pollutions or over development. That's really how the whole project started. I was lucky they thought of me for that position. I've just kept the project alive with the help of great people, and it's now a great foundation. None of this is one person – like anything, I'm lucky to have great people around me and people who love the ocean as much as I do. David Vanderbeen, founder of XS energy drink, was also instrumental in keeping the project alive.

What is your view of the future of the foundation?

I think the most important thing is reaching the younger generation and the kids. What I enjoy the most are the essay contests and the art contests. You have to create events or initiatives where people can be engaged and participate. My goal and vision is creating community-based events. I want to get sponsors and companies involved, and making these beach cleanups something where the whole family comes out; we have stand-up paddle clinics, surf lessons, a pancake breakfast. That's my vision, I want to make this about the community of Laguna Beach. I want to make it about the people here, and our love for the town and our beaches and oceans. When it comes to our environment, it's not about one person; it's about all of us. One of the reasons we want to work with so many people and kids, is that we want to empower the other eco warriors around the world and tell their stories as well.

What are some new things in the works for the Eco Warrior Foundation?

I'm putting on an essay contest at El Morro Elementary, and speaking on March 4 at the school. This year, the essay contest is "I am an Eco Warrior because..." The winner will be picked March 29. I would love to expand this essay not only across the country, but worldwide. I love the essay contest. It's one thing when you go speak to schools, but there's so much more to it when you create something as well.

Where and when is the next beach clean up?

We hosted five beach cleanups last year in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach and the Hearts of Montage. The next one, also in conjunction with the Quiksilver Waterman's Collection, will be at 9 a.m. on March 23 in Laguna at the Montage.

You also recently partnered with the Quiksilver Waterman's Collection, tell us more:

Peter Mel (head of Marketing for Quiksilver Waterman's Collection) is a good friend of mine; we used to compete on the Bud Tour together. When I was a kid, I was into spear fishing, skim boarding, and bodysurfing -- back then people used to give me a because they thought I should just surf. When you grow up on the beach, you should do all those things. The Quiksilver Waterman's Collection is interested in creating a speaker series in Laguna Beach; we'd have a different speaker every month. Basically, with their support, I would be increasing my travel schedule and promoting the foundation and be a spokesman for the ocean, as well as the Quiksilver Waterman's Collection.

What is the most inspiring story you have come across?

Last year, I was speaking at the International School in Sayulita, Mexico, and overheard a teacher discussing a little boy named Osmar, who was new to the school. He got into trouble a lot, got in fights and got terrible grades. He reminded me of what I was like before surfing came into my life. He overheard his mother and grandmother crying because they didn't have food, they didn't have any help. So, this little boy hears them crying – without saying a word, grabs his piggy bank. He had saved up $37, which is impressive for a 7-year-old boy. He walks out and presents this piggy bank. I overheard that story, and in that instant thought 'we have to do something for this boy and his family." This is the exact reason why I want to create a foundation, because of inspiring stories like this. I came up with a list of initiatives he had to accomplish: not getting in fights, having a B average, and he had to give a presentation to the school of why it's important to take care of beaches. He created a beach clean-up committee. He had no idea how he was going to be rewarded for this. We presented him with the Eco Warrior Power of Change Award. He got a new surfboard, leash, wax, goody bags, and we raised money to help his family. To me, that is the première level of the things we want to do and accomplish with the Eco Warrior Foundation. That's making dreams come true and really giving back.

In 2011, you saved Maira Khan, of Irvine, from drowning in Laguna. How has that relationships developed?

We've stayed in contact; she's become a good friend. My family has gone to her family's home, we had a great traditional dinner with them, and we're talking about getting the two families together again. It's been a great experience; I care about her almost like a sister. I made her make me a promise: she would learn how to swim. The goal is to teach her how to swim in March, and perhaps visit the beach on the two-year anniversary and hopefully she and I can take a dip in the ocean.

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com


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