Stand Up Paddling with Purpose
James Pribram looked out at the dark fog bank in the distance, which looked like it was headed straight toward Laguna Beach.
"I think I'll just paddle out, say a prayer, put my music on, and hopefully not get lost in the fog," he said.
Pribram hasn't done more than a couple of miles on a Stand Up Paddleboard, but on Friday he jumped on his SUP in front of his parents' Laguna Beach home – his mom watching from the deck as he departed – down the coast toward San Onofre.
Pribram took off a day early to meet with a group organized by non-profits Below the Surface and Paddle With Purpose, where he will join a dozen paddlers to embark on a seven-day, 70-mile "Trestles to TJ" paddle starting 8 a.m. on Saturday to gather data and raise awareness of river mouths along the way down to the Mexico border. The effort coincides with the release of the Riverview Mobile App, similar to Google's Streetview but for rivers, expected to launch early August.
"I love the adventure. I love when people are so supportive of the journey. I like trying to rally people and empowering others through some of my efforts," Pribram said. "I love being in the ocean, it's the one place I feel most comfortable."
The group will spend long days on the water, stopping at spots such as La Jolla Cove, San Diego River Mouth, and Tijuana River Mouth to snap photos and map locations for the Riverview App, which is being developed with support from the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, Clif Bar, Keen Footwear, Immersive Media, Surfrider, and other environmental groups. It will have 360-degree maps for rivers from where they start, to where they meet with the ocean.
The App will also allow people to share images from where they are paddling, create ocean quality awareness, and give people a sense of ownership over waterways so they can start to create difference, said Jared Criscuolo, co-founder of San Diego-based Below the Surface.
Below the Surface also teamed up with Paddle with Purpose to organize support, spread the word, find chase boats, SUPs and paddles for the team.
Surfside former pro surfer Jodie Nelson created Paddle with Purpose, which gives non-profit groups and individuals guidance on how to do fundraiser paddles. Nelson was the first woman in 2010 to paddle Catalina to Dana Point – which she did to raise money for cancer research – and made national news after befriending Larry the Whale along the way.
Nelson has been helping organizers with the Trestles to TJ paddle for two years, and has joined about four other expeditions they've done around the nation.
"I totally back what these guys are doing. These guys are really educated and get really involved in political issues. They are going after it in an educated way. They always back it up by offering solutions," Nelson said. "It was a natural fit for us to team up."
Nelson donated six paddleboards for this expedition, and will join the first leg of the trek before heading back to do the US Open of Surfing webcast.
Groups on the Mississippi River, Colorado River, Sacramento River and around the nation have partnered with Below the Surface by leading an expedition to track data and gather photos. The team also been invited to Washington D.C. by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to paddle the Anacostia River at the end of September, as part of the 40th anniversary for Clean Water Act celebration.
"This helps bring people together and create a platform for exploration with a purpose. It's getting people out to explore, paddle, backpack, whatever they do to get out and enjoy nature, but doing it with a bigger purpose," Criscuolo said.
There will be fundraisers in San Diego along the way at Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach next Wednesday, and Pizza and Beer night in Ocean Beach at the Lazy Hummingbird.
People can see them off as they depart from Trestles at 8 a.m. on Saturday, or join the efforts by meeting in Oceanside and doing the shorter 7 and 8-mile treks.
Pribram set off Friday with basic necessities in his Quiksilver backpack: water, turkey jerky, grilled chicken, sunscreen, and duct tape.
"I love this kind of stuff. I want to do more adventure travel type stuff like this. I figure I have a couple of good years left," said Pribram, 41. "I think it's so fun, I love doing it."