There’s Waves in Them Hills! Making Waves in Colorado

I stood dripping wet, surfboard under arm, barefoot on rocks.

I had never seen so much water coming at me so fast. I have spent my life in the ocean, but this was crazy. The Snake River was running full throttle and the Lunch Counter rapid, so named because that’s where boaters eat it, looked angry. I studied the standing wave. How strange to ride a wave that doesn’t move!

There were some local guys walking back up, placing their steps among rocks and reeds. I had seen them surf a little bit. They did funny chop hops and ollies, little moves that looked more party trick than power surfer. My attempts at full rail carves must have seemed silly to them. I kept looking for tubes that weren’t there. I would slip out the back of the wave get washed down past the rapid where a whirlpool (do you call them that?) would suck me down and rip my board out from under me.

“This is crazy,” I said. “I’ve never surfed in a river.”

They looked at me quizzically. The guy with the duct-taped board—apparently tele-skiers aren’t the only fans of the silver stuff—spoke.

“Really? We’ve never surfed in the ocean.”

We stood there trying to get our heads around the other person’s understanding of surfing. I wondered if all those same millions of gallons of water rushing past us would end up shaping the river mouth sandbar where I had grown up in Ventura, California.

It occurred to me I had been surfing in a river all my life, or at least where a river ends. In heavy rain years the sandbar was best. Perfect waves would peel along it for hundreds of yards. The ocean would go chocolate milk, huge boulders and whole tree trunks would roll around in the lineup. A baby rattlesnake once floated by on a tangle of bamboo. The river’s power to move things was apparent.

And it still is. Now, during rains I see every street as a little river, and every storm drain deposits trash on the beach instead of sand. It’s easy to get frustrated with the people who live upriver from me, whose discards are washing down onto my home beach. But I’m upstream from someone too.

And it’s not a stream, it’s a cycle. Every year steelhead trout swim from rivers out into the ocean, become salmon, and eventually returning to spawn in their home tributary. Bears, eagles, and up to 140 species connected to them benefit from the annual wave of nutrients carried from the ocean by spawning salmon.

Just as rivers were once the corridors of transportation, commerce, communication, they are now the corridors of ecological impact. The salmon won’t reach their inland terminus if they’re overfished in the ocean, before they ever head upstream. That’s why it’s important to support well-managed, sustainable fisheries with our purchases.

I’ve contribute to ocean problems like everyone, whether that’s my carbon emissions acidifying a distant islander’s lagoon, or my sushi dinner pushing an already depleted species closer to the brink. (I don’t do that anymore. More on that here.)
Every piece of plastic thrown away has a good chance of making it into a waterway, and too often, the ocean. (More on that here).

All our actions, not matter where they take place, almost can’t avoid impacting the ocean—it covers 72 percent of the planet.

That’s why our focus at One World One Ocean  includes places far from the beach. (The winner of our World Oceans Day video contest, Non-coastal City category was James Griffith, an 18-year-old kayaker from Denver.

We’re attending Colorado Ocean Coaltion’s Making Waves Ocean Symposium here in Boulder next week because it’s making the connection between inland and ocean clearer. And when that happens we think there will be a wave of ocean support from everyone from flatlanders to mountain dwellers. Heck, maybe some teleskiers will show up at our next beach cleanup.

The Colorado Ocean Coalition’s Event Making Waves will take place October 20, and 21. The event has four different parts. An Ocean Film Festival, a European Ocean Luncheon, an Ocean Symposium, and an Ocean Celebration fundraising gala. The multi-faceted event will feature world-renowned ocean protectors including the incredible Jean-Michel Cousteau. For more information visit

 Ted Reckas is One World One Ocean’s Online Editor. After earning a degree in literature/writing at UC San Diego, Ted has written for The Huffington Post, The Surfer’s Journal, Climbing Magazine, Malibu Magazine, The Snowboard Journal, and others. He has covered the largest technical rescue in the history of Denali mountaineering, and a four-month tour of South America during the financial collapse of 2002. As Associate Editor for the Laguna Beach Independent, he covered the 2010 earthquake on location in Haiti, the Marine Life Protection Act in Southern California, and homelessness in Laguna Beach, as well as winning 2010 Orange County Press Photo of the Year. A lifelong ocean enthusiast, Ted looks forward to introducing his new son Cedar to the ocean next summer.