Long Beach clean up - Cal Major in New York
We were joined on our recent trip to the Big Apple for the APP World Tour New York SUP Open by dryrobe ambassador and environmental campaigner, Cal Major. As well as watching the world's best stand up paddleboards compete at Long Beach and in an Iconic race around the Statue of Liberty, Cal also organised beach and waterways cleanups around the event. Here is Cal's recap of her trip to New York.
"I recently took an opportunity of a lifetime to go to the APP World Tour New York SUP Open on Long Beach with dryrobe.
For weeks I deliberated over going, unsure if I could justify flying there. My role was to run beach and canal clean-ups, screen my film Vitamin Sea at the tour, and talk to people about plastic and the environment.
The issue of plastic pollution is global. We need global conversations, and so I decided to go and do whatever I can while there to talk to people about plastic. I’m so glad I did, as I learnt so much.
The APP New York SUP event had 4 disciplines - surf, longboard surf, long-distance race and sprints. The sprint event sees the athletes paddling out through waves, around a buoy, then back through the surf. It was neck and neck for most of the races, all coming down to the person who caught the best wave into the beach.
We also watched the long-distance race around the Statue of Liberty - one of the tensest moments of the whole week, as the top competitors came into the last mile head to head, battling for position until the very last moment. The atmosphere throughout the competition was amazing, with nobody wanting to bet who would emerge from behind the Statue of Liberty at the front of the pack.
Watching the athletes race was awesome. But meeting them off the water and talking to them about their passions was even more awesome.
On a lay day from the tour, I ran a SUP clean up in the canals on Long Island. Hurricane Dorian had other ideas, and gave us crazy winds and horizontal rain. Still, Seychelle Webster came out to join with a grin and a positive attitude, and so did Alex, a lovely local paddler. We chatted about what kind of stuff they normally find in the waterways when out paddling. As with most places in the world, it depends on conditions and area, but they’ve fished tonnes of rubbish out of the waterways.
That afternoon was far too stormy to get out on our boards again, so we opted for a Long Beach clean up instead. I was joined by Zane, Kim and Lara and we spent an hour trailing the beach picking up stuff buried just under the top layer of sand! We found heaps of tampons and bathroom products, most likely flushed down the toilet straight into the sea. I found the piece de resistance - a bottle of stale urine. It was such a laugh, despite the horizontal rain and grim findings.
Doing something good for the planet doesn’t have to be a chore. Combine it with a sport you love like paddleboarding, or hanging out with friends at the beach, and a positive attitude, and it can be a great way to feel good about your actions, and to actively protect the places we love.
When we weren’t on the water or beach, we explored the city. It’s vast, busy, noisy and yet feels like an old friend, from years of movies and TV series. What a place, and what a privilege to be able to see the sun set over Manhattan from the Rockefeller building, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, and stand in a state of mild sensory overload in the middle of Times Square.
I was shocked by the amount of plastic being used in New York. Single-use plastic wherever we went, even if we were eating in at a cafe or restaurant. Restaurants right along the beach-front were serving plastic straws and coffee cups. Hotels would leave multiple plastic wrapped toiletries, water bottles, cutlery and spoons for tea and coffee... one hotel had a waffle maker which used single-use plastic cups to measure the batter and were shocked when I questioned it. We had to be quick to refuse plastic bags before everything we bought was stuffed into one, or before takeaway was jammed into gross polystyrene trays. And as for drinks - even tap water was given with a straw sticking out of the top.
Now, don’t get me wrong - this is not aimed at shaming anyone or even the city of NY. If you look back 5 years to how the UK behaved with single-use plastic, we weren’t too different. Grassroots campaigns, and people taking ownership of their local environments, has reduced the amount of plastic we use in the UK massively. For an island nation surrounded by ocean, perhaps the connection is easier to make.
And yet New York is a city built around the sea too! All that plastic that’s being used has the potential to end up in the ocean. The banks to the Hudson, the beaches, canals, were all full of plastic, an obvious reminder of how our throwaway culture can harm the natural world.
So there’s a way to go yet in changing behaviour, and I hope I can play a small role in doing that. Watching Zane and Kim pull out their reusable cutlery for dinner, and seeing the other athletes taking note, reminded me that we all have our part to play in inspiring change amongst others, and empowering ourselves and our peers to make a difference to protect our playground.
I was reminded that we still have a very long way to go with this campaign - we can’t get complacent, and we really can’t afford to take our foot off the gas yet (so to speak... that’s a whole other conversation to be had.) Keep fighting the good fight - together we can protect these places we love so much, that give so much back to us. And don’t forget how important your voice is in rallying support and pressurising companies to make changes where they can."